A Plea for All Mothers on Mother’s Day

Having lived and worked with thousands of animals over the last 15 years, I have a long list of improbable friends: soulful sheep and insistent ducks, magnificent chickens and impossible pigs. Two of my dearest are cows. Their names are Sadie and Tucker.

Benjamin, Blossom, and Sadie
Benjamin, Blossom, and Sadie

On this rainy spring morning, Tucker and Sadie are nestled into the straw in their roomy barn with “step-calves” Blossom and Benjamin. Visitors often comment that watching the two adults nurture the youngsters is breathtaking — they groom, nuzzle, and patiently allow the silliness that often erupts from children of all species, including cows. When the kids venture too far away in their large pasture, Sadie moos her concern much like when human moms call to their children in the back yard — “Don’t play near the road, kids. Stay where I can see you.”

Sadie’s life at Catskill Animal Sanctuary couldn’t be more different from had she remained in the dairy industry. What we do to these mothers so we can drink the milk intended for their children is abominable.

In most states, “standard agricultural practices” are exempt from anti-cruelty laws. In Connecticut, for instance, “maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, wounding or killing an animal” is legal, as long as it is done “while following generally accepted agricultural practices.” For dairy cows, these practices include:

  1. Forced impregnation.
  2. Amputation of most of the tail, performed without anesthesia, a practice opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  3. Confinement in “tie stalls” just slightly larger than their bodies .
  4. Standing for hours on concrete, which is hard on their joints and extremely slippery.
  5. Injection with a growth hormone developed by Monsanto from genetically engineered E. coli. (The use of genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rGBH) is considered so detrimental to animal and human health that it is banned by the European Union, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Remember, moms, that your cow-milk drinking children may be ingesting this dangerous substance.)
  6. Forced production of more than 20,000 pounds of milk in one year, more than double what cows produced forty years ago.
  7. Extremely high rates of painful mastitis (inflammation of the udders/breasts), a condition responsible for 16.5 percent of recorded deaths in the industry.
  8. The theft of their babies a few hours after birth. Theft? Well, moms, consider this: If a man walked into your room just after you’d nursed your child for the first time, grabbed your baby and walked out with him, what would you call that?
  9. Slaughter as soon as their milk production tapers off, generally between three and four years old. Cows in a natural environment lived to 20 years or older. Sadie is 21 and shows no signs of aging.
  10. Tens of thousands of cows each year — who’ve given their lives, and given up their children, in service to humans but are too weak or sick to walk due to industry conditions — are labeled downed cows, and are prodded, kicked, beaten or bulldozed to “the dead pile,” where they are left with other dead and dying animals, until they take their final breath.

To the human mothers reading this piece: Is it such a stretch to believe that a cow loves her calf?

Such a stretch to believe that there may be some universal truths about motherhood that trump species? Maybe a mother is a mother is a mother, no matter her species, and maybe a mother’s love for her child is the strongest love there is.

In honor of mothers of all species, have the courage to watch the video below. Understand that factories selected for investigation are selected at random. In other words, what you’re watching is business as usual. Understand that the suffering endured by cows is endured by all animals grown to feed humans.

Understand, and have mercy.

Please come meet Sadie, Tucker, and over 300 animals living at Catskill Animal Sanctuary, who have taught us that distinctions we make between “us” and “them” have more to do with powerful cultural conditioning than with reality. We are open on weekends beginning at 11 a.m. Listen for Sadie. If “the kids” are wandering, you’ll hear her.

Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at Catskill Animal Sanctuary.



Catskill Conversations, Love Spoken Here


6 replies on “A Plea for All Mothers on Mother’s Day”

  1. Couldn’t bring myself to watch the video. Already aware for years and am living my life accordingly. Wrote to tell you that have meant to “join” for some time and was going to via your link, but balk at anything with auto renewal – don’t like transactions I don’t authorize at the time. I will send a check for membership when I visit the PO tomorrow morning. Especially motivated after reading a FB comment from a person threatening to pull her support and alert her “horse racing friends” to do the same. Joining at a higher level to hopefully help make up for their leaving.

    1. Many thanks for your support, Cathy–and especially for aligning your lifestyle with your values! I’ll check the horse racing comments and respond. I know that world quite well: I grew up on a thoroughbred breeding and training farm and was immersed in that life for many years.

  2. Hello Kathy
    We visited last weekend. I came up to you in the the snack hut while I introduced myself to the new chef. You asked me if you knew me. I have meant you a few times the first being years ago when my daughter and I came to help out a bit. At that time we were trying to keep this pig on his feet as he had been feed so many hormones and was VERY BIG!!!
    How I loved him.
    My heart breaks every day knowing what happens to these animals. I get so very angry.

    I see there is to be a three night concert in October in California with Paul McCarthy and others. I hope he plays on the big screen the video of ,If slaughterhouses had glass walls that he narrates.

    I do plan to renew my membership.

    God Bless you Kathy for all you do!

    Lee Ann

    1. Hi, Lee Ann: I understand your anger: but try to remember that you weren’t always vegan. You didn’t understand…until you did. It is through loving ALL beings that we will make our biggest strides. Don’t judge: you weren’t always where you are now. Instead, ask yourself what skills you possess that can best help move the needle in the right direction? Mmeantime: much love from all at CAS!

  3. This is so heart wrenching. I had been a vegetarian for 26 years and recently turned vegan when I discovered that the family farm where we bought raw milk tied their calves up with baling twine to separate them from their mothers. They could only move a few inches. That was the last straw. I’m sorry it took me so long to really get it. But now my 6 year old daughter is understanding it too.

  4. Such a heart wrenching piece. As a mother who nursed her first daughter and plans to do the same with the second, I can’t imagine the suffering of these mothers on a human scale. It would be deemed catastrophic. The moment I held my first daughter, I knew I was bonded to her for life. And the miracle of mammals being able to feed their young (and bond with them in the process) is such a gift. It’s sickening that we rob mothers of their babies, just so we can steal their milk. It feels like salt in a deep wound.
    Thank you, Kathy, for articulating why mothers should I take a stand and protect the strongest love there is.

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