Sophie’s choice – a perfect storm

Edgars Mission -_-114

It was a dark night when Sophie came into our world, the circumstances those of a perfect storm. Delayed leaving the sanctuary for her rescue, with a tank low on fuel, a phone battery not fully charged, and a vehicle highlighting the simple yet challenging question, “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others…why wouldn’t we?”, we bravely ventured into dairy country to rescue a blind bobby calf.

Taking the story back a week or two, we were first alerted to this tiny albeit determined waif by an animal-loving veterinary nurse holidaying in Australia. Drawn by this love, Sophie found herself working on a dairy farm, tending the many calves. “Do you know what happens to the unwanted calves?” her voice trembled. Like Alice, she had stepped into the unknown, but unlike Alice, she had wound up on the other side of the curtain that shields the dairy industry.

Edgars Mission - calf, Sophie

Knowing as we do the stark fate of these calves born to this industry, it is hard to conceive that others do not, yet there was a time when we too lived in blissful ignorance, believing the impact of the dairy industry on the animals who make it possible was benign. With her heart breaking just that little bit more each day, but taking comfort believing the wee babies in her care would at least know some measure of kindness in their short time on this earth, this kind heart was touched beyond belief by a sweet little Jersey-cross calf who doggedly struggled to hold her own amongst her fully sighted brethren. Unaccepting of the fate that would normally befall such an animal, the race was on to find sanctuary for the calf we were to name Babe. The first picture we saw of Babe told of the fondness in which she was held—a single red heart was painted on her side. Such an image, such a plight and such a determination swung us into action.

As the clouds in the sky loomed dark and sad and seemed about to release a teary fury (perhaps they too were in mourning), and as the phone battery charge which governed our GPS and the fuel in our tank headed decidedly south, we inched closer to our quarry as we prayed both would hold out. And they did, but then, oh how our hearts sank. A small grassless yard held some forty beautiful sweet heifers; an adjacent yard held the bull calves. Devoid of shelter and hope, the coughing calves mingled amongst a debris of wire and excrement, their sole source of roughage a pile of blackened straw that had long ago shrugged off its golden façade; it doubled now as both a resting place and latrine.  As Babe was gently ushered to her chariot and her promise, we looked back to the 39 sets of eyes that were now fixed upon us. Who would be the chosen one to help navigate Babe in her kinder world? Well, that was to be Sophie’s choice.

Edgars Mission - Babe, calf, Sophie

With her human namesake nearby, this gentle calf was soon leaving her bleak world behind, exchanging it for one filled with fresh clean straw, green pastures and a red collar and bell. Sophie Human hugged the tiny calf one last time and confessed another choice: “I had no idea, no idea—I don’t think I’ll ever be able to drink dairy products again”.

Sophie’s compassionate choice, like so many we make, has great evolutionary value for our species. Each choice we make presents us with an opportunity to evolve to be the best we can possibly be, honouring our innate calling to be kind. These choices remind us that the roots of cruelty, suffering and indifference grow in our disconnect with others.

Edgars Mission - calf, Sophie-2

It is not that farmers are by nature cruel to animals, or that they set out to cause them pain and misery. It struck us greatly when we witnessed all the doe-eyed calves milling about in a world of little comfort, how easy it would have been to drop to our knees and weep for their pain. Yet we knew we needed to get in and out before the storm came; a job was at hand and for those moments we held our breath and did not feel, we acted—we did the job we had come to perform. Try as we might, we felt the tingles, we felt the pangs—“Couldn’t we take just another one or two, why not take them all?”—then reality set in: there was only room for two, which had been the plan all along. In the scheme of things, ours was but a brief moment in that bleak world. But is this what happens to those who work in these animal industries? A padding is built around the heart; one learns not to feel, for the pain will be too great; one learns to justify, for the pain will be too great; one just does, for otherwise the pain will be too great; with bills to pay and traditions to uphold, one learns not to feel.

Sophie’s choice too reminds us all of the perfect storm we have created, having placed animals daily under the siege of our inconsistent animal protection laws, our prejudice, our cognitive dissonance and our greed. Weathering these tumultuous times is not a story without hope, but it does require both compassion and courage. As ethical beings we are now equipped, thanks to science, with a fuller understanding of the minds, emotions, loves and lives of animals; our world is rounded out with more and more ways of living that do not involve causing them harm, as we are drawn to the irrevocable conclusion that it is the everyday choices that we make that are the key to a kinder world for all. And when we do, it will be more than just one tiny calf who will benefit, for, after the storm comes a brand new world, and yes, she is on her way. Thank you, Sophie, for reminding us of this, and bless your kind heart.

Edgars Mission - calf, Sophie-3

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12 thoughts on “Sophie’s choice – a perfect storm

  1. I’ve been on this planet for 50 years and until very recently, the last 6 months, I had absolutely no idea how the dairy industry worked. I honestly didn’t know that in order for a female cow to produce milk, they have to be pregnant. Just like us. I had no idea what happened to the calves. No idea at all. Then one evening something appeared in social media. Something that cannot be “unseen”. The fate of the calves. To say I was shocked, would be a gross understatement. That was the start of the end of consuming dairy for me. If on occasion I have a hankering for ice cream, I have discovered a coconut one that I like. Most of them taste… different. And cheese? I loved cheese, any cheese. Not now. There are many substitutes but they all taste like melted candle wax. It would be easy for someone like myself that has loved cheese for 50 years, to say ‘oh, every now and again is okay’. But, I cannot get those visions out of my head.

    I work with 2 men and they went from high protein, no carbs, lost of protein to completely vegan, and their families too. I have asked a few times now but they will not tell me what happened that weekend, what did they see or watch on DVD etc. Why? Because they know how upsetting it would be. To see these 6 foot men avoid eye contact, the look in their eyes. Maybe its better not to see anything else. As I said, you cannot unsee some things.

    • Hi Janet,
      as an ex cheese lover myself I can honestly say that vegan BioCheese is actually good! Perhaps after 11 years I don’t remember what cheese tastes like…but give it a try you might be surprised and you can feel good about your cruelty-free choice.
      all the best,
      Meg

  2. Yes the pain is too great Pam, and stories like this are both heartbreaking and uplifting. I know you wanted to take all the calves, but you were able to get these two and for now that must be enough. As with the comment above, people are learning more about where their food comes from and the price paid by animals to make that happen. It’s a vegan’s life for me, I will not be responsible for the suffering of any creature on my behalf. Thank you once again Edgar’s Mission for extending the hand of kindness and for dear Sophie for having the courage to do something.

  3. I cannot read a story of yours without weeping! In your writing, you manage to capture my feelings. Thank you, and your team, for being there 24/7 for the animals. With respect and gratitude. Sandra May. 05 Dec 2018.

  4. 5/12/18
    Its a vegan world for me to now and a few others i have explianed what happens to these animals.its horrific images i cant get out of my head,I like many others never knew what they went through for us to drink milk and eat meat,its a sad and painful world for these animals,ive put everyone i know to watch Edgar Mission and explain what happens,i was blinded had no idea how bad it is.So many people dont know as its all hidden from us.Thankyou Edgars mission.Thankyou Pam your a beautiful person.Il keep working at letting people know and donating as i wont to end this cruel world for these animals.

  5. You have a most eloquent way with words. Each story is punctuated with emotion as you bear witness to the truth of the animal industries that surround us all. Thank you for teaching people and the animals that you meet about choices and kindness .

  6. I’ve read your story Pam & the comments. I’ve always felt the same way as you re animals, & although I didn’t know the exact details, I did wonder about the practice farmers use. I’m 78 now & have been a veggo foremost of my life for the exact reasons, known & unknown to me that I chose nottoimbide. I thank the God for people like you Pam, & I believe the word is getting out. Years ago when we family & friends went out to dine, people would ask me what do you eat? My answer is there is always something that I can eat even if it’s only a bowl of chips. I know more & more people are considering the animals when they eat. My diet is great full of milk (non dairy), veggies etc, & I don’t miss out anything. Perhaps my long, long eating habits were influenced my my mother who always said to me…”go without”, when I refused to eat meat etc. but then I had a darling father who would let me me run “riot” through his veggie garden eating beautiful veggies & this was before chemicals were used to “nourish” gardens. How lucky was I. I e also noticed that being a veggo seems to run in families, my oldest brother & now my granddaughter. And by the way I am very healthy & apparently don’t look my age, as many people tell me. So as you say Pam, why would you hurt an animal when there are other ways. God Bless you Pam. You are wonderful, & thank you.XXXXX

  7. So much to be said, and you say it so well Pam. So all I’ll say is Thank You to you, your team and the other kind souls who let you know about animals needing your help. xx

  8. the sight i can’t un-see which reminds me anytime i’m feeling a weakness and think ‘oh but just a little will be ok’ is the vision of a cow with an udder so enormous and full that anyone of us could never run with, but she was running behind the trailer towed behind the 4WD which was roaming the paddocks and removing the calves. and i won’t describe the method of ‘removing’ for that too is excruciating and tattooed in my brain as horrid as the running cow, possibly worse in fact.
    milk is for the babies of the mammal who made it.
    Sophie and Babe are alive to remind us… let their story be told far & wide.

  9. “A padding is built around the heart; one learns not to feel, for the pain will be too great; one learns to justify, for the pain will be too great; one just does, for otherwise the pain will be too great; with bills to pay and traditions to uphold, one learns not to feel” … how true these words, I learned long ago that to grieve for them all is too much for anyone to bear, bless you for all that you do

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