Cattle

Overview

We force them into crowded, sedentary lives. We harvest their eggs and artificially inseminate them. We fill them with hormones and antibiotics, and we feed them manufactured pellets instead of the food they were meant to eat. They are commercialized and scientized?in many ways, just like us. Laurie Winn Carlson's intriguing book examines in fascinating detail the relationship between people and domesticated cattle, a resource that has been vital to civilization but long ignored and neglected. She considers the ...

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Overview

We force them into crowded, sedentary lives. We harvest their eggs and artificially inseminate them. We fill them with hormones and antibiotics, and we feed them manufactured pellets instead of the food they were meant to eat. They are commercialized and scientized—in many ways, just like us. Laurie Winn Carlson's intriguing book examines in fascinating detail the relationship between people and domesticated cattle, a resource that has been vital to civilization but long ignored and neglected. She considers the impact of science, technology, and economics on cattle, and how they in turn have influenced human history. Drawing on a wide range of sources, she shows how cattle have been worshipped in some cultures and become a symbol of pastoral freedom in others; what links them to women and the family; how the beef and dairy industries developed in Europe and the New World; how butter influenced the Protestant Reformation; how the cattle cultures helped settle North America; how meat became industrialized and margarine appeared as the first plastic food; and how science today continues to transform the lives of cattle and their connection to human beings. "With our problematic technology," Ms. Carlson writes, "beef—and milk—is now a food that engages plenty of concern, conflict, and fear. We are absolutely dependent upon cattle. We just don't realize how imperative it is that we protect them from further genetic and biologic degradation." Her book is serious social history spiced with rich anecdotes and surprising historical facts. With developing concern world-wide about livestock disease, Cattle could not be more timely.

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Editorial Reviews

Buckskin Bulletin
With this book in hand we no longer have to search encyclopedias and extract hunks of material on cattle ranching.
Booklist
Entertaining and informative...readers learn more than they ever imagined wanting to know about cattle, but not more than they should.
— Danise Hoover
Harper's Magazine
A wholly wonderful essay!
— Guy Davenport
Journal Of The West
The author has written a most interesting factual, well-documented book on cattle history.
H-Net Reviews
A provocative discussion that is bound to engage readers from outside academic circles.
— Julia H. Haggerty
H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online
A provocative discussion that is bound to engage readers from outside academic circles.
— Julia H. Haggerty
H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online
A provocative discussion that is bound to engage readers from outside academic circles.
— Julia H. Haggerty
Booklist - Danise Hoover
Entertaining and informative...readers learn more than they ever imagined wanting to know about cattle, but not more than they should.
Samuel S. Epstein
This is the first book of its kind and well deserves to be widely read.
Linda M. Hasselstrom
Balanced, intelligent, and seasoned with telling anecdotes.
Larry McMurtry
Far from a humdrum book about cows, this book will open even jaundiced eyes.
Harper's Magazine - Guy Davenport
A wholly wonderful essay!
H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online - Julia H. Haggerty
A provocative discussion that is bound to engage readers from outside academic circles.
Hoover
Entertaining and informative...readers learn more than they ever imagined wanting to know about cattle, but not more than they should.
Booklist
New Yorker
Meticulously researched...marshals her arguments with clarity and persuasive force.
Guy Davenport
A wholly wonderful essay!
Harper's Magazine
Kirkus
A historical hodgepodge of things bovid. At the outset, Carlson (A Fever in Salem, 1999, etc.) notes that cattle ranching is today one of the great polarizing issues in world ecology, cattle being both destructive and voracious. Though she recognizes the dangers of cattle grazing in sensitive landscapes, she mostly comes down on the side of the cattle keepers in this wide-angle view of the role of ranching in human societies around the world. That role is of critical importance, she writes, for "obtaining hay and feed, building pens and barns, and learning how to preserve milk and its products has changed us far more than it has changed the bovines. One could argue that they domesticated us." Her swift-moving narrative begins with the cave paintings of western Europe, which depict the aurochs, a wild ancestor of the modern domesticated cow; it moves along to describe attempts in Hitler's Germany to retro-breed the aurochs, long extinct, from the wilder breeds of cattle that roam the earth today, and it considers the ethical questions associated with the modern tendency to treat cattle as food-producing machines rather than things with faces and minds. In between, the author touches on just about every possible oddment and bit of trivia that bears on cows, from political scandals surrounding the use of preservatives in the Spanish-American War to the history of margarine ("a food so sterile that no living matter can exist in it"). Carlson's narrative is easy enough to absorb, although it often reads like an assemblage of index cards, mixing quoted and cribbed material with ill-fitting transitions. The author has relied on only a few printed sources at that, some of them erroneous andoutdated: anthropologists, for instance, are no longer comfortable maintaining that cattle cultures are more egalitarian than, say, fishing societies, and it's a stretch to suggest that women suffer from depression more than men because they eat less red meat. Still, it's a handy gathering of facts and opinions on our ill-used bovine friends.
Journal of the West
The author has written a most interesting factual, well-documented book on cattle history.
Library Journal
Cattle were first domesticated by humans thousands of years ago. They are not native to the Americas, however, and did not reach the New World until their introduction by Spanish explorers. The impact of cattle on the history and culture of the world, including the United States, has been considerable. Carlson, whose previous works include a study of the New England witch trials and a book about women missionaries in the American West, covers many aspects of the relationship between cattle and people, from ancient times to the present. She has done an excellent job of extracting information and ideas from books, research journals, and popular magazines and has organized the material here into a lively and coherent whole. Carlson goes well beyond history of the bovines themselves to discuss the U.S. beef and dairy industries and their products, our changing dietary habits, consumer health and food safety, environmental and animal rights issues, and the special historical relationship between women and cattle. An excellent complement to this volume, especially for public libraries, is Sara Rath's entertaining The Complete Cow (Voyageur, 1998); while less detailed and narrower in scope than Carlson's book, it includes many color illustrations plus a lengthy chapter on breeds. Carlson's fine account is recommended for both public and academic libraries. William H. Wiese, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Carlson, a writer based in Washington state begins with the earliest records and theories about the domestication of cattle, in Mesopotamia, then traces their arrival and fate in the Americas and explores some modern aspects. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A historical hodgepodge of things bovid. At the outset, Carlson (A Fever in Salem, 1999, etc.) notes that cattle ranching is today one of the great polarizing issues in world ecology, cattle being both destructive and voracious. Though she recognizes the dangers of cattle grazing in sensitive landscapes, she mostly comes down on the side of the cattle keepers in this wide-angle view of the role of ranching in human societies around the world. That role is of critical importance, she writes, for "obtaining hay and feed, building pens and barns, and learning how to preserve milk and its products has changed us far more than it has changed the bovines. One could argue that they domesticated us." Her swift-moving narrative begins with the cave paintings of western Europe, which depict the aurochs, a wild ancestor of the modern domesticated cow; it moves along to describe attempts in Hitler's Germany to retro-breed the aurochs, long extinct, from the wilder breeds of cattle that roam the earth today, and it considers the ethical questions associated with the modern tendency to treat cattle as food-producing machines rather than things with faces and minds. In between, the author touches on just about every possible oddment and bit of trivia that bears on cows, from political scandals surrounding the use of preservatives in the Spanish-American War to the history of margarine ("a food so sterile that no living matter can exist in it"). Carlson's narrative is easy enough to absorb, although it often reads like an assemblage of index cards, mixing quoted and cribbed material with ill-fitting transitions. The author has relied on only a few printed sources at that, some of them erroneous andoutdated: anthropologists, for instance, are no longer comfortable maintaining that cattle cultures are more egalitarian than, say, fishing societies, and it's a stretch to suggest that women suffer from depression more than men because they eat less red meat. Still, it's a handy gathering of facts and opinions on our ill-used bovine friends.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566634557
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurie Winn Carlson's A Fever in Salem, a new interpretation of the New England witch trials, was widely praised. She has also written frequently on the history of the West, including Seduced by the West; Sidesaddles to Heaven; and Boss of the Plains. She lives in Cheney, Washington.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Pt. 1 Part of the Family
1 Cows on the Ceiling 5
2 The Domestication of Cattle 18
3 Cattle and the Clan 33
4 Woman's Best Friend 46
5 Cattle Culture Comes to the Americas 63
Pt. 2 The Business of Cattle
6 From Trails to Tracks 83
7 The Devil's Rope 104
8 The Industrialization of Meat 116
9 Margarine: The Plastic Food 134
10 Free Speech and Hamburgers 149
Pt. 3 The Good Provider
11 Breeding Back the Aurochs 171
12 A Shot in the Arm 195
13 Mad at Cows 211
14 Carnivore Culture 227
15 The Milk Cow 246
16 Ruminations: Care and Feeding 268
Acknowledgments 287
Notes 289
Index 307
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