'Moo Man' Celebrates Cow Whisperer and Virtues of Raw Milk


Raw Milk Can Have Negative Health Implications

"I have vast tolerance and acceptance for people who have a belief system and want to do something to enhance their health, even if there is no scientific basis," said Schaffner. "But this one I have difficulty with because of the health implications for persons other than the consumer."

But "The Moo Man" is less about the raw milk debate and more about endangered life down on the farm. And the intimate way in which Hook relates to his cows.

"I think their level of understanding is incredible, even though they don't speak the queen's English," said Hook. "They really do understand."

"When Ida goes to Eastbourne she interacts with the people who see her," he said. "And when I take her back to the farm, all the cows come over to see where she's been."

When one cow with eight years of milking ahead of her suffers a broken hip and the vet is called, another cow sniffs around the wounded animal, almost sympathetically. She will be killed if she can no longer be milked.

"I feel a bit robbed, really," says Hook. "It's not a nice way for cow to finish its time on the farm. But we have to do it."

Hook births three calves in the film, sticking his arm up Ida in a troubled delivery. "Keep pushing, girl," he says. "Come on, darling, one more big push."

When all is done and Hook leaves the pen exhausted from helping pull the calf out with rope wrapped around its legs, Ida turns her head to Hook as if to thank him.

"I believe there is something within our DNA that forges both our attitude and our sympathies toward domestic animals," said Heathcote in his director's statement. "This connection to nature and animals may be emotional but it is also practical, a long evolved survival response. It is a part of who we are."

Bachelier pored over 150 hours of footage in editing "The Moo Man."

"What touched me most is that a farm is a place of birth and death, and the cycle of life became very apparent and I found it touching how Steve dealt with that," she said. "I find it hugely comforting."

Hook laments that his way of life may not last, even with four sons, aged 20 to 12, who help him around the farm.

"A whole generation is not coming to farm work and stocking and husbandry skills are lost," he said.

Last year, Hook said he "pushed the boundaries" and tried to sell his milk at a food hall in a prominent London department store. He has received a summons and could be slapped with a big fine.

"We are a bit of a test case, raising the issue of raw milk -- and I welcome that," he told ABCNews.com.

Still, it is the animals that enrich Hook's life more than the enterprise.

Ida, his favorite cow, succumbs to a puncture of her heart after she swallows a wire. Even Hook, who is used to the ebb of life and death on the farm, ultimately chokes up when he must call to have her body picked up for disposal.

"She died with other cows around her--she didn't die alone," he says in the film. "All cows are one character and when they go, you lose that character. Then as time passes, you have lovely memories of the cow: 'Ah, she was a great cow.' Then cows that aren't even born yet come to the fore and it happens again."

"But, she had a good life," he said of Ida. "She's the only cow that's been to Eastbourne."

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