Show compassion for all Moms this Mother’s Day: Go veggie!
By Dr. Heather Rally, D.V.M.
What if your mother were artificially inseminated time and time again? What if you were taken from her shortly after birth? No nurturing, no love, no celebration. What if she cried out for you constantly but to no avail? You had already been slated to become someone’s dinner.
As a veterinarian who’s concerned about all animals, I hope you’ll keep cows in mind on Mother’s Day — and any other time you’re enjoying a meal with your family — and opt for dairy-free foods.
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Cows produce milk for the same reason that humans do: to feed their young. But on today’s dairy farms, they are kept almost constantly pregnant so that they’ll produce a steady supply of milk. Their calves are typically taken away from them when they’re only a few hours old.
Male calves are commonly raised for veal. They’re chained up in tiny crates and intentionally fed a formula that’s low in iron so that they’ll become anemic and their flesh will stay pale. They take their first weak, wobbly steps — to slaughter — when they’re between 3 and 18 weeks old.
Females are turned into virtual milk machines like their mothers. When their production wanes, they, too, end up at the slaughterhouse, bloodied, dangling by a hind leg with their throats cut.
Cows are like us in important and relevant ways: They’re made of flesh and blood.
They feel pain and love.
They form strong family ties and grieve when they’re separated from their loved ones.
In An Anthropologist on Mars, Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote of a trip that he and agriculture-industry advisor Dr. Temple Grandin took to a dairy farm — and of the bellowing that they heard:
“They must have separated the calves from the cows this morning,” Temple said, and, indeed, this was what had happened. We saw one cow outside the stockade, roaming, looking for her calf, and bellowing. “That’s not a happy cow,” Temple said. “That’s one sad, unhappy, upset cow. She wants her baby.”
As that mother cow demonstrated, all animals have thoughts, feelings and desires. Here’s an example of another basic need: Cows long to live in pastures. A study at the University of British Columbia recently found that cows want to get outdoors as much as they want food.
The researchers steadily increased the amount of force that it took for a cow to open a door leading to either food or pasture. Most of the cows studied pushed just as hard to get outside as they did to get to food.
The scientists speculate that this is because grass is softer than concrete, so outdoors, cows can move comfortably. Soft ground is better for their hoof health and reduces the likelihood of lameness. And they have a basic behavioral need to live in the grasslands, which are, of course, their natural environment.
Yet fewer than 5 percent of cows in the U.S. are allowed to spend time in pasture, and “80 percent never see a blade of grass,” according to researcher Marina von Keyserlingk.
Change is needed, and gradually it is happening. Surveys suggest that half of Americans now consume dairy-free milk. To those of you who still drink cow’s milk, please consider going vegan for Mother’s Day — and beyond.
If you have children, you’ll surely understand how traumatic it would be to lose a baby. And as we all have mothers, we should be outraged that any mother, human or not, would be subjected to a life of torment, as are cows in the dairy industry.
By choosing tasty vegan foods this Mother’s Day and all year round, you’ll be showing compassion for all mothers!