Day 4

Dairy can be the most difficult animal product for people to give up. In part, this is because the dairy industry has been so successful at hiding the suffering of cows and calves that is built into every slice of cheese and bowl of ice cream.

Many of us at the sanctuary also struggled to give up products made from the milk of cows, goats, or sheep, but it became much easier to bypass the dairy aisle when we met survivors of dairying and learned their stories.

So, let us introduce Autumn, who came to VINE Sanctuary after twelve years at a dairy farm, in the course of which nine calves were taken from her shortly after birth. When Autumn first arrived at the sanctuary, her distended udders were painfully injured and infected in ways that are very common for cows at dairy farms, but she recovered to enjoy many years at the sanctuary.

This is the fact that dairy farmers want you to forget: Cows are mammals, just like humans. Their bodies only produce milk after they have given birth, and that milk is meant to nourish their offspring. 

Every dairy, whether a huge factory farm or a small and ostensibly humane family farm, forcibly impregnates cows and then takes their calves away from them as soon as their milk starts flowing. Male calves are put into veal crates or simply shot or otherwise killed. Female calves are kept apart from their mothers and fed formula until they too are old enough to be impregnated. When the milk runs dry, the cow is impregnated again and the cycle continues until her body wears out.

The suffering this causes is beyond compare. Try to imagine it, first from the perspective of the mother cow and then from the perspective of her calf.

But survivors of dairying are more than their suffering. Each is an individual with a personality, history, and relationships that are important to her.

For example, Autumn was a natural leader who became the matriarch of the special needs herd at VINE. Full of spark, she participated in every sanctuary celebration, even though her age sometimes slowed her down. Originally afraid of smaller mammals, she developed a fondness for goats and appointed herself the official goat groomer. Most meaningfully, Autumn twice adopted, protected, and nurtured to adulthood male calves who came to the sanctuary after being discarded by dairies. 

Autumn's best friend was Rose, another elder survivor of dairying. When Rose first came to the sanctuary, we thought that she was shy, but it turned out that she was depressed. After about six months, her true personality emerged. Rose is now the leader and nurturer of the special needs herd, looking out for everyone's feelings. When new cows arrive, Rose is the one who soothes their anxieties and shows them around.

Up in the back pasture, among the Hardy Herd, live another set of best friends who are survivors of dairying: Ebony and Norma.

Ebony escaped from a dairy or slaughterhouse while pregnant, gave birth in the wild, and then kept her calf Ivory safe and well-fed during months on the run. Then they were chased by hunters, who killed their companion. Ebony and Ivory fled onto the property of an animal-lover who hid them from the hunters until they could come to sanctuary. Their companion who was killed by the hunters must have been Ebony's partner, because she gave birth to another calf, Cora, months after arriving at VINE.
As might be expected, Ebony is clever, confident, and supremely protective of Ivory and Cora. That may be why she and Norma "clicked" as soon as they met, becoming fast friends. Norma sent a dairy worker to the hospital when he tried to take her calf. The owner of the dairy wanted to send her to slaughter, but the injured worker begged for mercy, saying that "she was only being a good mother" and the dairy allowed her and her calf Nina to join the community at VINE.

While forced by circumstance to use violence to protect her calf, Norma is a gentle soul. It's been a joy for everyone at the sanctuary to see her gradually let down her guard and relax within the safety of our multispecies community.

So, if you find yourself tempted by the lure of familiar dairy products, think of Autumn, Rose, Ebony, Norma, and all of the other mothers currently incarcerated on dairy farms, hooked up to milking machines twice each day while mourning their calves, and ask yourself whether there might be another way of sating your appetite. With all of the plant-based versions milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream out there these days, we're sure you'll find something even more satisfying!

Shout Out

LOUDER THAN WORDS is a cross-cultural, intergenerational art collective that targets sexual assault, domestic violence, LGBTQ+ equality, animal liberation, and mass incarceration. Collaborators S.A. Bachman and Neda Moridpour, both vegan, have recently turned their creative attention to dairy, with a new nationwide project that announces "Cow's Milk is for Calves." We're excited to see prominent feminist artists take up the cause of cows, and we hope this will spark other feminists to extend their empathy to animals.

A direct and compelling headline

Tune into this episode of In Context to hear artist Neda Moridpour explain how her own experiences as a nursing mother led her to go vegan.

For a longer read on the reality of dairy cows, check out the book, The Cow with Ear Tag #1389 by Kathryn Gillespie.

Recipes of the Day

To eat the rainbow of vegan food all day long, try Sweet Tart Fruit Salad for breakfast, Rainbow Salad in a Jar for lunch, and Rainbow Pizza for dinner.

Other Ways to Engage

Join the V2V Forum

Get to know other challenge participants and ask questions of experienced vegans here.

Catch Up on Briefings

You can read and comment on any briefing you skipped or missed here.

Follow VINE on Social Media

Get to meet the members of our multi-species community. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for an inside look into the daily adventures at the sanctuary.

Join our Book Club

The VINE Book Club meets monthly to discuss books of interest to animal advocates who work within an ecological awareness of the linkages between animal exploitation and other forms of injustice.

Learn more here.


We want to do so much more than we have been able to, but to do that, WE NEED YOU. Find out ways to get involved, and sign up here.

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