By Veronika Powell
Mother’s Day is a celebration of our mothers or mother figures, focussing on everything we love about them and all that we’re grateful for. Yet much of what’s involved in these celebrations is based on the exploitation of other mothers.
It’s uncomfortable to think about it and admit that what we would never wish on any mother is being done to millions of non-human mothers out there. We’re highlighting the plight of dairy cows around Mother’s Day because every single aspect of their motherhood is exploited to the maximum, yet their suffering remains mostly unseen.
Young cows are impregnated (usually forcibly) for the first time when they’re 15-18 months old, giving birth to their first calf nine months later. Within hours, that calf is taken away and placed in a solitary pen or hutch. Of course, this is more than stressful for both the mother cow and her calf, they are supposed to be together, the calf is supposed to drink her mother’s milk. Farmers sometimes claim the cows don’t mind or that they quickly forget but this is more about the skewed view of the cows as ‘dumb animals’, rather than real life. In reality, cows run (or try to if they’re restrained) after their calves being dragged away, cry after them, some even break fences.
The milk meant for their calves is then being pumped out of their udders by a machine two or more times a day just so people can have milk chocolate and a latte. Being mere milk producing units, the cows’ lives don’t matter in this system. Many cows will develop udder inflammation or become lame as a consequence of the conditions they are kept in. About two or three months after giving birth, these sad mothers are impregnated again, otherwise they wouldn’t keep producing milk. They have to go through this trauma every single year. At the end, when they’re exhausted by the vicious cycle, they’re killed for burgers at five or six years of age.
As shops are bursting to seams with all the milk chocolate for Mother’s Day, spare a thought for the forgotten mothers, who pay for the chocolates with their lives. Is Milk Tray really worth that?
Choosing to not support and pay for the suffering of these gentle mothers doesn’t require much, there’s plenty of dairy-free chocolate and other foods out there. Let’s celebrate this Mother’s Day by remembering all mothers and making compassionate choices. They’re more than worth it!
PS Organic dairy cows go through the same things, there’s no avoiding the suffering in the dairy industry. More on farm assurance schemes here.