This Calf Is My Child. It Has Feelings No Less Deep Than a Child’s

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President Shimon Peres feeding a calf. We need even more sympathy.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

A calf is like a child. When it is thrown trussed up on the floor, the light taken from its eyes, I know I can’t save it. There’s nothing I can do. God only knows what it has been subjected to in the hold of the ship that brought it here on a transport. (Pardon, a thousand pardons, for using the sacred word that has become a Jewish taboo.) The transport went from Australia to Eilat.

But that’s not the end of the suffering, nor is it the beginning of the end, but maybe the end of the beginning. There will be another selection, during which we will decide if the confused, tortured, half-conscious calf continues in the crowded, boiling-hot truck to a slaughterhouse or is killed on the spot because it’s no longer of any use. In the abattoir – and that will really be the end – they won’t euthanize it but prod and abuse it, chop up and behead it. All this to serve it up as a delicacy.

This calf is a child that was separated at birth from its mother — a child that didn’t get to suckle. It has feelings no less deep than a child’s. It has a will to live. It is my child.

When I read what it goes through I am beside myself. I mourn not only for it but for us, for going on with our lives as if nothing is happening when it is lying there writhing in pain. I weep for our obtuseness, that we treat it as an inferior species that we may liquidate using all kinds of cruel and unusual punishments.

What can I do when my child is led like a lamb to the slaughter? In my desperation I write to the prime minister’s wife on Saturday morning. I write to Sara Netanyahu because the next day the cabinet will decide on the fate of hundreds of thousands of calves. The ministers will decide whether to lower duties on imported “beef” from Australia, giving the go-ahead to the hellish transports.

I text Sara Netanyahu because I have her phone number. I text her because I know her husband and know that his heart is not coarse. I hope he won’t remain indifferent to what I am describing. I write to her that if I were a Buddhist monk I’d set myself on fire in front of her husband’s office, because I don’t know what else I can do.

Sara responds: “I’ve taken your remarks seriously.” She says she shares my position regarding animals, she feels as I do. Before the cabinet meeting I stand at the roadblock opposite the government building in Jerusalem — my pilgrimage to where the calf’s fate will be sealed.

One car after another enters, a minister sitting in each. The tortured calf is the last thing on their minds. I say to myself that this is exactly the kind of situation in which the prime minister’s wife is needed — someone to represent feelings in a place where cold considerations and brutal interests rule.

I'm thinking that if Sara Netanyahu keeps her promise, she will do exactly what she ought to do, what is expected of her, and instead of maligning her we will praise her. At 5 P.M. the headline appears: “Netanyahu rejects canceling import duties on calves.” The article says the prime minister “expressed concern for the suffering incurred to animals during their transport.”

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