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"Kühen" and "Tieren" are only used in dative case.
The verb to be (in this case the plural form "sind") is used for various purposes, but if you are trying to express an equality between two things (something is something - cows are animals) then both subject and object need to be in the same, nominative case.
Kühe (nominative form) sind Tiere (nominative form).
Hope this helps!
How the plural of "Tier" is "Tiere"? Doesn't this contradict with the Tips and Notes of the lesson, which says that: There is no change for neuter or masculine nouns that have any of these singular endings: -chen, -lein, -el, or -er? Now isn't the word "Tier neuter and ends with -er?