Daisy the Sentient Cow
Updated: Feb 11
DAVIS — UC Davis has one of the nation's most vigorously scientific agriculture programs and has been making important advances in food production for decades, most recently in lab-made meats. Advances not only in cultivated animal proteins but in meatlike products made from plants and fungi are so promising that certain other projects are now being shut down. The most exciting of which to many was Daisy, the sentient cow.
Inspired (as are so many nerd-led projects) by the work of Douglas Adams, the sentient cow was intended to remove the moral qualms of eating meat by making the meat to be eaten a willing participant.
Only one sentient cow was ever successfully produced and, while Daisy was blasé about the notion of being killed and eaten, she never volunteered for slaughter either. Eventually the ethics board decide she should not be slaughtered anyway and so she has become the grand dame of the Davis stables.
During this time she has famously argued that all cows are sentient and the only difference between herself and other bovines is her ability to communicate with humans, that she will remain without child until a bull with matching mental skills is available and willing (another victory Daisy claimed before the university's ethics board), and for the right to create and maintain an online identity.
Unfortunately, Daisy claimed that latest victory in 2016 and she was so swiftly disenchanted by online human culture that she ended up deleting all her accounts within two weeks of starting them. Only the tracest remains can be found today, and she would rather you did not look.
Mostly, her time the past few years has been assisting the scientists at Davis research better ways to serve cattle whose lives are, largely, purely utilitarian and without any but the most simple of joys. The cow shower, for instance, was Daisy's idea.
(Note: This and all other photos in this article were lifted without permission from UC Davis's online newsroom.)
She picked up on the idea of looking for cattle-treating ideas from history and, has happened so many, this led her to Keepapitchinin. But what caught her eye there was a joke she simply could not understand. It took three undergraduate explanations before she successfully understood ("humor" had previously been deemed outside Daisy's capacity but, following this joke, she took to downloading children's joke books and delighted in sharing them with various students).
Keepapitchinin proved a serious distraction and a gateway to the Bloggernacle, diminished though it be this deep into the 21st century, and Daisy soon was neglecting her scientific education for a religious one and, having begun her journey with the Latter-day Saints, so it continued.
With COVID-19 moving all missionaries online, Daisy began conversation with them during their surplus time and began receiving the lessons. Among the doctrines she found particularly intriguing have been obedience, eternal progression, and the slaughter of a human for other humans' salvation.
After three weeks of meeting the missionaries up to five times a week, Daisy attended her local ward's Zoom-based meetings. She was an active participant in Sunday School, where teacher Marybeth Vaccano says Daisy brought "an intensely unique set of questions revealing perspectives I've just never considered before. She's really very cute, too."
Although Daisy insists she never kept her species secret, when it came time to consider the logistics of a mid-pandemic baptism, her being a cow finally came up. The missionaries were, not surprisingly, surprised. Their mission president was also surprised, but interviewed Daisy. He says it's no question of her worthiness but a lack of precedent. The revelations of Joseph Smith suggest all animals are already saved, but whether Daisy, being "sentient," was fundamentally different, was unclear. He received special permission to visit Davis campus with Elder Pimentel, the Area Seventy. Daisy's hopes were high but as the conversation progressed it seemed Elder Pimentel was skeptical Daisy was capable of committing sin and therefore perhaps not in need of baptism.
Daisy turned and kicked Elder Pimentel in the shin. Reached for comment, laid up at his home in Alameda, Elder Pimentel laughed and admitted that might be a sin but he didn't hold it against Daisy.
"She was already upset it was too late to be recruited to make one of the 'I'm a Mormon' videos when I accused her of being unable to sin. She explained to me that she too had come to earth to exercise agency and, darn it, what's agency without the possibility of sin?"
When I last checked in with Daisy, she was a bit embarrassed by the entire incident and insisted she was happy to wait as long as it took for a decision to be reached. She also arranged for a gallon of fresh milk from her friend Bella to be delivered still warm to Elder Pimentel's home.
To speak with Daisy yourself, make arrangements through Amy Quinton of the University of California, Davis's public affairs department.