Holy Cow
Video: Full Episode

About 8,000 years ago, the relationship between cows and man began with the revolutionary advent of domestication in Mesopotamia, the Indus River Valley, and Africa. Discover how cows have altered human life, human biology, and the geography of the world. Buy the DVD. This film premiered February 22, 2004.

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  • Marilyn C.

    A superb overview of man and cow, but treads delicately on the industriazed manufacturing of meat and dairy. For those who want to see a documentary of merit on today’s treatment of cows, and other species, I would recommend watching Earthlings, available on google videos. 95 minutes and a must see, it’s our right and our responsiblility to know these things. Then if you want to change what your current habits are, good sources online are http://www.eatwild.com and http://www.sustainabletable.org.
    Kudos to the Lasaters, and all the farmers and ranchers who are raising animals in the more humane and traditional ways. They are the hope.

  • sarah jennings

    Enjoyable and informative viewing. I was much encouraged to learn about Dale Lasater’s gentler, more ecologically sound practices; may more cattle raisers follow in his footsteps. If we could be more temperate in our consumption of beef, perhaps the horrid feedlots would ultimately go out of existence?

  • reg t.

    I actually went to watch earthlings. as suggested by Marilyn C. unfortunately, this is the way its going to be for animals, I don’t see any other way unless some how drop the human population to the level where we don’t put further strain on nature. this would probably mean dropping human well below 1 billion, where we can live off then land once again without factory farming, industrial fishing… etc. but even then, economics at work, not everyone is willing to pay for free range meat at WholeFood vs the stuff at costco. I don’t know if this issue can ever be solved… at least with me or us being alive. I would have to say that the best conservationist is probably the ones willing to kill themselves right off the bat, because by doing so you leave no foot print. I am typing on a computer made of plastic and heavy metals, consuming electricty and heat for my home…. the mear fact that i am alive puts burden on environment itself. 4-5 years from now this computer will become e-waste and sent to china, where it is broken down by chinese who are struggling with high cancer rates. I am sure that marilyn’s and sarah’s computer share the same fate. instead of convincing everyone to be a vegan, I think it’s best to convince 5.5 billions to suicide, then the world will be a better place, systematic population thinning.

  • Aaron W.

    i agree with sara. Everytime i Think of these feedlots it discourages me to eat beef.

  • Sara Kirchheimer

    I’ve been a vegetarian since the early 1970s. I can’t understand how people can find it in their hearts to eat animals.

  • DH

    “Sorry, this video is not available.”

    None of the videos are available nay longer. What is the point of putting the site up then?

  • dr dc

    Unable to view any video for some time now!

  • Tamerlane

    This is ridiculous! The home page is advertising the video — only to guide the user to this page where “this video is unavailable.” You got me all excited for nothing! Otherwise, PBS is the greatest institution on Earth.

  • Chris

    reg, you could continue to lament your computer and your impact while hoping for mass suicide or you could make a choice to do something that would actually make a difference—go vegan! It’s the single best thing any person can do to have a positive impact as far as global warming and the environment are concerned. We can only control what we ourselves do and being aware of huge problems, but choosing to do nothing, or hoping for someone else to do something, is the saddest, least responsible option. People all over the world have survived and thrived on a vegan diet, so that means you can too. Aside from the environmental impacts of a meat-based diet there are all the other associated issues that should be cause for concern for each of us; animal abuse (we are animals too, you know?), torture, death/murder of sentient beings that feel fear and pain, are social, and love their offspring; increased rates of domestic abuse, alcoholism, and drug addiction within the slaughter industry (the job with the highest turnover rate)—most people will never even give a thought to the conditions these folks work in, the things they are required to do to earn a living, and the effects on their families when they cannot deal with the trauma of their jobs. There is no excuse for the continued support of animal-based diets. Humans are perfectly capable of sustaining themselves without placing these demands on the environment or the specific animal species we demand endure horrific abuses to meet the needs of nothing more than our tastebuds. We would never tolerate the same treatment, commodification, or abuse of dogs, cats, horses, or any of the revered “wild” animals frequently showcased on Nature programs. We are capable of evolving and we are capable of recognizing right from wrong. Aside from all this, a vegan diet is healthier and provides more beneficial nutrients while remaining free from all the troubling diseases and illnesses that come only from eating animals and their “products.” As Paul McCartney says, so many good things are achieved with one simple choice; the animals, the environment, and the humans all win! If you’d like some extraordinary information about all these topics presented in a wonderfully clear, friendly, and thoroughly-researched way, look up the popular free podcast by Compassionate Cooks, it is truly wonderous. In addition, the author has two fabulous cookbooks out; The Joy of Vegan Baking and The Vegan Table. Even making a choice to eat vegan just one day a week will have an impact and is an easy way to try something new and so, so positive. Good luck!


    That the Masai tribe would give some of their cows to the people of New York after the 911 tragedy is so moving.
    Was this gift accepted and by whom?

  • karen lee grant

    The need for meat is more psychological than it is physical with little or no need for thought to what we fill our bodies with. Furthermore, the more we eat the more we desire. It’s like a bloodthirst as the blood of another sentient being, along with the footprint of their soul is absorbed into our own body through ingestion. It’s time to let go of this barbarian practice. Or only eat meat during special celebrations so you can honor and pay respect for the animal who gave up its life for your hunger. Their suffering while on this earth is inexcusable.

  • DrGraceG

    Please everyone. Support your local farmers, find a farm within a 100 miles of your location, and make a trip twice a month to buy all your dairy products only from them. It will help so much.

    Many farmers also sell beef, and their cows are fed by letting them graze on grass… find your local farms and read about them on their websites… most have them. I shop only at my local farm, you also have to read about the benefits of raw milk: http://www.realmilk.com/healthbenefits.html (feel free to browse around they have many wonderful informative pages. I was brought up on raw milk, I am sure most of you still remember the milk in glass bottles being delivered early in the morning by your local farmer. Raw milk can be dangerous if the farm is neglectful as with everything else in life, but if the cows are clean and healthy you will never get sick and only benefit a 1000 times over ingesting the processed pasteurized and altered dairy at our local stores. Help support your local farmers, you can’t even find REAL raw dairy products at any store, not even health food stores, because the government is sticking their noses into our kitchens now. I will never buy another ounce of dairy from the market unless they start supporting the local farmers instead of the slaughter houses and mass produced dairy by tortured cows, raised and kept in cruel conditions. Just look at how many more diseases do we suffer from since we started drinking everything homogenized and pasteurized. More and more of us are ill with bone diseases and deficiencies, which in the process cause serious, even deadly consequences. Please go to http://www.realmilk.com and learn more about how much you will benefit your family and the environment by making even one hefty shopping trip to your local Farm ;)

  • Gudrun Scott

    I am reading a book right published in 2009 by an MIT professor Mark Dowie called “Conservation Refugees” and it is about people who are nomads and who tred lightly on the earth and work with the soil and plants and animals -the whole entire ecology. These people like the Masai in Africa are such a people and they are endangered as countries are not permitting nomads to wander in Africa or in Iran or anywhere.

  • annette

    well, i dont see how indians cannot eat a steak, yummy. they are so good, i love meat.. and the babies are soooo cute..

  • annette

    i couldnt be a vegetarian, i like smores to much, and marshamallows in my hot chocolate & coffee.. but to those of you who are, kudos! but dont eat smores

  • Kri

    Umm…you could eat smores while you’re a vegetarian. It’s Vegans who cannot eat any animal products. Vegetarians just swear off meat. I’m a vegetarian but I still eat marshmallows and cheese

  • Rachel

    Kri, generally vegetarians do not eat marshmallows because they have gelatin in them. Which comes from hide scrapings and crushed bones. So you aren’t actually vegetarian unless you buy marshmallows that contain only plant based gelatins.

  • gopalkrishna

    in indian calture cow arehaving great value if we want know this value we have to read the best novel of s l bairappa iam very happy about this articale still weare not having such articles about cows

  • tanaji

    HINDUcalture COW is kamadenu,we worship cow &it`s family .we are oppos to kill the COWfor eatable.we r very HAPPY about this articale we spred this2 thousands of e friends thanks lot to srivathsajoshi (who wrote articale in)& vijaya karnataka

  • jorge velasquez

    i love beef and america is the greatest country in the world. we can eat as much beef as we want. i dont think boycoting beef is the anwser God gave us beef is a gift

  • Achuthamurthy

    I have forwarded Srivatsa Joshi’s article as well as this link to all my e-friends.

  • Roxy

    Kudos to Dale Lasater. And PBS – great show! As for the feed lots of beef being pumped with every conceivable chemical -they are going to be pushed out of business and we are going to be pushed to eat less beef, because:

    EU, where much of our meet products go, having determined that all these chemicals and aintibiotics pumped into the animals we eat are making people sick – since they pay for medical – they are banning most meat/meat products imported from USA. Thus the ranchers will feel that sqweeze and cost of beef will sky rocket (we eat too much of it anyway).

    Does Dale Lasater graze any of his herd on Public Lands – does anyone know? I am a nature lover, and a wild horse lover, not a horse person, I eat beef, I am not an eco-terrorist on either side of the issue. I just love the free spanish leneage american horse and the idea of the freedom they represent, and the western heritge and history of how we came to this country. The cattle industry, along with energy and mining, and those wanting to make the american mustang just another breeding horse for profit, is pushing this free american icon off our public lands. Watch the Cloud series on PBS and see some of the articles attached to that series. I’ll check back here for your thoughts. Thanks.

  • Noans

    This was a wonderful program. My hat also goes off to the Lasaters amd Masai for their humane and ecological cattle ranching. I read where many small farmers have thankfully stopped giving their animals antibiotics, after getting hurt and finding that they had become immune to antibiotics themselves, thus causing their wounds to fester and be much more difficult to heal. I try not to est meat because it has become so dangerous to our own bodies; high levels of dangerous cholesterol, as well as immunity to antibiotics. I was so touched by the Masai giving some of their cattle to New Yorkers after 911. It just shows how connected we all really are. I wonder why news outlets didn’t report the Masai gift to New Yorkers? Wonderful program. I have tried to watch video of how are animals are really treated before slaughter and during slaughter but I just can’t watch it because it is so upsetting. I will make more of an effort to not eat meat thanks to this wonderful program.

  • naturenerd

    Very informative and well-done, as usual, NATURE. But I wish you’d have been ballsier about the horrific treatment of cows and calves via industrial agriculture. Depicting slaughterhouses with vintage footage like you did creates a quaint Keystone Cops tone about it, and gives a visual impression that mistreatment and ruelty are things of ghe past. But you know perfectly well the reality of a slaughterhouse, and even the journey that a cow takes to get to one, is more than most meat-eaters could stomach, literally. Did you even try to get inside of a modern-day slaughterhouse? If you had, my guess is that you were denied access. If so, there is footage you could have shown from organizations such as the Humane Society or PeTA; I’m sure they would have given you permission. You show animals being slaughtered in almost every episode (predator on prey). Why did you let agribusiness off the hook?

  • Parker

    In Vedic society, which pre-dates Hinduism and which is actually the root society and belief system there, meat eaters were considered the untouchables, outcasts of society. Essentially, a human who ate meat was nothing more than a polished animal.

  • Leif

    Here is a link to what happened to the offering of cows to the people of NY city:


    New home for US Maasai cattle
    By Ruth Nesoba
    BBC News, south-western Kenya

    Four years after a group of Kenyan Maasai herders touched the hearts of Americans by donating 14 head of prized cattle to the US to help ease the pain of the 11 September attacks, a new home has been found for the unusual gift.
    At a special ceremony of thanks, US ambassador Michael Ranneberger was welcomed to Enoosaen village, 245km south-west of Nairobi by hundreds of cheering and ululating Maasai, clad in traditional red cloaks, scarves, head-dresses and ear-rings.

    “Of all the acts of solidarity and goodwill, the one that profoundly struck the heart-strings of the American people like no other was the generosity of the Maasai elders,” he said in front of a poster of the US flag, the Twin Towers and a pair of cows.

    The idea of the gift was that of a native of the village, Wilson Naiyomah, a Maasai who was a student at Stanford University in California in 2001, and happened to be in New York on 11 September.

    “It was six months after 9/11 that I actually finally made it here,” he said.

    “I didn’t want to do it just by donating a cow. I wanted to involve the elders that raised me, to bless it and make it sacred, to console and comfort a nation that had taken care of me and given me an education, given me a place to live. I just couldn’t ignore their pain.”


    Cattle are highly valued among the Maasai community, and the gift of a cow is regarded as among the most precious one can receive from a Maasai, ranking alongside a child or grazing land.

    When Maasai tribesmen marry, they give cows.

    “ I really could not be prouder or happier than to announce that we wish to make a gift to the Maasai of Enoosaen ”
    US ambassador Michael Ranneberger
    When a son wants to earn the respect of his father, he gives cows.
    When there is a friend in need or a condolence call to make, more cows.

    So it was in this one-cow-fits-all spirit, that the Enoosaen elders of donated 14 prized bulls and heifers to the people of the United States.

    While the gift touched surprised and touched many Americans with its honest simplicity, there was some uncertainty over where the cattle – now totalling 26 – would be kept.

    To the Maasai community, such cattle is sacred and cannot be slaughtered.

    It is kept as a reminder to the coming generations of the humble gesture.

    But for the recipients, the US government, there was a dilemma of where to take the cattle.


    The failure of the US to actually collect the cows for four years had at one time raised anger among some Maasai, who regarded it as a snub.

    But that feeling is all gone now, and the Maasai say they are ready to take care of what have come to be known as “the American cattle” on behalf of the US government.

    “We are going to look after the cattle for the Americans, we shall keep them in this enclosure. We shall guard them like our own cattle,” said Mzee Ole Tetia Olepemba Seneyoyi, one of the elders consulted by Mr Naiyomah.
    And the Maasai’s kind gesture to the US is bearing fruit.

    Touched by their compassion, the US is now supporting various projects within the Maasai community as a way of saying thanks.

    “I really could not be prouder or happier than to announce that we wish to make a gift to the Maasai of Enoosaen,” Mr Ranneberger said.

    “That gift is a gift of 14 [local] scholarships to needy Maasai youth. And we trust that this modest donation will be built on in years to come.”

    However the Maasai are adamant that theirs was just a gesture of kindness and that they did not expect anything in return.

    With cow bells jangling and Maasai women thumping up and down, doing a dance they usually do in drought times to praise God, the ceremony to reciprocate the cattle ended.

    The festivities in Enoosaen were an unusual way to mark the fifth anniversary of the 11 September attacks.

    But then again, it was a demonstration of sympathy and kindness – the Maasai way.

    Story from BBC NEWS:

    Published: 2006/09/12 16:31:20 GMT

  • lorenso

    This is ridiculous! The home page is advertising the video

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  • jacob

    Very good info about cows. I highly respect the cow since we use them as our main source of meat. I used to live on a farm and I am grateful for how much of the cow we actually use to feed ourselves.


  • Eva

    The issue is not centered around going vegan/ vegetarian. The problem is not humans eating meat. We are omnivores. Eating meat is natural. This isn’t the issue..and never will be. That is more of a PR movement then anything. The problem and main focus is how we raise cattle. Meat from humane and sustainable farms is a good thing, therfore we should support them. Meat from feed lots…is more of a complicated matter. The reason for feed lots is to get more bang for your buck (i am not okay with this FYI im just simply explaining the farmers point of view, which is important when talking about what is morally right and wrong). farmers think they can feed more people with their cattle on less feed and water (costing less money) and less land (also costing less money). This is going about this situation the wrong way. Americans eat to much mea,t this is a fact. However even if we all stopped eating meat in America nothing would happen. We still export tons and tons of beef/chicken/ pork etc to other countries. What we need to do in my opinion is not stop eating meat….but eat meat (if we must) from reliable sources such as sustainable farms. There is a wrong way to raise and slaughter livestock, but there is also a right way. There still are farms that do this the right way. they are the underdogs. the more we support them the better. Without our support they will go under and will get taken over by some big-wig corp. Eating meat or not eating meat is a personal choice (not one or the other is ethically right), it is how you do it. Now say we all went vegan…animals still die……. placeses still get deforested. all the feed lots will turn into veg farms. More land will have to get taken becuase it takes more land to grow veggies then to finish cattle. Whenever a crop gets harvested aniamls will die, the ground squirells that live in the fields, the mice etc, will all die when they drive those big tractors through. I am once again not saying that going veg or not is good or bad im just stating facts. However i do not agree with ” factory Farming” but i am not opposed to eating meat, so long as the people that raised and finished the cattle did this in a humane, compassionate, and sustainable fashion.

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