Humans Have No Monopoly on Motherly Love

Mother’s Day is this weekend, and I can’t think of a better time to remember that humans don’t have a monopoly on loving and caring for their children, or on the anguish and grief of losing a child.

For cows and their calves, the first minutes after birth are spent developing a bond that will last a lifetime. Throughout life, mother and child maintain social contact and regularly enjoy each other’s companionship. Pity, then, the poor dairy cow, kept pregnant and lactating so humans can steal the milk meant for her baby. Pity, too, mother and child when that baby is male. He is taken, umbilical cord still attached, from his mother before even his first taste of his mother’s milk and loaded onto a truck bound for a short and painful life in a veal crate. Both mother cow and calf cry out for each other for days, and mother cows have been known to escape their enclosures to run after trucks taking their babies away.

Mother seals can pick out their pups in a sea of hundreds using their uncanny powers of vocal recognition. How painful it is for them to hear their pups cry as they are clubbed and axed on the Arctic ice by seal killers who skin the pups for sealskin gloves and fashion accessories? The mother seals cry, too, and desperately try to save their pups from slaughter, but the seal killers hold them at bay with spears and other weapons.

Among the world’s most intelligent animals, dolphins are known for graceful synchronized swimming, but dolphin mothers and their babies also synchronize their breathing for the first few weeks following the babies’ birth. These dedicated moms may nurse their young for up to ten years and will also mentor less experienced females by allowing them to babysit as practice for when they have babies of their own. If only they could teach them to avoid the nets and long lines of commercial fishing boats, who consider the dolphins nothing more than “by-catch.”

Nurturing begins in the nest for chicken moms. Mother hens will turn their eggs as many as five times an hour and cluck softly to their chicks, who chirp back to her from inside their shells! Once chicks hatch, devoted moms use their wings to shield their babies from predators and have been known to refuse to leave their nests during a fire if they have newly hatched chicks. Chickens on an egg farm, though, have no opportunity to raise their babies, and male chicks, deemed “useless” by the egg industry, are often tossed into a grinding machine while they are still alive.

Fur-bearing mothers, like foxes, rabbits, and minks, make sure their children are warm and protected in their dens before they leave to search for food. Many never come home, their legs crushed and shattered in steel-jawed traps set by fur trappers. Many will chew their own leg off to get back to their babies. Sadly, it isn’t long before shock, blood loss, or infection kills the mother, and her children, waiting in vain at home, die, too, of starvation.

Human children taken from their mothers often headlines the news, but the fact that animal babies are stolen from their mothers every day isn’t considered newsworthy. But listen to a mother cow crying for her stolen calf, or the wail of a mother seal over her murdered and skinned child and understand that grief and pain are not just something human mothers feel.

This Mother’s Day, please take a moment to recognize the unique bond between mothers and children of all species. To support all moms, go vegan, wear vegan fashion, use cruelty-free products, and never exploit animals in any other way.