I'll be upfront and say that I'm not a fan of cows up close. They're massive, they're not the sharpest tools in the kit, and they move as a pack - all of which is to say that if something spooks them, a herd of cows can flatten a human being without any malicious intent at all, simply the desire to get away.
That being said, I live in a part of the UK where seeing herds of cows in the streets of a town is not unheard of. Bordered by pastureland, my hometown regularly gets cows lumbering through its parks and occasionally right into its shopping streets (although this is less common). And every time, it's terrifying, because the animals are so - well - huge.
So I can imagine the scenes this week in Pico Rivera, Los Angeles County when forty cows managed to escape from a slaughterhouse due to the fact that a gate was inadvertently left open. They wandered out of Manning Beef, in the 9500 block of Beverly Road, and soon began to make their presence felt in the unique way that only cows can: just by existing, and being huge, and being numerous.
And the cattle did, indeed, cause chaos. They ran away from the meatpacking plant and, terrifyingly, straight into the garden of a resident, Marisela Alvarez. They broke her fence, trampled her garden and left what we Brits called "cow pats" in their wake. She described their visit to her property as "like a stampede".
After their sojourn to Alvarez' place, 20 or 30 of the cows entered a Calico Avenue cul-de-sac and it seemed they might be rounded up, but the sheriff's deputies were unable to accomplish this task and the cows took off again through the neighborhood. In the ensuing melee, one of the cows charged at and injured a family, and that cow was shot and killed by a deputy as a result.
After several hours and the assistance of LASD Mounted Enforcement Detail, as well as various experienced ranchers in the area who heard what was happening and brought their lassos to assist with the effort, all of the 39 remaining live cows were herded into trailers and returned to the slaughterhouse. Staff there have said they will investigate how the cows got loose, and neighborhood residents have asked whether any recompense will be made for items of damaged property caused by the cows' antics (such as broken mailboxes, fences, and car wing mirrors).
It all makes my occasional encounters with solo cows on country footpaths feel quite tame. But I still find it scary.
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