Cows kill teacher who was walking his dogs

720 kilos: The average cow is heavier than a horse, a grizzly bear or a grand piano. © EPA

Should a week on a farm be part of everyone’s education? We take cows for granted. The world is full of them. Yet these usually docile creatures kill more people than bears or sharks do.

The pupils of Richmond School in Yorkshire were in shock yesterday. They had just learned that their deputy head teacher, Dave Clark, had been killed by a herd of cows.

The exact circumstances of his death are unclear, but the teacher is reported to have been walking his dogs at the time. And cows, particularly if they have calves with them, regard dogs as a threat.

People tend to see cows as harmless, docile creatures. But a report in 2015 found cows to be the most dangerous large animals in Britain, responsible for 74 deaths over the previous 15 years.

Cows also have lives we know little about. Author and farmer Rosamond Young explains how they have distinct personalities, dote on their young, talk to each other and form close friendships.

Experts say for a healthy life we need to be fully aware of what we are eating and where it comes from.

Environmentalists remind us, too, that we need to reconnect with the natural world in order to protect the planet’s future. Michael Morpurgo tells of a withdrawn boy visiting the country for the first time. He was so shy that nobody had ever known him to speak. But one evening, Morpurgo heard a noise in the farmyard – and found the boy talking to a horse.

Should a week on a farm be part of everyone’s education?

A moot point

Some say, yes. Where our food comes from, and how the animals that produce it are treated, are things all of us need to be informed about. Organic farming will never be able to compete with cheap, industrial food production unless consumers understand what it involves.

Others argue that we can learn all we need to about animals, and food production, online.You would be far better off spending a week doing work experience in industry, or bringing yourself up to date with the latest in computer technology and coding.

You Decide

  1. Global warming is caused in part by the methane produced by cows. Should eating meat and dairy products be restricted or even banned for the sake of the planet?

Activities

  1. Imagine how utterly strange it would be to see life through the eyes of a cow. Write a letter from a cow, addressed to you, entitled “My perfect day”.

Some People Say...

“We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.”

Wendell Berry (1934-), American writer and farmer

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is generally agreed that the biggest incidence of people being sent to work on farms was during China’s Cultural Revolution. Launched in 1966 to purge China of the remnants of capitalism, the revolution lasted 10 years. It included the Down To The Countryside movement, which forced students to leave the city and experience agricultural life. For many of them, swapping a relatively comfortable urban existence for a primitive rural one was a traumatic ordeal.
What do we not know?
One main area of debate is around whether cows should be kept entirely indoors. Traditionally they have been sheltered in barns and fed on hay during the winter, before being let out in spring to graze the fields. But many farmers now take an industrial approach, keeping large numbers in sheds all the year round. They claim this makes life more comfortable for the cows by protecting them from extreme weather. But critics say this is an unnatural environment in which disease can easily spread.

Word Watch

Yorkshire
England’s largest county, famous for its independently minded people and its cricket team.
Docile
Submissive or willing to learn. It derives from a Latin word meaning to teach.
Dote on
To be extremely or excessively fond of of someone or something. It comes from an old Dutch verb meaning to be silly.
Peak District
A hilly area of England, situated mainly in Derbyshire. It is the site of Britain’s first national park, created in 1951.
Vegans
People who avoid using products that come from animals – from meat and eggs to leather. The term “vegan” is a contraction of “vegetarian”.Its followers see it as the “beginning and end” of vegetarianism.
Michael Morpurgo
A prolific author of books for children, he is best known for his novel War Horse, which was made into both a play and a film.
Farms for City Children
The charity has three farms, in Devon, Gloucestershire and Pembrokeshire, where children from primary schools spend a week. Over 100,000 of them have visited the farms.

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