Vigil aims to highlight plight of bobbies

Originally published at scoop.co.nz

Its nearly Spring, but many new-born calves will never feel the warmth of the sun on their backs. Already a significant number of calves who were born this winter died before the first daffodil unfolded. They were quite literally born to die.

This Saturday September 2 a peaceful bobby calf vigil will be held outside AC Petfoods on State Highway 3 between 11 am -12pm. The vigil aims to raise awareness for the plight of the 2 million bobby calves slaughtered every year. Vigils aim to shine a light on cruelty and to speak out against the temptation to turn away and do nothing. These kind of vigils are gaining worldwide attention and are based on the logic of the Save movement.

In New Zealand there are an estimated 5 million lactating dairy cows and most of these give birth to a calf each year. Many of these calves are little more than an inconvenience at best. In fact, 2.3 million calves are killed each year at around 4 days of age. The remaining calves are either kept as replacement herd or raised for beef.

Bobby calves are little more than a by-product of milk. It’s an inconvenient truth of the dairy industry that many calves are superfluous. These calves are called bobby calves. They were bought into this world for no other purpose than to induce lactation in their mothers. Like all mammals, a cow must have a baby in order to produce milk.

These tiny beings are often used for petfood, and sometimes human consumption. The small doe eyed jerseys are often so small they often only fetch $2 for the farmer.

There are not many among us that could watch one of these calves being slaughtered. But when we buy milk we are really just paying someone else to do it.

It is tempting to hope that these animals are being killed ‘humanely’. However, footage from Safe and Farmwatch over the past two years reveals cruelty to bobby calves and a deep dark side to dairying.

Even if all the rules are followed, it is legal for a young calf to go up to 24 hours without food, twelve of which may be spent on a bobby calf truck.

It is hard to imagine newborn calves swaying on a noisy truck, without their mothers and without milk in their tummies. Naturally these calves would suckle between 5-8 times in 24 hours from their mothers,

It’s devastating to try think about 2 million dead calves To get some sense of perspective, animal rights group Safe put up a visually provocative billboard last year. It demonstrated that, if lined up side by side, these dead calves would cover the length of the country.

The milk sours just a little when you realise you are not really paying the full price for it. 2 million plus calves paid for your latte with their lives.

As a society, we are conditioned to accept dairy as a necessary and normal food source for humans. The reality is that it is a food source for baby calves. It can be dressed up as ice cream or cheese or butter or cream – but it all comes from a cow’s udder. And it wasn’t meant for you.

I gave up all milk products five years ago after witnessing a calf dying. This calf came from a dairy cow and had been brought by a calf rearer to finish as ‘beef’. He never made it. His tiny body lay in a paddock in the middle of winter. When I found him he was grunting and struggling for air. Pneumonia racked his body and he was suffering. He was just a baby.

I began starfish bobby calf project in his honour and to raise awareness of this cruelty.

Please speak out for calves who are born to die, who suffer at the hands of humans by joining us at the vigil this Saturday.

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