The story goes like this: nearly 18,000 cattle were being loaded onto a ship in the port, to be sent to a slaughterhouse in Indonesia. In total, four escaped. Three were quickly rounded up again, but one managed to run away from the port, through a pedestrian mall in the city center, across a busy road, and into the newspaper's parking lot. This is where the chase ended, because the carpark is fenced in. They built a pen around the frightened cow, but he broke through the fence. Unfortunately, there were two 'ringers' waiting for him to do just that, and they tackled him. After that, he was loaded onto a fork lift and put into a transport pen. The ringers had this to say:
I read this article, and was very disturbed. The story itself is horrifying; that cow must have been scared out of its mind. On top of that, the lighthearted attitude of the Townsville Bulletin is disturbing. Numerous puns and jokes, as well as the use of "it" and "the steer" throughout the article imply that this cow is an object, just waiting to be turned into burgers. They even picked it up using machinery that typically carts around masses of newspapers. Putting a living creature onto a forklift? I know there were probably not many options, but come on.
"We had it sorted out – I'd be on the head and he'd be on the tail, simple as that, job done.
"We just reckoned if he got on to the street there then somebody's got to get him.
"It's bred into us, we can't help it."
"It was exhausted when it got here so hopefully it can calm down a bit and have a drink of water and accept the fact that he's going back to Indonesia."
I shouldn't be surprised. Australian culture places a lot of emphasis on meat-centric diets. Townsville especially has a long history with agriculture, and the 'ringer' is a figure that gets respect around here.
But, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A friend told me that a man in Charters Towers, a few hours west of Townsville, has rescued the runaway steer. This man bought him, and has promised that the cow can live and graze peacefully until the natural end of its life. (I looked online for this update, but couldn't find any mention of it. Goes to show how much the newspapers care.)
Good news for this one cow, but unfortunately the other 18,000 didn't have the same kind of luck.