Earth Day founder Denis Hayes and wife Gail Boyer Hayes have taken a surprising intellectual and historical journey with cows. Their new book "COWED: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America's Health, Economy, Politics, Culture and Environment," is also a meditation on our future relationship with animals who have played such a role in the human experience – for labor, milk, and meat - for thousands of years. Their work is a gentle and fond treatment of cows, but carries a powerful call for change - specifically in the way they're raised and how many of them consumers eat. A former board member of The HSUS, Denis is president of the Bullitt Foundation, which works to safeguard the environment in the Pacific Northwest, and Gail is an environmental attorney. In this interview with me, they discuss a subject that has bearing and relevance for every consumer and for the health of our planet and, of course, for every cow, too.
Denis Hayes: On a vacation traveling around rural England, Scotland, and Ireland, we kept seeing small herds of cows everywhere. We recognized a few of the most common breeds, but many were new to us. Gail, who had never before spent time up close to cows, and who forms strong bonds with animals, started snapping photos of them. Something about cows pulled at her. The closest she can come to explaining it is that being next to a gentle cow gives her a sense of peace akin to being around elephants, whales, and redwoods.