My Name is Belle
My name is Belle, but my captors don’t know that. My mother whispered my name to me before I was taken away from her.
I was allowed to suckle just once, before I was grasped and muscled away from her. I cried for her, and I could hear her crying for me, but it did no good. I remembered the taste of her milk, though, and the stuff they gave me so that I would live was no comparison.
The first year, in the light of those that followed, wasn’t too bad. I was allowed to go outside sometimes, but mostly I was kept confined. I was near the door, though, and when the door opened, I caught a whiff of fresh air and felt the warmth of an occasional ray of sunshine on my backside.
Then came the day, about a year into my confinement, when my life changed completely. I was locked in a cage, (I later learned they called it a “rape rack”) and bound tightly so that I couldn’t move, while my captors did unspeakable things to me. It hurt. It hurt a lot, and I thought I might die. Perhaps it would have been better if I had.
A few months after that I began to feel things happening inside my belly. Rumblings, and moving, and kicking. One of the older girls whispered to me that I was pregnant. At first, I was overjoyed. A baby! I was going to have a baby!
When the time came for me to deliver, again I thought I would die. The baby came in the middle of the night, and I had him on the cold concrete floor. I was able to suckle him just once, before they muscled him away from me. I cried for him, and I could hear him crying for me, but it did no good.
As they dragged my baby away, I cried out his name to him: Meadow! Your name is Meadow!
And then, horror of horrors, they put some sort of machine on my breasts, and they stole the milk that was meant for my baby. Four times a day my captors did this, while I stayed inside the confined space, never leaving, eating what was put in front of me, urinating and defecating on myself until someone with a hose came to spray it away.
I was granted a couple of months respite, a time when my captors did not try to steal my milk any more. But then, I was led to the chamber of horrors once again, and more unspeakable things were done to me. And again I became pregnant. And again my baby was stolen from me, and the milk that was meant for my baby was taken.
For four years I lived thus. Each day I grew more and more sad, more and more angry. I began to act out, trying to kick my captors, or fight against the machine that sucked me dry. But all that did was earn me beatings and shouts.
I was tired. My breasts were sore and they were often infected. Pus would sometimes ooze from them, but that didn’t seem to matter to the beasts that help me captive.
I named all of my children before they were taken away. Meadow, Flower, Sunshine, Rain. Words I’d heard, but rarely experienced, words that evoked something in me. Something that spoke of a life beyond this one. I knew wherever it was, it had to be better.
Then one day, they came for me again, but this time they didn’t take me to the horror chamber. This time I was loaded into a truck with others like me, mothers who were too tired and too worn out to be any more good to those who kept us captive. We were shoved into a truck so that we had no room to move around. We were given no food or water, and the constant movement of the road beneath us made many of us ill. A few of us died, but as there was nowhere for them to go, the bodies stayed standing up, wedged between those still alive.
The stench when the truck stopped was overwhelming. Different beasts yelled and screamed at us, prodded us with sticks that hurt terribly. We were all so afraid, we cried and screamed to each other. None of us knew what was happening. We were terrified.
But me, I knew. I had a feeling. I had a feeling that whatever pain I’d suffered in the past five years was going to be nothing to what awaited me here, in this place, where the smell of blood stank the very air I breathed.
I was not resigned. No, I was not resigned to my fate at all. I tried to run, tried to fight, but I was too weak. I stumbled and fell, more than once, but each time I was beaten and and prodded with a stick that burned like fire. I fought. I fought as long as I could.
Ahead of me I saw other mothers like myself being hoisted into the air by their back legs, only to be shocked with something that made many of them limp and insensible. But not all. Not all were granted that blessing. Some struggled and fought until their bellies were ripped open, or their throats cut. It made me sick.
And then, it was my turn.
I wish I could tell you that Belle’s story is unique, but it isn’t. The truth is that on factory dairy farms and slaughterhouses across this country, similar scenes are being played out thousands of times a day.
Female calves are kept to provide milk as they grow; male calves are usually sold for veal. The male calves are stuffed and chained into crates so small they cannot move. They are forced to stand in their own feces, fed a substandard diet in order to keep their flesh white and milky. They can be slaughtered from just a few days to a few months old, having spent their entire lives confined and miserable.
Cows are highly intelligent, social, often loving animals who enjoy scratches and pets and play. They feel emotions, such as happiness, pain, fear, terror, loneliness. They cry when their babies are taken away from them, just as a human mother would cry if you took her baby away when it was only a day old.
I understand. All of our lives we were told that “milk does a body good.” Unfortunately, that’s a lie. As it turns out, milk doesn’t ‘build strong bones.” In fact, it leaches calcium out of our bones and makes us more prone to diseases like osteoporosis.
And yet, thousands upon thousands of these sweet, gentle creatures are abused and tortured every single day in factory farms across this country. Long gone are the days of the small farmer who keeps a few cows for his own milk consumption and to sell a little to his neighbors. And if you think the myth of the “happy cow” is real, then I would invite you to watch any of the videos that are available on the internet.
We are a party to this horrific abuse every time we pour milk on our cereal in the morning, have ice cream in front of the television, or order extra cheese on our pizza.
There are alternatives. You can put almond milk on your cereal in the morning, vegan cheese on your pizza, and not one of God’s creatures has to die in order for you to stick a spoon into a pint of So Delicious Coconut Chocolate ice cream.
I know, this probably hasn’t been easy for you to read. Believe me, I turned my face away from the truth for a long time myself. But once you know, you can’t UN-know, and then it becomes a choice to continue to be a party to the abuse and slaughter of thousands of innocent creatures, or not.
I choose not.