At our daughters’ summer camp on visiting weekend, we stayed in a cottage with friends on a small rural working dairy farm in exchange for some Raw Rev bars. Raw Rev Glo to the Rescue! I was psyched that this kid-centric style weekend was turning into an adventure for us adults.
After a good night’s sleep in the small cottage bedroom, we were woken up by a rooster and sounds of restless cows. Approximately 100 feet away from the old cottage there were about 30 of them with a few calves chomping on their morning breakfast; dark slop out of what looked like an old shallow bathtub.
It was humid and unseasonably warm outside- some were lying down in the dirt, and the rest standing swatting flies vigorously with their tails. They seemed happy and healthy, doing what cows do. Is this a farm that indeed treats animals well? I thought to myself...I was cautiously optimistic.
My deep thought was interrupted by the roar of a farmer on a tractor pulling a cart with large white sacks of grain- he greeted us with a big hello and “welcome.” I am guessing he was in his early 60’s, with leathery tanned skin, and stereotypical farmer clothes; t-shirt, jeans, suspenders and below knee rubber boots covered in mud. He was friendly and offered to show us around.
“Are there any other animals for us to see here?” I asked politely. The farmer told us that he had just purchased a bunch of calves that were staying in a separate barn and I asked if we wanted to take a look. “Yes! I said of course”.
Upon first entering the barn I immediately noticed one calf in a separate larger pen by himself lying down, legs tucked under his body, coughing and making heaving sounds; I asked the farmer if he/she was sick.
The farmer pointed out yes that cow is very sick and he is being treated- too much air in his abdomen caused by unnatural animal feed consumption resulting in a syringe needing to be inserted a couple of times a day to take out air. He is not able to feed him/ her a natural cow diet which is milk from his nursing mother because if he and all the other calves do there would not enough milk to sell.
We then turned to the right down a hay covered barn floor, there were healthier calves,15 of them tied up in individual pens on short ropes so as not to move around or walk with just enough slack to lie down.
The farmer also told us that if he hadn’t adopted these calves, they would have been sold for veal and thrown in the back of a truck like a sack of grain; even though he admitted they would eventually go to slaughter and this was his main reason for the purchase.
We stayed with these calves for about an hour, and I let them suck on my hands- an instinctive compulsive behavior they needed to do I guess from not being able to nurse. I enjoyed the time I was able to spend with them, but it was bizarre- they liked to suck on my fingers so much they were restless when I walked away, and one calf bit me (after the farmer said he wouldn’t but that was ok ) resulting in slow dripping of blood from my right thumb. Not a biggie, was glad I made their lives a little happier- even if it was for less than an hour.
As for the farmer, I could see the passion for what he does and sympathy for the downed calf in the barn. I felt that he is a person that cares more than the average farmer but with a matter of fact attitude of the situation at hand because after all, this is how he feeds his family. These animals are making the ultimate sacrifice. This was a regular day of doing of business. I had an idea to purchase some milking cows just for the calves in the barn so they can nurse and not be sick.
What I came away with is that cows are incredibly social creatures and instinctually stay with their young. Consuming dairy is plainly separating them from calves from their mothers and abusive. Ironically this was a small farm run by caring compassionate people.
I was left grappling with the question of “what can I do to make a difference to stop the suffering?” Now I am convinced that eating vegan bars and any vegan food, in general, is the best place to start. The most significant change I see is that there are so many meat alternatives sold in just about every supermarket in a location close to every town making it easier to change if one wants to do so. On behalf of the animals we just encountered-I was more proud than ever that Raw Rev has a commitment to vegan principals of no animal products.