This Mothering Sunday, spare a thought for the billions of mothers languishing on farms all over the world
Pigs are excellent mums, with strong bonds between mother and baby. But the natural instincts and desires they have to protect their piglets are stunted by the processes involved in factory farming. When nursing, pigs sing to their piglets, and touch and contact is very important. On a farm, mothers kept in farrowing crates have no opportunity to snuggle with their babies, with metal bars only allowing limited contact for the piglets to suckle. The mother cannot move, comfort or interact with her young.
Pigs have 2-3 litters a year, and some never leave a barren cage. Their whole life is a constant cycle of impregnation, pregnancy, birth and weaning. Her piglets are taken from her at 4 weeks old, and before this, she must look on as they are mutilated, and some lay dead around her. Animal Equality documented suffering and illegal practices at UK pig farms as recently as 2016.
Dairy cows forge a strong bond with their babies minutes after birth, and naturally stay together for life. But tragically, calves are taken away from their mothers almost immediately (within 12-24 hours) after birth on dairy farms so that humans can drink the milk meant for these babies. To produce the unnatural amount of milk humans desire – around 23 litres a day (10 times more than her calf would need); cows are kept in a constant cycle of pregnancy and milking. About 3 weeks after giving birth, she will be impregnated again to ensure that she keeps lactating.
Cows can have 4 or 5 calves in their lifetime and each time her baby is taken from her, causing immense suffering for both animals. Cows and their calves have unique calls for each other and mothers will frantically call for their calves for hours after they have been separated. Female calves are destined to follow in their mother’s footsteps, but bull calves will never produce milk, so will either be shot on the farm, sent to slaughter or sold for veal production. Animal Equality investigated a UK dairy farm in December 2016, and witnessed not only the suffering described above, but also routine cruelty to mothers and their calves.
Chickens have incredible maternal instincts. They are very affectionate and fiercely protective of their chicks; puffing up and covering them at night to safeguard them from predators, and to keep them dry in the rain. Hens also form bonds with their babies before they have even hatched! With a specific call and movement on the eggs, they can comfort their chicks, and will even take in chicks that aren’t their own.
On farms though, the natural drive to sit on their eggs and raise their babies is thwarted. 50% of hens in the UK live in cages with up to 80 other birds. They don’t have enough space to stretch their wings and no meaningful enrichment. Their eggs are taken from them immediately after laying. Due to the near constant light and high protein feed, they will lay an unnaturally high number of eggs. In the wild around 20 per year would be natural, but hens on intensive farms lay over 300. Life isn’t all rosy for the 49% of hens kept in barn and free range settings. Although they don’t live in cages, the high stocking densities mean space is severely restricted. Even though free range birds must have access to the outdoors, many never leave the shed. Our investigation in two organic egg farms in Germany revealed shocking conditions and extreme suffering.
Mothers in all of these systems have their eggs taken from them and never get to nurture their broods or raise their babies. Tragically male chicks are still a “waste product” and are gassed to death on their first day of life. Hens from all of these systems will have the same terrifying death when their bodies are too exhausted to produce any more eggs.
You can end the suffering these mothers experience by reducing or eliminating milk, meat and eggs from your diet, and replacing them with plant based alternatives. Sign our Love Veg pledge today and give plant based eating a try! We will support you every step of the way.
This Mother’s day, give animal mothers the gift of leaving them – and their babies – off your plate.