Sadie is special, at least to me. She is the face of the dairy industry, those beautiful cows who are bred and milked, bred and milked in a cycle of loss and separation. In her life, she gave birth to four calves, their fates intertwined with her own. Each calf was a marker of loss for Sadie, torn from her at birth. She did not nurse or groom them; she never watched from a distance as they frolicked in green pastures. There was never a time when she met grand-calves, the young of her own daughters.
Her sons, sweet and smart, gentle and curious, they are all dead now. Sold at auction for $5-15, raised and slaughtered for veal or cheap dairy beef. None of them made it past the age of two.
Some of her daughters are alive, no doubt. Others are dead, slaughtered and disassembled for what meager flesh humans can obtain from their overworked bodies.
She spent six years at a dairy farm. Six years of producing gallon after gallon of breast milk for another species. Every meaningful behavior, from reproductive choice to nursing her own young to choosing what and where to eat, all of them denied.
And when her production decreased, when an infection common to 50-70% of all dairy cows invaded her mammary glands - suddenly she was no longer a valuable commodity. She had never been seen as someone, an animal with interests of her very own, but as a something, a unit of production whose worth was measured in gallons.
She was sent to auction. That awful place where other sentient beings are paraded in front of humans, where they are watched from bleachers, where they piss and shit in fear, where they cry. And where they go unheard. She was purchased by a veterinary university and used as a teaching tool. Her mastitis was left untreated, yet another chapter of exploitation.
Someone saw her as an individual and ached for her. They saw a sweet animal who was struggling to survive amidst poking and prodding and a painful medical condition. It was an orchestrated production of frustration trying to convince the university to release her to the sanctuary. But in the end, she arrived, shy and concerned, an udder that sank nearly to her knees, a sign of human cruelty, of every milk-drinker's complicity in her suffering.
I will be honest, Sadie is never going to like humans. It has taken me years to touch her, to scratch her face like a bovine friend would. She tolerates my presence because I am a known entity, a biped who has given her apples and massages and has yet to do anything to violate the tentative trust built.
Her mastitis took years to heal. Years. It was only through NOT MILKING her, through the painful removal of cup after cup of pus and infection did it heal. And it was only because her caregivers, people who wanted nothing more than for her to get better, had to confine her, force her to suffer even more indignities. She endured, unwillingly, and it pained us to watch.
Life for Sadie now is one of choices. Like where to graze or nap. Or what to do with herself at ten in the morning. Or whether she wants to hang out with the other cattle or lie in the compost pile on her own. When we take in male calves from the dairy industry, the unwanted by-products, she decides whether they get a facial grooming or a back grooming. There are still times when we take decisions away from her, like when she needs hoof trims or pain medication. We hope that these are minor inconveniences and her life is generally full of good, positive, enriching experiences. She deserves them.
Whatever your reason for being vegan or striving toward veganism - thank you.
Some more pictures from yesterday (click to see larger):