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How Now, Gassy Cow

Apr 242014
 By , April 24, 2014

 A winning cause: cow farts!

The mid-level bureaucrat at the EPA strummed his fingers on his desk.  In his other hand was a fist full of reports on the status of major environmental causes over the last few years:  Gulf coast oil spills, greenhouse this-and-that, that poor little spotted owl.

David Recycler, the assistant to the assistant’s assistant to the regional assistant for environmental issues, had recently been feeling a little dyspeptic due to the growing list of ‘one’s that got away’; for instance, global warming data misrepresentations, Al Gore getting stuck in heavier than normal snowfalls across the country, animal rebounds so robust that hunting seasons in prime areas were extended an extra two weeks last year to deal with the overpopulation.

Cow Farts, methane emissions, flatulenceSuddenly, the meatball sub with marinara sauce elicited a rumble from David’s mid-section.  He felt a bloated launch beginning to take shape.  And then, it dawned on him; he had his next winning cause:  Cow farts!

Bovine flatulence was going to be the next cause célèbre.  Of all the issues his office, and the Oval one down the street, had championed over the years (Ah, the Volt.  If only…). If he could prove that cow farts were a major cause of methane emissions, then global warming issues would get a recharge as a major public issue.  He could save the planet.  He would be an eco-god.

By some accounts, there are over a billion bovines in the world today, each capable of spewing up to 74 gallons of methane out of both ends of ‘Old Bossy’ each day.

Mr. Recycler was nearly giddy with delight.  This new cause was going to make his career.  Perhaps there would eventually be an important new title after his name and a new office on the top floor.   This thought increased the tempo of his finger strumming.

Suddenly, there were visions of turning loose the eco-friendly minions to create public discontent over this revelation.  He could foresee Greenpeace volunteers blockading dairy farms, trying to keep deliveries of hay from reaching hungry moo-machines.  No hay, no methane, no global warming gasses.

Then, the USDA would step in and free the cattle from their human slave owners and allow them to freely roam federal lands across the country.  There should be plenty of room for all 40 million US cattle natives.  This would make the Animal Liberation Front members very happy now that all of those walking steaks and hamburgers were no longer in danger of selective extermination and exploitation.  They would celebrate with a massive salad-palooza (non-fat dressing, of course).  David let loose with a maniacal cackle that made his office assistant poke her head into his office to see if he was okay.

But wait!  David’s vision suddenly clouded.  If millions of cattle were turned loose, many of which were on a regular milking cycle, the lowing of beasts in agony would be ear-splitting.  Right on cue, but with ‘udder’ irony, the PETA police would show up, demanding that the cattle would be treated humanely.  What’s more, the Texas Parks & Wildlife would find out about the millions of hooves on the loose, possibly trampling the endangered Texas Blind Salamander out of existence.

Oh, this could turn out badly.  Somewhere around Nebraska, David saw in his vision large armies of EPA employees arrayed with staplers and recycled wadded paper cannon balls; PETA and other state wildlife agencies standing opposite them with buckets of crystallized tofu and neutered cats.  This was going to get ugly.

David stopped his finger-strumming and sagged back into his desk chair.  Cow farts, indeed.  He sighed, wistfully, seeing his ambitions of fame and notoriety slipping away.

‘Oh well,’ he said out loud to himself.  At least he could still harass a fifth generation Nevada cattle rancher for allowing his cattle to graze on unused federal land and not paying outrageous fines.  The day would not be a total loss.

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Michael Larson is newly minted Texan. He is a retired teacher, current university librarian, and a future 'great American' author.

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