On the morning of Saturday, July 4th, one day before we were scheduled to welcome our five rescued cows to VeganLand, we arrived to discover that eight of the condemned cows who graze on our neighbor’s land had somehow made their way onto our property.
Our first thought was that we must have left a gate open, but a quick look revealed they were all closed.
We could hear their herd mates calling from the field next door, and as we tried to understand how they had managed to get through, eight dispirited and mistrustful mothers stood staring back at us, with what we confirmed, in retrospect, was accusation in their eyes.
As it turned out, the cows had destroyed one panel of the fence that separates us from next door, apparently severing the line of barbed wire stretched across the top, before crashing through from one field to another in a frantic attempt to find their calves, who (we later learned) had been rounded up and taken away only one day earlier.
When we discovered their method of entry, I found myself pondering the desperation and determination that must have been coursing through the veins of the cow at the front of the group; her blood heated by the fire of a mother willing to use her own body to break through the barrier she imagined was in between her and her missing baby.
I couldn’t help but wonder if it was blind passion that caused this particular mother to defy the boundary that threatened to constrain her frenzied search, or whether there was an element of calculation in this act of defiance against the barbs designed to keep her confined; those tiny yet bloody weapons whose very origin and history are steeped in the oppression of her kind.
Four days after her loss, even as I write these words, I could almost weep wondering how she might be trying to console herself. I can only hope that maybe she and her fellow mothers in mourning curl up together to keep out the cold of the dark night air. Even so, how restless such a sleep must be.
I’ve been finding myself anxious about what our girls from the dairy rescue might feel when they hear the bellows of neighboring cows being separated from one another. Do such sounds take them back to the trauma they experienced during their early days, and the pandemonium of the stockyard? What experiences will they recognize in the calls of bewildered mothers and their panicked and frantic calves? If it’s heart-wrenching for us, how must it feel for them?
Being rescued gave them life, safety, shelter, love, and relative freedom. But because of the way living inventory is managed under such circumstances as a closing dairy, being rescued also caused these five to be forever separated from their mothers, leaving only each other as an adopted family of dairy orphans.
Their rescuers found them at barely two months old, fed by bottles and buckets mounted on cell walls, with no grass or even earth underfoot; their hooves standing on the wire floors of their cages. Their mothers were confined in a milking shed nearby, out of sight or smelling range. When the cages were opened, the calves touched the ground for the first time in the eight weeks since they were tagged and thrown in prison. As is to be expected after weeks of such confinement, they could hardly walk, and many slipped on the concrete when trying to run.
Since the rescue, they have spent the last year and a half in a place of refuge, encountering no human beings other than those whose only aim is to care for them and show them love. But just like we do, they hear in the distance the sounds of what other human beings do to other nonhuman beings.
As if what they’ve already experienced isn’t injustice enough, it seems a further offense that even those who have been rescued must continue to live within the context of a world where the air itself carries strains of the suffering from which they have been saved. Even for those who have escaped becoming its victims, there can never truly be any escape from the inhumanity of the non-vegan world.
Bella, Naevia, Anela, Mirijam, and Iolana were bred into existence by the dairy for the specific purpose of taking their mothers’ milk for profit. Many visitors to VeganLand will be learning for the first time that their male counterparts would have been taken from their mothers to be sent to slaughter soon after birth. Known by the industry as ‘replacer females,’ these five wonderful beings would have been expected to take the place of their mothers on the production line as the next generation of breeding slaves once their mothers’ milk production lessened. Their bodies would have been turned into milk machines, and their own beloved babies would have been sent to death: one after the next, after the next, after the next.
After having been miraculously freed from such a brutal existence, we wish for them nothing but peace, tranquillity, and serenity. We will not impose our wills upon theirs for any reason other than for their own health and safety. While they will be ambassadors for all nonhuman beings who remain enslaved in the system that turns them into nothing more than the sum of their body parts, we believe they will be able to do this best by being allowed to be living examples of what such bodies can express when the minds and spirits that govern them are free.
Perhaps, when their calls to each other ring out across the air that fills these brand new skies, the sounds of their liberated voices will offer some kind of comfort to those who hear them from the fields beyond VeganLand’s borders. For now, I pray that whatever rings in their tones will tell of the goodness they have learned to believe in, and of the love they have been shown, the beauty they are surrounded by, and the hope they now embody for the future of all of their kind.