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Cows are Mothers Too

Story ID:7165
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:various various USA
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All-Creatures.org is a compassionate internet site for people who care about animals.
It has many links which tell about man's cruelty to animals as well as others of an inspirational
and kindly nature in this regard. Today I clicked the link entitled "Cattle Exploitation." I
thought I knew almost everything there is to know about this cruelty, but I was wrong.
There was more to learn and how better to understand a cow's pain than through her
eyes? Please take no offense because this is written to promote understanding and compassion.

"LIVING" QUARTERS. I live with many other cows in an intensive dry-lot dairy operation
where we must endure day after day standing in our own manure-laden holding pens. I once
heard someone making a comment about the Christ Child being born in a "smelly" animal cave
or stable. Well, I thought - if you were kept captive in an enclosure as we or they -just how
pleasant would your surroundings be? We don't like living in our manure either. At one time,
we had access to pastures where we could relieve ourselves, but those days are basically gone
forever for most of us.

OUR FOOD. Imagine- that were it not for the fear of mad-cow disease, we would still be
fed food which contained the processed remains of other animals- maybe even dogs and
cats. God designed us to eat only plant foods, but what did others care about our food
needs if they could expediently use cheap animal by-products instead of the grain we need.
Hopefully now, the high energy diet we are fed is truly vegetarian.

ELECTRIC MILKING MACHINES - I know that being hooked up to milking machines
is much easier on the people responsible to milk us. But being hooked up two or three times
a day is trying because we are "pushed" to produce 10 times more milk than is natural. Why
do people still feel such a need for our products when it is being found out daily that a diet
rich in meat and dairy is not healthful. Milk is basically the food for babies and people don't
really need it at all. In fact, it is a fallacy to believe that the only way to get calcium is from
milk and dairy. I know vegans who don't use ANY of our products and they are doing just
fine. And, of course, it has often been noted that the countries which do not consume a lot
of dairy are basically healthier and their women don't suffer as much from osteoporosis,
while the incidence of it in dairy-eating countries like ours is quite serious and debilitating.

However, please don't take my word for it. Professor T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. who was
raised on an American dairy farm believed too as so many still do that the consumption of
animal products is the bedrock of good health. Not so, says the professor today. After studying
nutrition, diet and cancer for 40 years, his China Project data affirms that 80-90% of ALL
cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented
simply by adopting a PLANT-BASED diet.

PREGNANT ALL THE TIME- At one time we were allowed to have sex with a bull. Those
were the good ole days when we could still spend a day in a pasture and feel the warm rays
of sun and breathe in fresh air. Of course, they are gone for many of us forever and so are the
bulls. Their sperm is extracted from them and we are artifically inseminated- year in and year out.
And what should be a joy for any mother - our beautiful new-born MALE calves are whisked away
from us shortly after birth. They are then placed in a smallish crate -unable to turn around for 16
weeks until they are killed for their veal. Our female calves will be allowed to live so that they can
join us on this painful milk line - ready to take over when we are spent and then sent to slaughter.

UNSANITARY UDDERS. Imagine that in these manure- laden surroundings we are forced
to lie down in our own feces. Of course this means that our udders sometimes are covered
with feces. If they are not properly cleansed before milking, there is a possibility of some of
the feces and bacteria getting into the milk. Sometimes our udders are infected with mastitis and
blood and pus are secreted as a result. This too can find its way into our milk. I wonder what people
would think about this when buying that "pure" gallon of white milk? Perhaps the pasteurization
process helps to eliminate the possiblilty of danger to the drinker, but I read somewhere that it
doesn't. However, if we were allowed to live in cleaner conditions, the dangers of impure milk
would be minimized I'm sure.

HUGELY DISTENDED UDDERS. I learned that there are some farms where cows are
permitted to graze in the pasture. How lucky they are! But then I was shown a picture of one
poor cow with a hugely distended udder. This is very painful. Why hasn't she been milked?
She is obviously pregnant, but still- her painful condition should be addressed and if milking her is
a solution, it should be done. Colustrums can be added later for the calf after its birth. Another
cow was so distended that she had to spread her back legs apart. When she defecated, the
droppings landed on her swollen udder because of this condition. Obviously, she too is being
neglected and not getting the care and attention she needs. She can't even lay down to rest
because of this condition. Can you imagine what it is like to have to stand and not be able
to rest one's weary pregnant body?

THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE. This account happened to a pregnant cow who was sent to a New
York stockyard. It didn't matter to her owners that she was pregnant. They decided her faithful
years of milk productivity would end in a slaughterhouse. Why couldn't they give her just one
beautiful summer in a sunny meadow where she could give birth to her last calf? No, that thought
would never even enter into the minds of profit-making dairy farmers. In the stockyard she gave
birth to a downer baby boy. He is left for dead and she doesn't know what will happen to him
because soon she will be beyond worry as she faces the horrors of the slaughter house. Sir Paul
McCartney once said that everyone would be vegetarian if slaughterhouses had walls of glass.

But then a miracle - not for her, but for her little boy calf. Gene Baur from Farm Sanctuary
spotted her baby and was able to rescue him. Only a few hours old and still wet from birth, Gene
took him to their farm. The prognosis was grim, but they hoped and probably prayed for this
innocent victim of farm abuse. They even gave him a name- "Opie." His temperature was too
low to read on the thermometer. But Opie lived and he would grow up to be a huge steer. He
would never experience the torture and hell of so many millions of other male calves forced into
little crates. His mother would have been happy to know her little boy was safe. He was now
being raised by friends and if he could realize what heaven on earth is like - this was it.

OPIE LIVES TO BE EIGHTEEN. In April of 2008 Farm Sanctuary shared with us the news
that Opie, their resident ambassador had died. This is their lead in paragraph:

"On a cold day 18 years ago, a tiny calf, no more than a few hours old, was abandoned and
left for dead at a stockyard in upstate New York. A dairy industry discard too weak and
sickly to even stand, the male Holstein lay helpless in an obscure alleyway where few signs
of life emanated from him - let alone any indication of the magnificent creature he was destined
to become."

They then went on to recount how Gene Baur at the time -a young activist, brought the downer
calf to a seedling operation called Farm Sanctuary. At this time they sheltered only a few animals
and these were cared for by its founders and a few volunteers. One of their first rescues -Opie
was placed on an IV, given colostrums and bottle fed until he was well enough to be introduced
to one of his herd mates- the now 21 year-old Maya. She too had been a downer calf and under
her watchful eye, Opie grew and thrived.

Opie grew to be more than six feet tall and weighed 3,000 pounds in his prime. He became the
benevolent paternal leader of their cattle herd. Visitors were sometimes a little fearful of this
huge steer but when they approached him, they learned that he had a huge heart to match his
size and the fear melted away.

His compelling story and the before and after pictures of him as a downer calf to becoming a
full grown steer were distributed widely. This was picked up by the media and his story probably
helped lead to the enactment of the Downed Animal Protection Act in the US Congress in 1992.

But in his 18th year. Opie's older joints began to degenerate. He later developed pnuemonia
and blood work showed he had cancer. His liver was also not functioning properly. On
April 2, 2008 Opie passed away peacefully surrounded by his caregivers and friends. I bet
there wasn't a dry eye among them.

These are Kelly Garbato's final thoughts on Opie: "Opie was a precious soul whose loss leaves
us with a sadness that is difficult to bear. From the moment of his rescue so many years ago,
Opie was Farm Sanctuary - his life informing every aspect of the rescue, education, and
advocacy work we have done and continue to do. But in our moments of despair, it is this
same fact that lifts our spirits because we know that, no matter what, Opie's memory will
continue to live on in our every action and he will always be by our side."

If you want to see Farm Sanctuary's tribute to Opie, this link shows footage of one of his first
adventurous romps at the farm: www.youtube.com/v/DDzYlbWLj14

If only there were millions of such rescue stories as Opie's, but sadly there aren't. Will things
ever change? We hope so. Pope John Paul II reminded people that we and all animals have souls.
Maybe the current Pope will write a teaching on the need for kind and just treatment for us - a
benevolent stewardship which does not cause suffering to us or any other animals. Maybe more
people will join the ranks of vegetarians and vegans. This could pave the way for the dismantling
of the huge CAFO farms. All of us live in that hope that those "maybes" will happen and that
many people will care enough to make compassionate changes in their lives.