NEW BOOK: The Cow with Ear Tag #1389
by Kathryn Gillespie, PhD

Take a look at the packaging on a container of milk and you’re likely to see bucolic idylls of red barns, green pastures, and happy, well-treated cows. In truth, the distance from a living cow to a glass of milk is vast, and nearly impossible to grasp in a way that resonates with an average person ticking items off a grocery list. 

In contrast to the widely known truths of commercial meat manufacture, the dairy industry enjoys a relatively benign reputation, with most consumers unaware of this kitchen staple’s backstory. The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 explores how the seemingly nonthreatening practice of raising animals for milk is just one link in a chain that affects livestock across the agricultural spectrum. Gillespie takes readers to farms, auction yards, slaughterhouses, and even rendering plants to show how living cows are transformed into food. The result is an empathetic look at cows and our relationship with them, one that makes both their lives and their suffering real—in particular, the fleeting encounter with the cow of the title, just one animal whose story galvanized Gillespie to write this book.

The myriad ways that the commercial meat industry causes harm are at the forefront of numerous discussions today. The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 adds a crucial piece to these conversations by asking us to consider the individual animals whose lives we may take for granted. 

Preorder The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 via University of Chicago Press or Amazon

Special thanks to Jo-Anne McArthur for her generosity in the use of the image for the cover.

From Nature (five of of the week’s best science picks): “What price a glass of milk? In this trenchant examination of the dairy industry, animal-studies researcher Kathryn Gillespie investigates its workings, wastefulness (farmers in the US Midwest and Northeast dumped 300 million litres of milk in early 2017) and impacts on the environment, such as leaks from manure lagoons. Gillespie’s central focus, however, is the effect on the cows, bulls and calves involved, before their inevitable slaughter. Her careful field research in auction yards and slaughterhouses shows how commodification of animals too often leads to severe, and disturbing, health and welfare issues.” 

From Publisher’s Weekly: “Positioning her work among such investigative classics as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Gillespie uses scholarly methods to bring to light the often hidden side of what it takes to produce such foods as cheese and ice cream. . . .Interviews with dairy farmers and 4-H participants give fascinating insight into the emotional toll sometimes exacted on humans. . .Gillespie also vividly describes the deleterious effects of long-term dairy production on the animals themselves, as demonstrated by the titular cow. . .She succeeds in ensuring her readers will never look at a glass of milk in quite the same way again.”


Kathryn Gillespie, PhD is a writer, feminist geographer, and critical animal studies scholar. Her research and teaching interests focus on: feminist theory and methods; food and agriculture; political economy; critical animal studies; critical race theory; postcolonial studies; incarceration/prison studies; gender and sexuality; human-environment relations. She has published in numerous scholarly journals and has co-edited two books: Critical Animal Geographies: Politics, Intersections and Hierarchies in a Multispecies World [Routledge, 2015, co-edited with Rosemary-Claire Collard] and Economies of Death: Economic Logics of Killable Life and Grievable Death [Routledge, 2015, co-edited with Patricia J. Lopez]. Gillespie was an Animal Studies Postdoctoral Fellow at Wesleyan University and has taught various courses at the University of Washington. She has volunteered with Books to Prisoners (a Seattle organization that receives and fills book requests from prisoners throughout the United States), Food Empowerment Project (a food justice organization in Cotati, CA), and Pigs Peace Sanctuary (a sanctuary for pigs in Stanwood, WA).


Kathryn Gillespie
P.O. Box 28066
Seattle, WA 98118