Chloe had been happily anticipating the birth of her new baby. She carried her baby inside her for nine long months. They were one, mother and child. It had been a difficult pregnancy, as Chloe did not live in optimal conditions. Her home was small and crowded and she did not have a lot of room to move around. Chloe did not have access to the best prenatal care and her diet was far from nutritious, both for her and for her unborn child. Her stress level was high, made even worse by the fact that Chloe had been raped, resulting in her current pregnancy. Still, Chloe loved her baby and eagerly awaited its arrival. The birth was difficult but Chloe gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. She fell in love with him at first sight, her maternal instincts automatically kicking in. Chloe would love her little boy, protect him, nurture him and help him grow big and strong.
But before Chloe even got to feed her son, he was gone. Abducted. Chloe searched frantically for her baby but could not find him anywhere. She cried so hard and so loud, it could be heard for miles. Chloe cried and called for her son all day and all through the night but he was nowhere to be found. She refused to eat or drink anything; all she could think about was her son. Where was he? Was he safe? He was just a baby. He needed his mother. Refusing to give up, Chloe continued to search for her son, looking again and again in the place where she had last seen him. She sobbed and bellowed, remembering her sweet boy’s face, the smell of his infant body, the feel of his skin.
After many days and nights of searching, calling and crying, Chloe fell into a deep despair. She withdrew and did not socialize with others. She still refused to eat or drink. She grieved alone and no one would help her. No one cared.
Chloe did not know that her newborn son had been abducted and was being held in a cage so small he could not turn around. Shackled by his neck, her baby could not even lay down comfortably. Never tasting his own mother’s milk, he was fed only a thin liquid that contained no nutrients and he soon became iron-deficient. He cried and called for his mother but she never came. Within a few months’ time, Chloe’s baby was murdered. She never found out what happened to him, never saw him again and her own painful death followed shortly after. Chloe was only about 4 years old herself.
This sad story is what happens to over 9 million cows each year. They are repeatedly forcibly impregnated and have their babies stolen from them, stripping from them their rights to be mothers to their children. Cows grieve strongly. Research has shown that the removal of a calf is the worst thing that can happen to a cow. In his book, An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales, neuropsychiatrist Oliver Sacks tells the story of his visit to a dairy farm with Colorado State University Professor of Animal Science, Temple Grandin. Hearing the cries of these grieving mothers and babies, Temple Grandin said, “That’s one sad, unhappy cow. She wants her baby. Bellowing for it, hunting for it. She’ll forget for a while, and then start again. It’s like grieving, mourning – not much written about it. People don’t like to allow them thoughts or feelings.”
One person who has written about the mother-child relationship in animals is Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. In his books “The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals” and “The Face on Your Plate: The Truth about Food,” Masson explores the strong bond between mother and baby and the devastation that occurs when it is broken. Beautifully written, with passages from Shakespeare to the Torah, Masson’s books are among my favorites. He is one of the few authors who has studied the process of denial in humans. How is it that humans do not see the torture inflicted upon these animals, these mothers and babies? How do people eat veal, knowing it is a baby calf? Or suckling pig? Infants suckle. How is that connection not made? Or is it made and then repressed?
Animals used for food do not get to live out their lives to their natural life span. A cow used for beef could live up to 25 years but is slaughtered before it reaches 2 years old. Dairy cows get to “live” until they are spent and can no longer produce profitable quantities of milk and are then killed by 4 years old. Their babies marked for veal only get to live a few months at most. Pigs have a natural life span of 10-15 years but are turned into ham, bacon and sausage by 6 months of age. Broiler chickens can live 2-5 years but are killed at 6 weeks for their meat. Egg-laying hens have an average life span of 10-12 years but when they are spent and can no longer produce a profitable number of eggs, they are sent to slaughter. Most don’t get to live even two years. Their babies also suffer tragic fates. Male chicks are useless to the egg industry and are killed, often on the very day they are born, by being thrown away in garbage bags or thrown into wood chippers while still alive.
Child abuse is a horrible occurrence that needs to be prevented. I have dedicated most of my adult life to being an advocate against child abuse. Treating victims and teaching prevention, parenting and child psychology classes, I try every day to reduce suffering in the world. Perhaps it is a passion of mine because of my own childhood abuse. I cannot stand the thought of any child suffering. Children and animals are often compared – they are both innocent, vulnerable and at the mercy of adults. They both deserve protection. They both deserve the chance to live safe, happy lives. They both deserve life.
In the words of Sri Aurobindo, “Life is life – whether in a cat, or dog or man. There is no difference there between a cat or a man. The idea of difference is a human conception for man’s own advantage.” Let us save the children, ALL the children.