“Cattle,” said Anatoly, stroking the face of his livestock. His long nail scratched it slightly. The rancher gingerly dabbed the line of blood that arose with a handkerchief, clicking his tongue.
“That was clumsy. I’m sorry.” The animal didn’t react, being so heavily sedated that it could hardly move its eyes to follow his hand. Even without the drugs, it was pressed tightly into a suspended rubber harness, just like hundreds up and down this row of Anatoly’s dark pens.
The rancher began to stroll away to make sure the tubes connected to the other animals’ bellies were successfully extracting the products on which his livelihood depended. A sound caused him to pause.
He turned to face the creature.
“Ooooo,” it said again.
Anatoly leaned in close and heard it manage to moan, “Oooouh-ww-wwhyyy.”
Laughter echoed off thick walls. “A talker! We haven’t had one of these for ages.” He dragged a nearby stool over so he could look the animal in the eyes.
“Let’s see. You’re still being drugged properly, but you’re feeling inquisitive. Why is that?” Anatoly grabbed his property by the hair, inspecting it.
“Ww-wwhyy,” it repeated.
“I’ll bite. ‘Why?’ Assuming you’re wondering why you find yourself here, a cash cow, the answer is: it’s just nature. People need food. You’re food. I sell people what they need.”
“‘Bad?’ You’re going to talk morality? Your morality means nothing to me. I’m the more evolved species. The moral code of any animal, whether it’s you or an ant, means nothing to me. I’m the top of the food chain. It’s my obligation to use you as I see fit.”
“Gg-go,” the animal stuttered.
“Oh, no. No, I can’t let you do that. And I can’t leave you talking like this to all the other livestock.” Anatoly grabbed the creature’s neck and ripped its throat out. He looked morosely at the blood rushing toward the floor’s drain.
“Shame to waste that much product, but it was spoiled. No one will drink talking animal’s blood. Let him be a lesson to the rest of you!” Anatoly shouted. But he couldn’t expect these beasts to understand him. Humans are stupid, stubborn creatures, after all.