As we approach Mother’s Day (it’s on May 12th!), it’s time to spread the word about compassion for all mothers with our Cow Ribbon Campaign. This is part one in a series of stories about mother cows and their babies. Have you gotten your cow ribbon yet?
But first, why wear a cow ribbon? What do dairy cows have to do with Mother’s Day?
Like humans, cows must have babies in order to produce milk. In the dairy industry, they are kept in a state of almost constant pregnancy, and the calves that are born are taken from their mothers within hours. Females are usually kept to replace their mothers, and males are considered a byproduct. They are sold for veal or simply thrown away. (The veal industry was developed as a way to use these “extra” calves. Learn more here.) Two months after their calves are born, the cows are re-impregnated via artificial insemination and the cycle begins again.
Most dairy cows live and die in anonymity, as do their babies. Once in a while, though, a lucky cow or calf escapes the industry. We’ve decided to share a few of their stories.
Our first featured story is that of Poncho and Jasper, who live at VINE Sanctuary in Vermont. Poncho and Jasper were found with four other “useless” dairy calves, tied to a tractor and left to die. They were rescued by Farm Sanctuary, who provided them with the immediate medical attention they desperately needed. Jasper was particularly sick and required several days of stay in an intensive care unit for medication, fluids, and a blood transfusion.
Poncho and Jasper as calves. (Photo: VINE Sanctuary)
After their recovery, Jasper and Poncho were transferred to VINE. (The other three calves, named Blake, Phoebus, and Sixer, stayed at Farm Sanctuary. Read their story here.) Now, anybody who has known a dog or a cat is well aware that each individual animal has a personality (for lack of a better word) of their own. But the same rule applies for other animals, too, including those that are more typically considered a food source rather than a companion. Here’s what caregiver Cheryl Wiley has to say about Jasper and Poncho…
“Poncho loves the world and never passes up an opportunity for attention—even from the vet! Irrepressibly curious, Poncho looks for chances to explore new things, often demonstrating just how ‘helpful’ he can be with projects. He is also perhaps the most athletic cow we have ever seen. He can jump a four-foot fence from a standstill and will take the most difficult path around any obstacle, always arriving safely on the other side.
“Jasper is sweet and shy. He tends to be reserved with strangers but loves treats and never forgets those who have brought him a carrot or (even better) an apple. He can spot a vet in a heartbeat, though, and keeps his distance despite bribes! Jasper loves to play in the chickens’ water dish and is fascinated when it slides across the ice. Jasper loves to have his head and ears rubbed and makes it clear that he does not want the scratching to stop.”
Simply because humans like to drink the milk of mother cows, these two calves–now “big, gawky yet graceful, good-looking cows”–were abandoned and left to die. According to VINE, their personalities have not changed as they’ve grown: Poncho remains more outgoing and high-spirited; Jasper, who required such intensive care after his rescue, remains “the quiet thinker”. We’ll never know who their mothers were, but it’s more likely than not that they are no longer alive: the stresses of life as a dairy cow mean that they are “spent” at a young age, at which point they are usually turned into cheap meat like ground beef or dog food.
Poncho and Jasper today. (Photo: VINE Sanctuary)
Speak out for Poncho and Jasper and their mothers this Mother’s Day! You can get a cow ribbon of your own for a $5 donation. As we learned last year from Our Henhouse’s Jasmin Singer, it can spark some really great conversations!
Want to spread the word online? Check out these adorable e-cards and icons that you can use on Facebook or Twitter!
Next up: the story of Maybelle.