Holy Cow is the debut novel from The X-Files actor David Duchovny. Its protagonist is Elsie, a dairy cow who talks like a Valley Girl and lives a carefree life on a farm in America, her only unhappiness arising from the disappearance of her mother some years before. However one night, Elsie looks through the window of the farmhouse to see on TV (or “Box God” as she calls it) a documentary about industrial meat farming and suddenly the truth about her mother’s disappearance becomes clear. When she later sees another documentary about sacred cows in India, Elsie knows her only chance to escape slaughter is to run away to India. Teaming up with a pig who wants to go live in Israel where pork isn’t eaten, and a turkey who wants to live in Turkey where he believes he won’t get eaten either, the three animals set off on a journey to save their own lives.
This novel is not at all subtle about its vegan message and it’s great. It’s amazing to read such strong vegan messages in any novel but especially one that got such publicity when it was released earlier this year, thanks to Duchovny’s fame.
Holy Cow is written as if Elsie herself was the author, with references to her having conversations with her publisher as well as a multitude of pop culture references. Elsie’s preppy girl persona does get a bit grating after a while, but then suddenly she’ll burst into a massive, eloquent and enraged rant about animal cruelty. Imagining this as the first hand experience of a cow herself makes it even more powerful.
There is a lot of suspension of disbelief required when reading this novel, including how Elsie and the other cows on her farm don’t have to give birth to calves to produce milk. The narrative also jumps around a lot, with Elsie’s narration often getting in the way of the story’s progression. There’s also a strange section where the three animals get involved with the conflict in the Middle East. But mostly this doesn’t even matter because the novel is so funny. There are laugh out loud moments throughout and the hilarious interactions between the three characters keep the story afloat.
It only now begs the question, why is David Duchovny not vegan? The novel’s concluding words are “You, me, the animals in the wild, the animals at your feet, the animal on your plate, the person next to you – We are all one.” And yet Duchovny describes himself as a “lazy vegetarian”and is technically a pescetarian. I can only hope he’ll re-read his novel one day because through all the humour and the quirky writing style is a heartfelt, thought-provoking novel with the very strong clear message that all animals are equal.
Hardcover, 209 pages
Headline Publishing Group