On the way to one of Seattle Farmed Animal Save‘s monthly demostrations last year, I started driving 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 isolated, suffering calves.
As I drove, I started looking more closely at the farms where the plastic huts were located and, sure enough, they were dairies. I decided to pull over and look 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. Across the top of the veal crates, I could see the 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 on something farmers call a “rape rack,” then have their babies taken from them over and over again.
As a recent Mercy for Animals undercover investigation found, the misery does not end there — although the veal aspect alone is a far cry from 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).
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 that must take place in their hearts so they can make a living there.
My personal belief is that 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 other cows, including their 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, the way I turned away from my pizza (and ice cream) habit was to think 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. Eating dairy was a habit, and now it’s not.
I wish everyone could see what I saw that day, make the connection and make a change that would greatly reduce the suffering humans cause in this world.