Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Mother’s Day & The Feminist’s Dilemma

Published on April 30, 2011 by   ·   37 Comments Pin It

A. Solomon wrote this piece for us, and we loved it so much, we thought it would be a good reminder to repost it just before Mother’s Day.  Send this to all the women in your life that you love, and then praise the cashew cheese out of them;



I’m a proud feminist, as anyone who cares about the plight of women on our planet should be. In many parts of the world, women are still treated as property. They have few, if any, rights and are subject to exploitation, indignities, and violence on a daily basis. As we feminists struggle for an end to female oppression, we must also consider the females that we, ourselves, unknowingly oppress. Dairy cows, though not human, are perhaps the most horribly abused females on the planet. As we fight for human equality, should we not also concern ourselves with how we humans exploit female animals, specifically mothers?

If you think that question sounds crazy, it’s likely because you, like most Americans, know little about what goes on in our nation’s dairy farms. (Just last week, Mercy For Animals released this gruesome undercover investigation from inside the E6 Cattle Co., a farm that raises calves to become dairy cows). You may think it’s silly, even offensive, to compare the plight of female humans with that of another species, but keep an open mind as you read further. You may just be surprised.

Let’s first begin with this: all dairy cows are female and have to be pregnant to produce milk. When stated, that fact may seem obvious, but it never occurs to most people that cows produce milk for the same reason all mammals do, to feed their babies. A cow’s gestation period is actually the same as a human being’s, nine months.

Since dairy cows are not afforded the natural act of mating with a bull, they are sent to an area of the farm called “the rape rack.” No joke. There, a metal pipe is shoved inside their vaginas to deposit sperm. Once impregnated, a dairy cow lives in a stall where she can barely turn around. As her fetus grows, she starts producing milk. At this point, a cold mechanical pump is hooked to her udders several times a day to take the milk. On most farms, hormones are given to the cows to make them produce unnatural amounts. More milk = more money for the dairy farmer. This makes the cows’ udders swell enormously, causing horrible pain and infection.

When a dairy cow gives birth, she is only allowed 24 hours with her newborn calf. After that, her baby is taken from her. If the baby is a female, she will most likely become a dairy cow. If the baby is a male, he is sold to become veal. Yes, behind every carton of milk, and every block of cheese, is a veal calf. If you’re buying dairy products, you’re directly supporting the veal industry. Indeed, the veal industry couldn’t exist without dairy cows.

Now, just in case you’re unfamiliar with the practices of veal farms, here’s a quick overview. Once veal calves are sold, at just a day or two old, they are chained inside a crate so small they can hardly move. And that’s exactly the point, because the less they can move, the more tender their “meat” will be when they are slaughtered (between 8 and 14 weeks old). Veal calves are also fed an iron-deficient diet so their flesh will be white instead of red or pink. They are often seen licking the metal bars of their crates in search of the iron that would be abundant in their mother’s milk.

Back on the dairy farm, mother cows cry, moan, and bellow for days, sometimes weeks, after their newborns are taken from them. Some have literally broken their necks trying to run after their children. One can only imagine the depression and distress of losing your baby. Since the cow is still producing milk for her calf, the dairy farmer continues to milk her. She will never know what it’s like to nurse the child that lived in her womb for nine months. Instead, her milk will become butter, cheese, cream, and of course milk sold in markets. And when the dairy cow becomes too “spent” after four years of pregnancy after pregnancy to produce milk at sufficient quantities, she is rewarded with a trip to the slaughterhouse, where she will become hamburger. That’s right, between almost all hamburger buns are the remains of America’s spent dairy cows.

In case you’d like to see some of this (and much worse) for yourself, check out this undercover investigation carried out by PETA at a Land O’Lakes dairy supplier in Pennsylvania. When you’re finished with that, mosey on over to this undercover footage shot by Mercy For Animals at the Conklin Dairy Farm in Ohio. Gives “I scream, you scream” a whole new meaning when discussing ice cream.

Now, again, I know some may have a problem with comparisons between the suffering of animals and people. But what exclusive right do humans have to the mother-child bond? There is no sure way for us to know what a cow may feel for her newborn, but certainly we can all agree on something called a mother’s instinct. We recognize it in all animals. If a cow’s love is anything close to what a human mother feels for her baby, we can only imagine the emotional pain we are inflicting, and the injustice we are committing.

As feminists, should we not stand up for all females? Should we not cry out in protest when mothers, human or not, are so blatantly exploited?

Or should we remain silent in denial?

And for what good reason? There is no human dietary requirement for cow’s milk. In fact, when you start to think about it, consuming cow’s milk seems downright unnatural. Humans are the only mammals that drink milk past childhood, and we’re the only species that drinks the milk of another species. Many recent studies now also show that milk may be detrimental to our health. For not only are a substantial number of Americans either lactose intolerant or allergic to milk, but what’s worse is that casein, an animal protein abundant in milk, has been proven to be a powerful carcinogen.

And remember all that talk about calcium and how milk is good for your bones? Well, it’s true that milk does contain around 300 milligrams of calcium per glass, but that’s only because dairy farmers nowadays administer calcium supplements to their cows. You see, cows would naturally eat grass, which contains calcium (as do all green leafy vegetables), but since dairy cows are now primarily fed corn, farmers have to add calcium to their feed, fortifying it, so their milk contains adequate amounts. It should be noted that for all the calcium hype, a cup of collard greens contains even more calcium than a glass of cow’s milk and a glass of fortified rice or soy milk matches the calcium content of cow’s milk exactly.

Today there are amazing alternatives to cow’s milk: almond milk, soy milk, hazelnut milk, oat milk, hemp milk, rice milk, etc. And there are numerous fantastic butter and cheese substitutes. Many luminaries through the ages, from Pythagoras to da Vinci to Tolstoy, have reflected on how our treatment of animals influences our treatment of our fellow human beings. Is it just a coincidence that a world that blindly exploits female animals also often turns a blind eye to the exploitation, suffering, and oppression of women? Isn’t it time we show compassion to all females, to all mothers, even outside our species?

Ari Solomon is the President and co-creator of the celebrated vegan candle line A Scent of Scandal. A  prolific activist and writer for animal and human rights, Ari is a columnist for The Huffington Post and GirlieGirl Army.

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Readers Comments (37)

  1. Jackie says:

    You covered it all, Ari. Thank you for writing this. I’m going to share with all the mother’s in my life. Happy Mother’s Day.

  2. Jesse Fox says:

    Wonderfully written!

  3. asra kristen says:

    AMAZING THANK YOU AND I’M SHARING! I try everyday to educate about the horrors os the dairy farms and people are angrily in denial! This is beautiful!

  4. Ramy says:

    Well said Ari! Poor babies and poor mommies :(

  5. Charlotte the Dog says:

    I’m a 20+-year vegan with a baby. Breastfeeding didn’t work for us, so he’s a formula baby. Soy formula had drawbacks, as does dairy formula. We use organic dairy formula. Does anyone have information about the conditions in organic dairy operations? No one hates giving their baby dairy more than I.

    • Gina says:

      Hi Charlotte. Unfortunately, the organic dairy farm is no better — those calves all end up in the same place. “Organic” means is that the cows were fed organic food. In fact, even the tiny farms that sell cheese at farmers markets still ship their calves off at birth. Check out this HSUS investigation — this was at a veal slaughter plant in Vermont. Many of those calves came from small, local organic dairy farms.

    • Hsw says:

      Charlotte, do what you need to do. You can’t beat yourself up about things – in the hospital with my 2nd child they told me (an experienced breastfeeder) I had to give him formula or they would take him away from me. So he had the bottle & went back to nursing (they said his blood sugar was low for his high birth weight without letting me nurse). Trust me that you & baby will be ok and you make a great contribution by making kind choices. With my kids’ food allergies they can’t have nuts, etc. Sometimes our plans work out differently.

  6. Yes Charlotte The Dog — will clue you in on organic dairy. Soy is still the lesser of two evils when it comes to formula.. though I’d beg you to keep trying with breastfeeding, I had a horrible time with it til it finally clicked, and now I’m still happily nursing my 1 year old! This is the only organic soy formula available:

  7. YnNeJ says:

    Thank you for giving new perspective to Mother’s Day.

  8. Alexandra says:

    The lovely picture of the mama cow with her baby at the top of this article says it all – thank you for your wise thoughts.

  9. Cbyrd says:

    Wow. Ouch. I’m trying some alternatives today.
    Cbyrd, mom of 2 littles, food-preparer for 4 mouths.

  10. Desdemona says:

    As a mother, a vegan, and a feminist, it makes me want to scream every time I see those stupid “got milk?” or “pour one more” ads. It enrages me that the dairy industry continues to cloak itself in an image of wholesomeness, when it is (in the vast majority of cases) built on such unfathomable suffering and exploitation, and I thank you for spelling out the truth in such clear, succinct, relatable terms.

  11. […] May 4, 2011 by Holy Moly Written by: Holy Moly The Feminist Dilemma […]

  12. Katya says:

    wow, wow, wow. what a great piece. raw and real and hard but true. thank you, Ari for writing it. thank you, GGA for posting it. thank you all who do not contribute to the dairy industry.

  13. Kendra says:

    Fantastic, very poignant piece on Mother’s Day. I second Katya, THANK YOU for writing such a wonderful article and thank you GGA for posting. Mother’s Day should be for ALL species, not just our own.

  14. Sara says:

    I do not believe they have 24 hrs with their babies. I believe they are dragged away right away and denied their mother’s milk.

     “Cow’s milk can never be obtained without immense cruelty. Dairy cows are forcibly impregnated on what the industry calls the “rape rack” every year. Immediately after giving birth, the mother cow has her calf dragged away from her so that he or she does not drink her milk. The mother cow shows clear signs of mourning her loss including bellowing, hiding in dark places, not eating or drinking, pacing, and more. If the calf is male, he is immediately chained by the neck in a 2-ft wide crate, so small that he can’t turn around, stretch his limbs, or lie down comfortably. There he spends his entire short life being fed an anemic diet, just to be slaughtered at only a few months of age for veal. If the calf is female, she is raised to be a dairy cow like her mother.

    Immediately after losing her baby, the mother cow is hooked up to metal milk machines 3 times a day and forced to produce ten times more milk each day than she would in nature. Just 2 to 3 months after giving birth, she is re-impregnated. While in nature a cow would live to 20 years, cows on modern farms are slaughtered at just 3 or 4 years of age to become cheap hamburger meat. More information about the routine abuses of the dairy industry is available at the Farm Sanctuary website. “

  15. MA Moore says:

    Correction, we DO know that cow mothers love their babies. From a reading in “The Inner Lives of Farm Animals”, it is clearly documented that a mother cow will bellow for days after her baby is taken away from and can be seen frantically searching for her. There have been many documented acts of cows, pigs, dogs and cats traveling miles in unfamiliar territory to find and locate their offspring for the sole purpose of bonding and nurturing with their babies. Great article! Happy Mothers Day to all species great and small! xoxo

  16. Fakirchand J. Dalal says:

    Dear Ari:

    You have awakened many Mothers and some of us Males. Human predominance has done a lot of harm to All Living Beings, including Animals for their Blind and Shelfish purposes. Wars as well. Global-Warming is playing havoc and the entire Universe is Suffering. All sensible people, including me an 84 year old Retiree in U.S.A., an Immigrant from India, Jain by Birth, Believer in “NON-VIOLENCE” of GANDHI whole-heartedly support your sentiments. I Urge All Females/Mothers in particular to consider and give a Serious Thought to the Idea of Breast-Milk Feeding and alternatives to Cow-Milk. Your Health and Animals will Thank you.

    Fakirchand J. Dalal

    9001 Good Luck Road,
    Lanham, Maryland 20706.

  17. elle tyler says:

    very beautifully written and full of information that most people don’t have. A very important article. I have passed it on to my community in nyc.

  18. Sandra says:

    As a mother of 4 children, I feel the need to inform you of my stance on the issues you have discussed.

    1) If dairy farmers administered hormones that caused the cow to receive an infection, how would that be profitable for them? Think about this logically. Sure, infections do occur; however, humans get infections as well. This is natural. Have you never been sick? I am sure you are against antibiotics as well. Next time you, or your son or daughter, have a cold or sinus infection, will you not ensure that they receive the proper treatment? I sure hope so!

    2) This “metal pipe” you speak of, is the safest and most sanitary method of breeding a female. Also, please never use the term “raping rack” again. This is completely untasteful and, even more so, untrue. I have attached a link to a picture of an A.I. gun. It is tiny. I have personally preformed this task and the cow cannot feel a thing. How do you feel about tampons? It is MUCH smaller than those bad boys!

    3) NOT all male calves are sold for veal. How would they have semen to put in the “metal pipes” if all of the male progeny were sold for slaughter? Not logical, once again. Furthermore, veal flesh is not white!! Chicken is white. All beef is red meat. The younger the animal, the less myoglobin concentration in the muscle, thus resulting in a paler color. However, this color is NOT white.

    I could not disagree with this article more. Your claims are untrue, biased and not supported with actual facts or, much less, personal experience. Please feel free to ask questions so that I may educate you on the ways of the world.

  19. chloejo says:

    Sandra…… you have NO HEART.

    A mother who could participate in the dairy industry is someone who had never opened their eyes to compassion…

    You CLEARLY NEED to read the book “MAD COWBOY”

  20. Ari Solomon says:

    Oh Sandra, how sad for you. Even if all the crap you just spewed was true, are you going to deny what’s at the heart of my piece: THAT BABIES ARE TAKEN FROM THEIR MOTHERS AT ONLY A DAY OR TWO OLD. Really? As a mother, how could you? How could you defend such a practice that leaves mother cows so utterly despondent that they bellow for days, sometimes weeks for their babies.

    Let me just break it down for you like this: If a cow’s love for her babies is even 10% of what you feel for your children, how in the world can’t you see the injustice and the misery caused by such cruel practices? Shame. On. You.

    And PS:

    1. The hormones administered to cows do cause infection because of the unnatural inflammation that takes place. This is one of the many reasons why antibiotics are used every day on factory farms. 70% of all antibiotics used in the US are consumed by farm animals. Look it up. It’s a fact.

    2. The “rape rack” was the industry term for many years. Don’t blame me, I didn’t make it up.

    3. The veal industry could not exist without the dairy industry. Saying that not ALL males become veal is a moot point. MOST of them do. And the color of baby cow’s meat, don’t even get me started. It is pale (white) in color. That is why in England, where veal crating is illegal, they commonly refer to veal meat as “rose veal” — because the animal ate a sufficient diet and could move, thereby developing his muscles.

    I really hope you reconsider your ethics with regards to this issue. You’re lucky you were born a human being who will have the privilege of being able to love and nurse her babies. Cows are are not nearly as lucky and deserve our compassion.

  21. Yvette says:

    Ari, yes, the dots connect. How we treat animals is directly related to how we treat other human animals. Life is life.

  22. Gina says:

    Fabulous article. Thank you.

  23. kimcho says:

    i can’t stop crying now
    it’s so sad

  24. Chitrabhianu says:

    More than 50 years I have been Vegan. Experiencing blessing of this Ahinsa at the age of 90 to live and share this blessings to people whom we meet and greet.

    Without vegan Ahinsa is not complete.

  25. Chitrabhianu says:

    Dear Ari,

    I congratulate and bless you for showing this execuciating pain cause to innocent animal by dairy user.

  26. Thank you for re-posting this article because I missed it the first time around. The photos make one’s heart sink, and I hope they will impact those who have not yet made the decision to live a dairy-free life.

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