How Animal Industries Separate Families

A mother's bond with her children: there are few things stronger. Mothers and their new-borns experience a love that many people claim can't be compared to anything else in the world - yet, around the globe at this very moment, countless families are separated, never to see each other again. The offspring are often killed, with the mothers left in tremendous distress. This is what animal agriculture does to animal families.

By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist, and vegan fashion expert. 

Dairy cows and their calves

When it comes to that maternal bond, cows and their calves are no different from other animals: cows instantly form bonds with their babies, licking and nuzzling them and encouraging them to nurse. It is a bond that then develops further over time - but on dairy farms, calves are separated from their mothers shortly after birth - in the UK as well as in the US, standard practice is to separate mother and baby at 24 hours after birth, which has been established to provoke distress in both mothers and babies. Why are mothers and calves separated? In order to produce milk, the cow has to give birth. And once she has, that milk is destined by nature for her calf - but the industry takes the milk and sells it to humans instead, meaning that the calf is given replacement formulas and kept separately until they are old enough to meet their fate: if the calf is female, she is likely to become a dairy cow like her mother. And if the calf is male, he will be slaughtered for veal (and calfskin, so fashion is very much complicit in separating animal families).

Andrea Lightfoot Unsplash

The egg industry

Hens, too, are loving and protective mothers. They take meticulous care of their eggs and can even communicate with their chicks before they hatch. But in factory farming, they are treated like egg-producing machines, and their eggs are often taken from them before they hatch, so mother and baby never meet. Whether the chicks are male or female, a bleak fate awaits them. As male chicks cannot lay eggs, they are killed immediately in particularly gruesome ways: in most countries, they are either gassed to death or dropped into a grinder. It is important to note that "humane" certifications such as the RSPCA in the UK allow both methods and certify products that use them. This is yet further proof that certifications and labelling don't protect animals from suffering. 

If the chicks are female, they meet the same fate as their mothers: cramped cages, light manipulation to make them menstruate constantly (eggs are basically a hen's menstruations), an enormous strain placed on their bodies, and a premature, violent death.

Ranae Smith Unsplash

Marine parks

Animals held in marine parks and forced to perform tricks for humans are subjected to a number of heartbreaking cruelties, including being taken from their homes in the wild and placed in environments that are entirely foreign and unnatural to them. This ordeal can often also mean that families are separated. In nature, orcas and other dolphins live in their family units where the maternal bond is particularly strong: families are tight-knit and calves stay with their mothers their entire lives. In marine parks, families are often split up even when captured together, as one member of the family might be transferred to a different facility. As some may be separated (or die) when the baby is very young, the natural structures that these animals have in their habitats are never formed.

We can help end the separation of animal families through the way we live our lives. Forgoing animal-derived food and clothing, as well as choosing animal-free entertainment can be a powerful way to take a stand against the many cruelties of these industries, including the separation of families.

By Sascha Camilli

About Sascha

Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her or read her newsletter Kind of Wild. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Cow image by Sharon Co Images. Chicken photo by Andrea Lightfoot. Dolphin photo by Ranae Smith. All via Unsplash.

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