Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An Unjust Separation

Theo Calf

This is Theodore.

He is a Holstein, the most common breed used in the dairy industry. His mother has been artificially selected (and injected with growth hormones) to produce more milk than nature ever intended. In an attempt to adapt to too much milk, Holsteins give birth to unnaturally large calves - they have high rates of birthing problems...common not only because of the large milk output but also because Holsteins are bred before their bodies have physically matured.

Most people do not know that in order to produce milk, a cow must give birth. And in order to steal and consume her milk, her calf must be stripped from her - often right after birth.

Male calves like Theodore have little value to the dairy farm. They don't get pregnant, after all. Some are sold for veal and others are raised on feedlots for slaughter. Some are sold for backyard slaughter.

Theo was sold to a family in urban Sacramento. They did not know how to care for him. He broke through the fence into the neighbor's yard where animal control was called. He is now safe at a sanctuary.

Watching Theo is a lesson in sadness. He is constantly searching for a mother. A bottle is no valid replacement. He wears a coat, because he does not have a mother to provide warmth and comfort. He eats hair and nurses clothes, trying in vain to find a nipple, a source of nutrition and maternal love. We can do nothing but treat him kindly - an injustice was perpetrated against him the moment he was born and we cannot repair that.

He will rejoice when he is old enough to integrate with the other cows. It will be amazing. He will be an ambassador for other dairy animals, both male and female. I wish he didn't have to.

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