Mother’s Day Should Include Animal Mums

Posted by on March 18, 2012 | Permalink

We all love our mothers, even when – or perhaps, because – they interfere in our lives (for our own good, of course). But this Mother’s Day, while you are celebrating your own mum, remember that some of the best mothers in the world are found in the animal kingdom. Sadly, on UK factory farms, few animal mums are allowed to care for their young as nature intended.

Pigs, for example, are devoted mothers who, if allowed, would spend days building a nest of leaves or straw before giving birth. Then the piglets would stay with their doting mothers for about 15 weeks.

In the UK, though, the majority of sows will give birth whilst confined to crates in which the mother is usually unable to lie down comfortably, much less turn around to nurse her piglets properly. Many sows develop raw, painful sores from the metal bars of the crate as well as psychological distress from the confinement and frustration of being prevented from caring for their young.

Piglets are taken away from their mothers after just three to four weeks – months before weaning would naturally occur. Just days later, the sow will be impregnated again and the whole wretched cycle will start over again.

The idyllic scene of a ewe grazing with her lambs is deceptive. Though sheep often get to spend time outdoors, life for many ewes and their lambs is short and miserable, punctuated by excruciating mutilations and disease. Sheep have a natural lifespan of 10 to 12 years, but about 15 per cent of all farmed lambs die during or soon after birth because farmers – enticed by the higher prices for “Easter lamb” – alter the natural breeding cycle using hormones or by keeping the ewes indoors under manipulated light conditions. Many of the lambs who are born cannot survive the cold.

For cows and their calves, it’s love at first sight. The first minutes after birth are spent developing a bond that will last a lifetime. Their attachment and affection for each other is so deep that if they are forced apart, they both suffer severe distress. Cow mums have been known to escape their enclosures and travel for miles looking for their calves.

Sadly, this pitiful scene is repeated again and again on UK dairy farms. Mother cows are only allowed to bond with and care for their babies for a few hours before their calves are torn away from them so that we can have the milk they produced to nourish their own babies. Meanwhile, in desperation, the terrified calves, missing their moms, will attempt to suckle people’s fingers, but many of them will end up inside a veal crate. Soon after, the mother cows will be impregnated again, only to endure the same heartbreak.

If allowed, mother hens would turn their eggs as many as five times an hour and cluck softly to their unborn chicks, who would chirp back to her from within their shells. After hatching, the chicks would be shielded from predators by their mothers’ wings.

But about 90 per cent of British eggs come from hens who are treated like virtual laying machines. Hatched in big industrial sheds, females will follow their mothers into a lifetime of intensive confinement and constant egg production, while the unwanted males will be gassed, macerated or crushed to death.

This Mother’s Day, there’s no better way to honour all mothers than by celebrating with a meal that doesn’t include meat, dairy products or eggs and with gifts that aren’t made from leather, fur, wool or down – all cruelly produced from factory-farmed mums.