As I approached one of Seattle Farmed Animal Save‘s monthly demostrations last year, I started driving by by row after row 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 (dairy pizza was the last thing I gave up), I didn’t want to believe I was driving right by so many thousands of isolated, suffering calves.
As I drove, I began to look more closely at the farms where the plastic huts were located and, sure enough, they were dairies.
I pulled over and looked inside a hut. What — who — I saw was heart-wrenching.
(Just look at his eyelashes!)
As I peeked into a crate, the calf inside stood up on wobbly legs, his ear tags showing his recent birthdate. Looking across the top of his and the other veal crates, I could see these calves’ mothers standing nearby.
They were so close.
Many accounts and videos attest to the love cows have for their babies. Like any mother, they want to protect and feed their young. Instead, they are separated soon (sometimes minutes) after birth — even on small dairy farms like this — and their milk is taken for humans. Their daughters become dairy cows and, when their bodies give out, they, like their mothers, are killed for hamburger or pet food.
Their sons become veal.
If you eat cheese, you are directly funding the veal industry.
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.
It’s nothing like the picture we paint of small dairies in childrens’ books, on “happy cow” milk cartons and in our own minds (before we learn the truth). And as a recent Mercy for Animals undercover investigation found, the misery does not end there.
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, my heart goes out to anyone who works with the animals in the meat, egg or dairy industries, because of the desensitization they experience in order to make a living.
I believe there’s a continuum of suffering and abuse in animal agriculture and that factory farms are worse than smaller and organic farms. But the calves I saw — who were killed as someone’s meal without ever having known even their own mothers — lived at the “better” end of that spectrum. For what? So we can eat pizza and ice cream that has their mothers’ milk in it?
When I went vegan, I finally turned away from my pizza (and ice cream) by thinking at each temptation of the suffering of nearby cows. Now I can add veal calves to that mental picture, although there are so many tastier alternatives that I’m no longer tempted.
I wish everyone could see what I saw that day along the road, make the connection between the cheese, milk and ice cream they eat and the suffering of these gentle animals, and make a change that would greatly reduce the suffering of innocents in this world.