Don’t Have a Cow, Man?


“Don’t have a cow” was popularized, and is perhaps only used, by Bart Simpson.

It is described in as a statement intended to “dismiss[] the other person’s feelings as overreactive…and or to minimize an activity as something not so bad.”

I wonder if Bart were to sit in Ms. Krabapple’s class and actually learn about cows, meat and milk in the US, whether the meaning of the phrase would change.  

Imagine this in a lesson plan:

  •      So long predators

o   Historically livestock is one of the leading contributors to the extermination of big animal species. This is visible through the extinction of the California grizzly and the Mexican Gray Wolf, both of which were hunted down to protect livestock.  Losing big mammals has huge effects on ecological systems (ie. check out this informative clip on how major predators affect the ecology of Yellowstone National Park).

  •      Anybody see a bathroom around here?

o   Cows are notorious water polluters. A single cow’s natural excrement could total 150lbs of poop and 8 gallons of urine a day.

o   The systems that are used to grow livestock feed are responsible for nearly one-third of fresh water contamination from nitrogen and phosphorous in the US.  Excessive nutrient inputs from livestock are further turning large marine areas into “dead zones,” more or less devoid of higher animal life.

  •      Whoopi cushions

o   According to the UN, livestock are responsible for more greenhouse gases than the global transportation sector (roughly 18%). Surprised? Livestock are also responsible for 64% of manmade ammonia, a major contributor to acid rain.

  •      A bowl of pasta or a string of meat

o   There is a huge waste of energy-transfer in raising cows.  With 100 calories of grain fed to animals, we get only about 40 calories of milk and 3 calories of beef in return. That’s a lot of food, water, land and oil going into a just a little milk and even less meat.

How could we imagine Bart Simpson after sitting through a lesson like this? Would “don’t have a cow, man,” mean that this isn’t a serious issue and it will all blow over? Or would he continue to use the phrase, but mean it literally?

Whatever the answer, I do enjoy imagining him at the chalkboard during the opening credits, writing again and again: “I won’t have a cow, man. I won’t have a cow, man.”