The following is a journal entry recounting my experience with a specific steer during an internship at Farm Sanctuary in Northern California. Reading it nearly six years later, it still gives me the chills.

Occasionally, humans assign cattle a number. Rarely a name. It is my guess that most humans try to avoid picturing the life of the cattle they consume, for fear of attaching value to the animal, and in turn, experiencing guilt at the thought of his or her death. And so, these cattle remain anonymous. Just cows. Raised for meals.

But they are individuals. Not an “it”, but a “who”. They are one among many, like humans, cats, or dogs. They have stories. Pick any cow, and she will have a story of a swollen udder and stolen babies. Pick any steer, and he will have a story of painful mutilations and a long-lost mother.

This is the story of one. His name is Mateo.

November 28, 2009

Last night was life changing in the most tragically beautiful way. One of the steers here, Mateo, had fallen during the day and was unable to get up. This usually means the end for cattle, as they are bred to be so big that when they age, they simply cannot hold their own weight. He was resting in an upright laying position when the day ended, and we were supposedly going to attempt to get him standing this morning. If not, he would need to be euthanized, as his quality of life would be quite low without the ability to walk.