I wrote this post after reading an article in the newspaper about a dairy farm located relatively close to my home in Massachusetts.
A mother’s experience, 20+ years ago, Singapore (where two of my three daughters were born):
Our newborn is up again. It’s 3:00 am. My husband and I lie quietly for a few moments willing our daughter back to sleep. But her cries are persistent. Who knows if she’s hungry, wet, cold or simply distressed and looking for comfort. Regardless, we’ve reached our limit; there’s only so long one can ignore an infant baby’s cries. My husband makes his way to the nursery, returns with our daughter, and lays her beside me. Her whimpers subside. She begins to nurse. At that moment there is no more peaceful sound than the blissful rhythm of our baby sucking.
A mother’s experience, three years ago, Sunshine Dairy Farm, Newbury, MA:
The calf is born. Cold and disoriented her mother nestles close to provide warmth; she guides her baby’s mouth towards her udders. The calf suckles and then falls asleep by her mother. Mother and child remain this way, comforted, nurtured by each other’s presence. The calf awakes and drinks more of the colostrum or “early milk”. This milk is rich in antibodies, essential for the health and growth of the baby calf, but not fit for human consumption. Within 24 hours the calf has done its job and her mother’s udders fill with milk. This, humans can consume and is therefore valuable.
The calf must not drink the profits. A farm hand waits until mother and baby are sleeping. He lifts the calf to its feet, puts her in a cart and wheels her away. This calf, like all the others on the farm, is separated permanently from her mother, never to see her again.
The cow and calf’s time together has ended, but maternal-child bonds are not easily broken. The separation causes extreme anxiety and suffering. Bellows emanate from the mother cow lamenting the separation from her baby. Gates will be checked to ensure the cow is securely penned. It is not uncommon for a mother to trek for miles in search of her calf.
Between midnight and 7 a.m., the police receive at least four calls from neighbors concerned about strange noises that are clearly coming from creatures in distress. Officers are dispatched to the dairy farm to investigate the source of these eerie troubling sounds.
Assurances are given that all is well. This is just business as usual. Artificial insemination, pregnancy, birth, and then separation are essential parts of the commercial milk production cycle. Lactation will not occur and a profitable supply of milk will not be available otherwise.
Haunted by this knowledge, I no longer consume dairy milk, butter, yogurt, ice cream or cheese. Dairy products are suffused with the suffering of a mother and child, separated and unable to soothe one another. I hear the cries and I cannot ignore them.
Interested in learning more?
- Read an article about the noises coming from Sunshine Dairy Farm here.
- Check out these wonderful plant-based cheese/yogurt companies: Miyoko’s Kitchen, Treeline and Kite Hill.
- Listen to Victoria Moran speaking with Dr. Neal Barnard about the health risks associated with cheese consumption here (starting at 22:00).
- Read about the health risks associated with dairy consumption here.
- The Plantrician Project is a great resource for learning about dairy and the calcium myth.
Diana Goldman, VLCE received a B.S. from Cornell University in Nutritional Science and an Ed.M. from Harvard University. Never too old for change and looking at the world in new ways, she became a vegan at 48 years old. She returned to Cornell to obtain a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition, became certified as a Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator at Main Street Vegan Academy and then attended Rouxbe Cooking School to obtain a Certificate in Plant-based Cooking. She loves catering, teaching cooking classes and sharing information about the joy, peace of mind, palate pleasure, and health benefits that come from a vegan lifestyle on her website www.beantownkitchen.com.