All Mothers Should Be Celebrated

Happy Mother’s Day! Non-human animals make great mothers too, so let's honour and celebrate mothers across all species. Like humans, farmed animals have meaningful relationships with their mothers and if given the opportunity, form deep bonds together. When not in captivity on factory farms, mother cows have lifelong connections with their calves after carrying them for nine months; mother hens provide love to their chicks and take them under their wings for protection; and mother pigs affectionately cuddle and build nests for their piglets. But none of this is possible for animal mothers in the animal agriculture industry. So as we raise our glasses to toast the mothers in our lives today, let's ensure they are filled with vegan milks, our plates are loaded with healthy plant-based food, and we show kindness to all mothers, including the three species below. 

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Photo by Louise Jorgensen from Toronto Cow Save.
She smells the blood at the slaughterhouse just a few feet away. The terror in her eyes says it all.

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We found fetal calves from murdered pregnant dairy cows dumped in the trash outside a slaughterhouse in Toronto.

Cows

Only baby cows need cow’s milk. Like human mothers, cows produce milk to feed their babies. On dairy farms, cows are forcefully inseminated to become pregnant to produce milk that humans drink. Mother cows and calves form strong bonds and will nurture their newborns when permitted. On factory farms, their babies are taken away as early as one day old and mother cows are hooked up to milk machines at least twice daily.  

It’s common for mother cows to bellow for days in mourning and pace their cages searching for their babies. Calves are a co-product of the veal industry, and babies (usually males) are taken away to live in tiny stalls until they are killed between five and eight months old.

When cow’s milk production declines, they are deemed worthless and killed. The natural lifespan of cows is 18 – 22 years. However, factory-farmed cows are usually killed after five years due to their bodies being “spent” from being constantly pregnant and lactating. Worn-out dairy cows are called “downers” by the industry, and by the time they get to this point, many are lame from standing on dirty abrasive concrete floors and being milked their entire lives.

Louise Jorgensen is an organizer for Toronto Cow Save and bears witness and photographs cows heading to slaughter at St. Helen's Meat Packers. Jorgensen regularly witnesses mother cows that have been discarded by the dairy Industry arriving at the slaughterhouse in transport trucks.

Jorgensen explains,Many arrive in different stages of pregnancy and with painfully engorged udders still dripping milk. It’s painful to witness the fear and confusion in the eyes of these gentle mothers and to hear their long, low bellows for help. To know we have no power to stop the violent fate that awaits them. We witness their skins, heads, and unborn calves in blood filled trucks and dumpsters at the opposite end of the slaughterhouse. Being a woman and a mother myself, I can relate to the injustice of the exploitation of the sacredness of motherhood and the female body. Every woman should stop supporting and speak out against the violent dairy industry.”

Mother cows are not the only victims of the dairy industry, mother goats also have their milk stolen and suffer tremendously on dairy farms.

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David Animal Save rescued seven chickens who were just a day away from being taken to the slaughterhouse.
They are now free to forage and roam on a 100-acre woodland property in Boca Chica, where they will live out their lives together.

Chickens

Chickens are some of the most abused animals on the planet, and there are more chickens raised and killed for food than all other land animals combined. Female chickens, called hens, are victims of the egg industry from the moment they are born into it. Female chicks have the end of their beaks cut off with a hot blade (“debeaking”) to prevent endless pecking due to the stress of living in tiny battery cages with five to ten other chickens. Hens live mostly in darkness, standing on rough wire cages the size of a regular piece of paper. Egg-laying hens are selectively bred to yield a very high egg production, leading to multiple health issues. 

“Laying hens are at high risk of bone fractures due to selective breeding. Researchers say the birds suffer “both when the fracture occurs and afterwards, so we are dealing with a huge animal welfare problem”, as documented by Compassion in World Farming.

Activists with Animal Save Movement bear witness around the world to chickens on the way to slaughter, including mother hens that are now “spent” and are always trying to rescue animals.

In California, Chino Cow Save rushed to the scene of an accident after a chicken transport truck crashed. After being told the chickens were private property and could not be taken, the activists miraculously managed to rescue one lucky hen. Meanwhile, a few years ago in Panama, David Animal Save rescued seven hens from a large ‘poultry’ producer. Activists asked the farm manager to find compassion and surrender five hens to live out their natural lives in peace. He appreciated their beautiful form of activism, and that day seven hens experienced freedom for the first time.

We all have the power to give freedom to hens when we choose cruelty-free food.

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"We bore witness to a suffering mother at a pig farm in East Dorset, UK. She was alone in a dirty, damp pen, inside a windowless shed of pregnant breeding mothers. It was clear she had given up all hope. She just lay there, panting and unable to stand. Her breathing was labored, and she looked so sad, like she had nothing to live for.  She will never see daylight, breathe fresh air or feel the grass beneath her feet. She is living a nightmare." - Dorset Animal Save

Pigs

My first vigil bearing witness to pigs on the way to slaughter was with Toronto Pig Save a decade ago. I remember peering inside dirty metal transport trucks when they stopped at red lights to offer pigs fresh water. I locked eyes with pigs that were sick, scared, confused, and covered in sores and faecal matter. Some pigs were screaming and panting, and most were six months old.

When free, pigs can live an average of 10 -15 years and spend their days lying in the sun, rooting in the mud, or, if your name is Esther, eating cupcakes and wearing tiaras.

In captivity on factory farms, mother pigs, called sows, are impregnated over and over again before their bodies collapse, and they are sent to slaughter. Mother pigs spend almost their entire miserable lives lying down on metal bars in confined gestation crates where they are unable to turn around. This is how pigs on factory farms give birth and nurse their piglets before their babies are taken away weeks later. Their natural maternal bond is broken with each litter of pigs. The piglets have their tails chopped off, their teeth snipped, and the males are castrated without painkillers. They spend the rest of their young lives in dirty pens on concrete slabs before being sent to slaughter on transport trucks. When pigs meet caring activists on the other side of the truck it’s the first time they experience love. 

"We are a love based group. We return love for violence and that's how we change the world. Our goal is to help people adopt a non-violent vegan lifestyle." - Anita Krajnc, Executive Director of Animal Save Movement and Global Campaign Coordinator of Plant Based Treaty

The best thing we can do for mother cows, goats, pigs, hens, and other animal mothers we share the world with, is to keep them and their products off our plates and enjoy tasty and healthy vegan alternatives. Don’t forget to sign the Plant Based Treaty, which calls for the halt to the expansion of all animal agriculture and download their free vegan starter kit.

    Written by Miriam Porter:

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