Leading article: Follow the herd

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"How does the cow go?" asks every parent pointing to the pictures in the child's first books. Well, the cow doesn't only go "moo". Sometimes it gets quite aggressive, particularly when its own offspring are concerned, as several walkers have found to their cost in recent months.

Which is the other side of the story. Animals, domesticated or otherwise, can appear lovely, cuddly creatures, and it is right that we encourage children to regard them as friends, just as we are now encouraging people to stay at home for their holidays and enjoy the countryside. But animals are living, feeling beings as well.

The mother will protect its calf. A herd will spook at the sound of a fire engine and bullocks can turn nasty when they sense a stranger in their field, especially a dog. That does not make them necessarily malevolent (although one knows some pretty bad-tempered cows, as well as humans). But it does make them beings that should be treated with respect. They give us our milk and provide us with beef. And, on the whole, we treat them a great deal worse than the other way round.

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