The star thrower

The story behind Starfish Bobby Calf Project

This blog is based on my experiences running the Starfish Bobby Calf Project (hereafter called Starfish). Starfish is a calf rescue operation and platform anti-dairy activism. It is called Starfish because of the story by Loren Eiseley called ‘The Star Thrower’, about a man who decides to return stranded starfish to the sea, rather than continuing to appropriate them like other characters.


 The original starfish story is a study in its own right! It is written by Loren Eiseley and is an in depth contemplation on the relation of humans to nature. The story as it is expressed in popular culture reduces it significantly.

The story is based on the writer Loren Eisley’s experience walking along a beach in Costabel after a storm. The sand is full of dying starfish washed up from the sea, and Eiseley details how they cannot survive with their pores blocked with sand. ‘Long-limbed starfish were strewn everywhere, as thought the night sky had showered down’ (Eiseley 70). Shell collectors are out at night during tourist season , collecting huge bags of starfish and shells to boil up – presumably making a profit from their deaths.

“death walks hugely and in many forms …” Loren Eiseley

As the writer ventures further along the beach he notices an old man carefully selecting living starfish and throwing them back to safety in the sea.Eiseley contemplates the futility of this action, conjuring up images of starfish along the many beaches worldwide. Upon being questioned the old man simply replies that he  gave up being a collector and wants to help the starfish.

Eiseley’s reflections raise profound questions about humans and our relationship with the natural world, and about our capacity for change. One man stood up against the masses;against those who seek to exploit and kill life. The old man is positioned as a lover of life and a representation of true humanity; whereas the other ‘collectors’ of starfish are engaged in what Eiseley disparagingly calls a ‘vulterine activity’. As he writes his story, Eiseley speaks of how, following in the footsteps of the old man, he goes on to fling starfish into the sea. He imagines other starfish being flung ‘far outward on the rim of space … I could feel the movement in my body. It was like a sowing – the sowing of life on an infinitely gigantic scale’ (Eiseley 90). �$

The parallels with Starfish Bobby Calf Project are in our attempts to rescue calves – a seemingly futile action because there are millions sent to slaughter each year. We offer help and refuge to the ones we can, and their rescue makes a difference to them individually. The focus is on the individual who had hitherto been reduced to a mere number on the bobby calf ear tag. Previously tagged for death, rescued calves can be given a chance of life.