Despite being an annoying vegan who loves to tell people how meat is murder, I felt it was important to include a beefy section on my blog that pays due respect to the noble cow.
Why cows? They moo-ve me. And cows have unique legal rights under Australian law; rights given to no other animal. Well, except for the cow’s lesser cousin, the sheep.
Cows (OK, and stupid, boring sheep) have the power to travel almost anywhere in Australia, for free, using special trails and paths that are available for their sole use. You know how when the president of the United States comes to visit, and the police close all the roads from the airport to his (it’s always ‘his’) hotel and set all the lights to green? Well, cows must be presidential too, as our laws gives them a similar clear path to move around our fair land. And if your cows really like you, they will let you tag alone with them.
For you see, dear reader, there are hidden, magical paths through Australia’s enchanted forests and plains, which can only be used if you save the life of a fairy, or if you are herding cows (or sheep). These paths are called ‘travelling stock routes’ and they are seriously awesome.
These are legally approved paths and trails, usually by the sides of roads and highways in country areas, where you can herd your stock of cows (or sheep, if you’re not cool enough for the noble cow) without any barriers, restrictions, or interference from cars or people. The cows are permitted to feast upon the succulent green grass and plants along the way, too. And all of this comes for free. Cows are awesome, right? Except to eat. Meat is murder, people.
These travelling stock routes are a remnant of a simpler and more elegant (and racist) time in Australia’s history. In ye olde times, our colonial farmers had no choice but to transport their cows to market using horses and dogs and whips and (let’s not shy away from the truth here) our indigenous inhabitants.
The paths that the farmers used to get to market were given legal recognition shortly after white settlement of Australia, and while some of these paths have had their legal status removed over time, many have not. This means that stock routes still exist today, and can be used for their original purpose, with all the legal protection that comes with their use. You can still legally and freely herd cows (and sheep) along these routes, even if those routes go through high-density residential areas and even cities.
Now, there are some rules for using these routes, which you must keep in mind if you want to try them out.
First, you need to be herding cows or sheep. Please use cows.
Second, you must keep your herd moving along these routes at all times, other than when you are resting or have set up camp for the night. These laws require you to move your herd along these routes for a certain minimum distance each day. The historical basis for this was to stop your herd from eating all the grass and plants in one area. So better make sure you can get your cows (and yourself) to move more than ten kilometres along a stock route every day. Sheep are too fucking lazy to move this far each day, so don’t even bother with them.
Third, you cannot stray from the stock route at any time. So even if you see a nice, firm, straight highway beside the stock route, where travel would be easier and faster, you cannot move the herd onto it without breaching traffic laws.
That is about it. Stick to these three simple rules, and you and your herd are free to use stock routes.
The remaining stock routes are under threat, though. As you can appreciate, it is a bit awkward to have stock routes alongside our major roads and running through what are now large towns and cities in our modern times. Governments across Australia are slowly but surely removing the legal recognition of the remaining routes, arguing that they no longer serve a purpose in this modern world. That makes sense, I guess. I mean, it would be strange if you could herd your cows across the Sydney Harbour Bridge these days, even if the Bridge was part of a stock route.
What’s that? The Sydney Harbour Bridge is part of a travelling stock route? So you could still herd your cows across it if you wanted to?
Fuck yeah, you can. Do it now. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, in addition to being a mighty fine example of a bridge, is still part of a travelling stock route that went up and down New South Wales’ coastline. And this means that anyone with a herd of cattle or stupid sheep can legally move the herd across it, provided this is done between midnight and 8:00 a.m.
Feel free to try this out. What could possibly go wrong? I promise it will be udder-ly fantastic.