As I approached one of Seattle Farmed Animal Save‘s monthly demostrations last year, I noticed miles of plastic huts by the side of the road. I suspected they were veal crates but, despite having gone vegan largely because of the horrors of the dairy industry, I didn’t want to believe I was driving right by so many thousands of isolated, suffering calves.
I began to look more closely at the farms where the plastic huts were located and, sure enough, they were dairies. I pulled over, climbed a fence and looked inside a hut.
What — who — I saw was heart-wrenching.
When I peeked into a crate, the calf you see above — look at his long, beautiful eyelashes — immediately stood up on wobbly legs and walked toward me. His ear tags show his recent birthdate.
I could see mother cows — probably including his mother — under roofs in the near distance. They were within earshot.
Like any mother, mother cows want to snuggle, protect and feed their young.
Instead, mother cows live in a Groundhog Day of unbearable grief. They are forcibly impregnated, frequently on something farmers call a “rape rack,” then have their babies taken from them over and over again. Often the separation occurs minutes after birth, and their milk is stolen from their udders for humans who like dairy pizza and ice cream. When their bodies give out at a young age, they, like their mothers and their mothers before them, are killed for hamburger or pet food.
Their daughters become dairy cows.
Their sons become veal.
If you eat dairy cheese or ice cream, you are directly funding the veal industry.
As a recent Mercy for Animals undercover investigation found, the misery runs deep: There’s video of workers shoving, dragging and tossing baby calves; cows suffering from diarrhea and breathing difficulties without proper veterinary care; and cows being kicked and hit.
Personally, I’m perplexed by people who abuse and kill animals in the meat, egg and dairy industries. They become desensitized to the suffering of innocents; in these videos, it’s clear that some become monsters — for very little pay. Many have little education and/or English language skills, but that doesn’t mean they have to sell their time doing this, for owners who reap the financial gain without bloodying their hands — and for dairy eaters who don’t acknowledge what’s happening, right along their country roads.
I believe there’s a continuum of suffering in animal agriculture and that factory farms cause more widespread and heinous suffering than smaller and organic farms. The calf above lived his short, desperately weak and lonely life at the “better” end of that spectrum.
When I went vegan, I stopped eating dairy by thinking at each temptation/habit of the suffering of nearby cows. At that point, I didn’t know — or maybe, I wonder now, I didn’t believe? — that dairy was tied so directly, so viscerally to the horror of veal calves.
I wish non-vegans could see what I saw that day along the road, make the connection between dairy and the immense suffering of these sweet motherless babies — and make a change that would greatly reduce the torture of innocents in this world.