Saturday, 13 October 2007

Goat's Milk

Today I have a little story to tell. It is a true story and my own.

We moved to this sleepy village in Norway when I was pregnant with our first child. The house was a traditional norwegian house in need of some loving attention. Our first winter was fantastic with our new little girl and we spoke of this being our home forever. Until one night in spring. I was woken in the night by a peculiar noise. At first I thought it was foxes but couldn't pin it down. It was a distressing noise and I had to rule out the sounds as children's as they did bear a similarity to a young child's cry. The next morning as I was in my kitchen I could still hear the same sound. I went out onto the veranda to look around but could see nothing. It seemed to be coming from near the barn nextdoor. I was getting distressed by the sound and was about to go over to see if an animal was stuck somewhere or if there had been an accident. I even thought with it being spring that one of their animals might be giving birth and having problems. You see, nextdoor to our home is a small family run goat farm. A nice farm, I thought when we first bought the house, the goats are daily taken out to local fields to roam around and often escape the fields and wander along the local quiet roads all day before being herded back home.

So, I was about to go over to see what the noise was when my neighbour, my perfectly nice neighbour, opened the barn door and exited with a baby goat which was completely limp and threw it into a trailer. Then he went back inside and came out with another, then another. Then I realised what that awful screaming noise was. It was a combination of baby goats being killed and the sounds of the female goats in the same barn, mothers of these young animals. I felt sick, I feel sick writing about it now, sick to my very core. I cried and couldn't speak for some time but my husband calmed me down. 'It's probably a disease Jill', he said caringly. 'We're moving' was my reply. I didn't believe my husbands response. I thought then that the goats were killed as there were too many young for the farmer to raise on his small farm. I was distraught and looked at houses for sale all that day. I wanted to go over and talk to the farmer but I knew he spoke no English and also knew I would wade in emotionally and shout so I tried to calm down.

Over the next few days we discussed what to do. We asked around but got no answers. Days passed, then weeks and in true bystander apathy, I let it go. I thought it must have been a one off, that there must have been a reason, it surely wouldn't be legal to just kill baby goats for no reason. If it happened again I would be sure to find out what was happening.

Then I turned vegan. why did I turn vegan...because I found out that the male calves of dairy cows are killed as they are an unnecessary part of the milk industry. It took a while but when I next thought of those goats I put two and two together. What would a farm producing goats milk need lots of baby male goats for. They have a few male adults there for impregnanting the females I presume but they don't need more than that. Surely male babies are just an inconvenience..... Sorry but I am starting to get really upset writing this so I'll try and make sense .... Now I am not one hundred percent sure that my neighbour was slaughtering innocent babies infront of their mothers but I think that's what was happening.... and if true then it will happen next year and the next...

So what do I do. Well, first I need to get the facts, I need to do this without ostracizing myself from the community, then I need to come up with a way to stop this happening, my first statement was that I would go and buy all the babies and start a goat sanctuary in the field we own nextdoor to the farm. Not sure that would work so my next idea based on a discussion with Matthew, my husband, was to go to the papers. Hmm, not sure they would care. Government, hmm, not sure they would care either. So I am in a process of thought now. Maybe I'll make a documentary film...

Moving house won't solve the problem, it will simply take my eyes away from it and distressing and heartbreaking as it may be, hiding won't change anything. This is a small family run farm where the goats are treated kindly in some respects (I know that's hard for a vegan to say about captive animals but there are a lot worse places) so imagine what it is like everywhere else. I don't know my strategy yet but I will let you know, maybe there is something you can do too, when I think of it.

Maybe next spring my garden will be full of happy little goats, leaping around and enjoying life in peace, maybe their captive mothers will hear their cries. Maybe there will have been legislative changes to stop this injustice or maybe there will be another heap of infant corpses on a trailer in the middle the night surrounding by the sound of mourning mothers.

As a mother, I implore all mothers (and everyone else) to give animals the rights we deny them.


half pint pixie said...

I've been vegan for a few years, the dairy was mostly for allergy reasons at the time. It wasn't until I had my daughter last year that I really felt sympathy for the dairy cows. I remember sitting breastfeeding her one night and thinking of the poor cows, with their babies ripped away from them and killed just so people can have icecream & cheese. It's heartbreaking really when you think about it.

tina said...

I have been vegetarian for years but after reading PETA's website on the horrific life of dairy cows decided to give up cow milk products, giving up milk was easy with soy milk but i am a cheese lover so thought i would just eat goats cheese which i thought would be be kinder. Something made me google 'goats cheese cruelty' and see what came up.

My suspicions were confirmed, many reports of horrific cruelty, I am stopping eating goats cheese today, thank you for your report, at least some good has come of you having to witness such a traumatic experience.

It seems we humans will always abuse animals whatever we use them for, mainly because of the cost i suppose. What a shame it has to be this way.

Alicia (aka Veganrella!!!) said...

You're story really touched me. I have two african pygmy goats of my own (as pets) and people always ask me do I have them for milk not even realizing what it means to use these animals for milk and meat. I always answer "if i drank the goats milk what would the baby goat drink?" Most people don't even think about it. Thanks for sharing your story.

virginia said...

What an awful experience. Did you move?
I just googled "goat cheese + cruelty" also because although I've been vegan for a couple years, I hadnt heard much about goat farm practices, but of course they're just as bad. Thanks for the reminder. Your reasons for going vegan were the same as mine; I don't need to watch "Earthling," i dont need to see horrific videos, just reading about people's experiences witnessing baby calves being taken from their crying mothers to be killed is enough for me to stay vegan.

Josh James said...

I'm so happy to hear you're considering a more cruelty free way of life. In order to attempt to curb your fears I will direct you towards stories of Real Vegan Children:

Also, your nutritional concerns are valid. There are definitely some nutrients we as vegans should be careful to get - luckily, it's quite easy to get enough nutrition on a pure plant based diet if it's properly put together and in some cases supplemented. To learn more about vegan nutrition follow this link:

Good luck. Keep your mind and heart open.

Anonymous said...

My heartaches reading this. I was searching for reasons not to use goat milk as my friend was asking if she should give her son. I'm vegetarian. I'd be really sad if she decides to drink it. I'll try to convince her not to.

martinkorben said...

You should talk to her:

yandrsupreme said...

Perhaps your garden will be filled with leaping goats next spring, and guess what? That is ALL it will be filled with. If you have goats on any piece of property, you will not be able to grow ONE THING on that land, thaey will eat everything, including paper. You would consider selling your home because your neighbor kills a few baby goats? Do everyone a favor and live in an urban high rise, and go see a psychiatrist. If vegans would pool their resources and start animal sanctuaries, then there would be ZERO death in the egg and dairy industries, but they won't put their money where their mouths are.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with the above comment to some extent. I think the "Seeing a psychiatrist" was a harsh thing to add, but it is true that you guys don't do much to get involved in an active way. And most of the time, vegan logic just irks me because some of it goes around in circles and makes no sense.

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