7th February 2013
Saving Private Bobby
When I was a young teenager I used to ride around the corner to the local dairy. I loved the ride along the wide country road; the curious cows grazing in the paddocks, who would occasionally lift their heads in recognition. The people at the dairy were very hard working and were always pleasant and happy to see me and my pony, Jimmy. Mum would have stocked me up with two large plastic bottles and I would dexterously return home with them both full to the brim with milk. But on occasion, the young boys working in the dairy would fail to tell me that they had not screwed the tops on the bottles properly and this would make for a bumpy ride home indeed.
Years and many glasses of milk later, I was to learn there was a lot more that the folks at the dairy never told me. Most importantly of which was the fate of the many tiny calves, whose mothers’ milk I had been drinking all those years –it seems that they too also had a pretty bumpy ride. As a child I loved animals and I loved my milk. For me, baby animals had an extra special appeal and I would never knowingly have caused them harm. So how come I never knew that by being a ‘good girl’ and drinking up my milk, I was participating in the separation, suffering and death of tiny calves?
If our society were to stand by its calls for truth in labelling, no one would be in the dark about the fate of the millions and millions of innocent baby calves- the collateral damage of the dairy industry. Like many, I believed dairy products came from happy cows who naturally produced milk. Oh, how wrong I was. I had believed the line that dairy products are a supreme, natural and wholesome food. Well, that part is true… But only if you are a baby calf with four stomachs, set to grow very very quickly and with a huge bone mass to body ratio – I tick none of those boxes. It took much convincing for me to accept nature’s law that cows do not produce milk simply by virtue of being cows. I can well recall when I first learned about the truth of dairy. I thought surely this dark side of such an accepted and seemingly innocent industry was fabricated or even exaggerated- it just couldn’t be right. But then I thought about it and you know what- I do not produce milk simply by virtue of being female, I would need to be an expectant mother for this process to begin. So then I asked myself, ‘What do we as a society do with all of these unwanted baby calves for whom we have no use, when keeping them alive would cost money and resources?’
Realisations such as these are truly life defining. Whilst we cannot change the past, we can choose the kind of future we want for ourselves (and for baby calves). And I did exactly that just last night; I went back to a dairy and I saved a calf. Meet Private Bobby.
Kindness for calves in action:
- Ditch dairy, try some of the delicious and nutritious non-dairy products ranging from milks, cheese and ice-creams.
- Spread kindness not butter. Host a work place kindness day and share your new found non-dairy treats with friends, co-workers and fellow students. Bring along some dairy (and cruelty) free biscuits and cakes and encourage people to try a soy latte!
- Sponsor a rescued bobby calf.
13th February 2013:
When the War is Over…
That Bobby was weak was something we knew from the outset. Born six days overdue, the odds were never going to be in his favour. And being born a male calf within the dairy industry sealed Bobby to a grisly fate. But Bobby got lucky and he came to Edgar’s Mission. Flopping in the back of the horse float just after his reprieve, his big bug eyes looked around at the world in childlike wonder. ‘Hey, where’s my mummy?’ was his innocent plea. ‘I’m so sorry matey, we cannot bring her back to you but we will be the best mummy we can,’ was our heartfelt promise.
It was quickly apparent that Bobby has suffered some sort of brain damage, most likely the result of a difficult birth. Struggling to make north from south, standing was a problem for Bobby. So naturally, we helped as best we could. Propping his ragdoll like body into the position nature said it should be, Bobby then kicked in and mustered all the strength he could and he learned to walk. He was as brave as he was cheeky and he loved having his face stroked. Like all children he responded enthusiastically to our encouraging words and so we urged him on, ‘Good walking Bobby, good walking.’
Despite his initial setback, Bobby drank well and so our spirits rose. However, yesterday morning our cartwheels of happiness at the sight of Bobby standing on his own were soon tempered later that day by his laboured breathing and opened mouthed panting. A hurried trip to the vet confirmed a lung infection had taken hold. With IV and subcutaneous fluids, antibiotics and pain relief administered, the race was on to get Bobby strong enough to take on the battle of his life. With an army of love and able bodies by his side, ‘round the clock monitoring, medication and mothering were provided to Bobby.
But sometimes all the love in the world is not enough. At 8.54pm on the 13th of February 2013 Bobby said, ‘No more.’ That Bobby received more love in his short life than most male calves born to the dairy industry ever do is of little comfort when you sit cradling the head of a dead calf in your lap, struggling to make sense of a world that is so incredibly unfair. At this point in time we are devoured by grief and this is only natural; no doubt this is the same grief Bobby’s mother experienced as yet another one of her babies was taken away from her immediately after birth. For us however, the sun will continue to rise, Bobby will be lovingly buried and remembered here and our resolve will be strengthened to carry on our work of changing hearts and minds about farmed animals.
No matter what people say, no matter what the dairy industry does, nothing can counter the cruel cold fate of bobbies; it is as unnecessary as it is unethical and it is up to each and every one of us to stop it. Animals like Bobby can do nothing to demand justice but we can. It is within the power of our humanity and our plates to do so at every opportunity. One day, hopefully in the not too far off future, the war we have waged against the animal kingdom will be over, peace will reign in our hearts, living kind will be our mantra and the plight of bobby calves will be no more as we as humans will have fulfilled our greatest potential of being merciful, kind and just. When the war is over…