This tiny calf has eyes to melt the hardest heart. He’s so small, so innocent, so fragile and vulnerable; so heartbreakingly, breathtakingly, perfectly beautiful. And clearly terrified and distressed beyond words.
As I sit here writing, gazing in wonder at him, I have no idea where this image was captured*; but the chance of his still being alive is so small as to be negligible. It is most likely that he is long dead, like over 21 million of his peers each year, killed as an unwanted ‘waste product’ of the dairy industry.
He died trembling in fear and in pain, alone and still pining for the mother he had seen only briefly; his last memory of her, her panic-stricken voice, desperately crying out to him as he was carried away from her warm milky smell. The melting eyes that gaze in desperate fear, horror and bewilderment at the camera are long since glazed over in death, were long ago hacked from their sockets, an ingredient in some ‘pet’ food somewhere. His desecrated body, the pitiful physical remains of his only special and precious life are long since butchered and charred, crunched and excreted into a sewer somewhere, an ingredient in a meal long since forgotten.
It occurs to me that for all I know, I may have been the direct cause of his death, for I was not always vegan. Any one of us whose money paid for milk or cheese, yogurt, cream or ice-cream could have been the one whose demands made it profitable for someone to violate his mother so that she would produce the products we wanted to buy by giving birth to him.
Whose life is it anyway?
So here’s a question to ponder. Does anyone consider that the life of this tiny innocent individual belonged to me? Or did it perhaps belong to you? You probably think that’s a really bizarre question and are thinking, ‘well of course it didn’t, what a ridiculous question’.
And of course you’re right, how could it? The only life that belongs to any of us is our own and he was no different. His life was his own, along with his mind, his thoughts, his feelings and his memories, such as they were in the short time our species permitted him to exist. Thus, although it is almost certain that his life was taken, we all know that it did not belong to anyone but him and so logically was not anyone’s to take with any moral legitimacy.
The taking of his life, that one life that was his and his alone, was not a crime against me or you, it was a crime against him. It was the most vicious and cowardly type of offence; one perpetrated upon a helpless and vulnerable infant; a crime without necessity or cause, made possible by brute force alone.
Who can forgive?
So what if I was to say, ‘It’s ok. I forgive whoever caused his death’?
The response would quite rightly be, ‘And what the hell has it got to do with you? What right have you got to ‘forgive’ anyone for taking something that wasn’t yours and had nothing whatsoever to do with you?’
Please hold that thought.
Because when we as vegans promote cutting down use and consumption of substances derived from the bodies and lives of nonhumans, approve and encourage regulation of the torment that nonveganism inflicts on our victims, that is exactly what we’re doing on behalf of those victims. We’re approving and forgiving the taking of lives that did not belong to us. And by what right do we forgive anyone for taking something that wasn’t ours and had nothing whatsoever to do with us?
So let’s keep this desperate, tear-streaked face in our thoughts and promote with clear consistency the complete end to this nightmare; promote nothing less than veganism. What others decide to do with our message is between them and their conscience but we must hold to what we know is the truth, because honesty and sincerity are our staunchest allies.
*In response to my request to know the photographer so that their work could be properly attributed and credited, Louise Jorgensen of the group Toronto Cow Save, advised as follows:
‘I took this photo a few months ago at an Ontario “Livestock” auction. This little fellow was in a pen with lots of others just like him. Only a few days old and taken from their mothers at a dairy farm, sent to auction. Many still had umbilical cords attached. They were terrified and calling for their mothers. Big globs of glue holding a number on their backs, like inanimate objects. They were sold for only a few dollars each.’