Is it fair to starve babies?

Anyone who has cared for a newborn knows that they are hungry (and noisy) little buggers. A baby may cry for milk every 2 hours if it is breastfed. If it formula fed you might be lucky = it may take a whole 3 hour break before whinging for another feed.

When my daughter was born I knew I could only take 6 months off work. In preparation for returning to work so quickly I read every single book and website about breastfeeding and bottle feeding and dual feeding and weaning etcetera. I had a plan. As soon as breastfeeding was established (when she was a few weeks old) i tried to introduce a daily bottle of expressed milk – but my daughter downright rejected it. I kept trying, and she kept refusing. Ultimately her will was stronger than mine. And one by one everyone who suggested i had been too soft hearted were also swiftly demoralised at their *own* failure to bottle feed her. My parents, my mother in law, my aunties, my sisters in law… every single expert eventually gave in to her screams for mama after a few hours of attempted bottle feeding. Stubborn little thing.

She continued to refuse the bottle even after i returned to full time work. Luckily my mother in law cared for her because no day care centre would have put up with it. I fed her at 8am when i left for work… and i fed her at 6pm when I got home. For the majority of the day she cried and slept, still refusing any water or milk from a bottle. When i arrived home at the end of my working day she was always irritable and pale, having expended all of her energy on crying for me.

The medical logic is that “A baby will never starve itself”. And in all truth, she didn’t starve – she more than made up for her day without food by breastfeeding every hour at night. There were many times when i wanted to ignore her cry for milk and go back to sleep, but when I could actually hear her little tummy rumbling with hunger i couldn’t do it.

Could you?

Having had this “life experience” I now feel very differently about something that I have known my whole life.

To produce the millions of litres of cows milk that we drink each year a dairy farmer impregnates a dairy cow and she brings the calf to full term. A few days after the calf is born he* is taken away for slaughter – and for the next few months the milk that was meant to be for the baby is extracted for human consumption.

These baby cows are referred to as Bobby calves and end up being your veal schnitzel.

Where i grew up (my grandfather had a herd of dairy cows and 3,000 pigs) the “trip” to the meatworks wasn’t very far – the calves wouldn’t have been separated from their mother for more than 6 hours before meeting their fate. As a 6 year old I still staged occasional moral protests for the poor animals… before heading home for meat pie and icecream.

But under proposed changes to the national “Land Transport Welfare Standards for Livestock” (legislation scheduled for enactment in June 2011) dairy farmers will now be allowed to whisk these baby cows away from their mother’s bosom and starve them for up to 30 hours before they are slaughtered.

Some welfare groups have raised concerns that the calves may be starved for even longer than the proposed “maximum” of 30 hours suggesting that there’s no way to confirm the exact time the calf was fed last:

“In the standard, there is no mandatory standard requirement within the regulations for the producer to record the time of the last feed and pass that onto the transporter. So the transporter is really guessing a bit.” – Rebecca Eyers in an article on ABC news website

I find this even more upsetting now that i’ve experienced the mother/child relationship.

They seriously can’t afford a couple of formula-feeds during this transportation process? If an industry is financially unviable without stooping to unethical inhumane measures… i have to wonder why it is legal at all.

* He, because the female calves will usually be kept to become dairy cows when they grow up.

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