Motherhood has the same meaning across languages, geographies, as well as species — denoting the same feelings of providing, protecting, and caring for offsprings, writes Varda Mehrotra
Mother’s Day, which was celebrated with much pomp and show last week, is a day to acknowledge the critical role mothers play in shaping their children’s lives. For most of us, the very first person we come in contact with is our mother. She, who carried us for months in her womb, gave us birth, and nurtured us with her milk. While we might not remember the exact moment when we were born, if we concentrate hard enough, we can surely conjure images and smells of snuggling close to our mother while she fed us from her breast.
Motherhood has the same meaning across languages, geographies, and species — denoting the same feelings of providing, protecting, and caring for her offspring. All mothers nurse their children and teach them necessary skills to survive on their own. But there are some mothers, who are forced to bear children for human benefit alone, deprived of the opportunity to comfort and nurse them.
Let’s think about non-human mothers. Mothers of calves, piglets, fish, and chicks. Countless non-human mothers are separated from their babies, tortured for years, milked until they die or simply butchered for their meat. In the scuffle to provide for their children and fulfil their parenting duties, human beings sometimes turn an unsympathetic eye to the suffering they cause to millions of animals.
Chickens are just like human mothers, who talk to their babies in the womb; a mother hen begins to teach calls to her chicks even before they hatch.
There’s a reason why overprotective human mothers are sometimes referred to as “mother hens”. Hens hide their babies beneath them to safeguard the young ones from predators, humans even. These gentle creatures are exploited their whole life for their eggs and eventually slaughtered for meat.
Cows and buffaloes carry their calves for nine months, just like humans, and develop the same attachment with their offspring. Cows and buffaloes are forcefully impregnated, only to have their child taken away post-birth. Milk, which is food for the baby, is then provided to humans instead, and after years of being in the cycle of artificial insemination, birth, and milk production, these gentle creatures — who have an average life span of 20-25 years — are sold for slaughter within eight years, leaving countless orphaned children to suffer the same fate.
Pigs have an IQ higher than that of a three-year-old human. These intelligent creatures are treated like commodities and their kids, a byproduct, are tossed around. Pigs outperform three-year-old human children on cognition tests and are smarter than any domestic animal, and animal experts consider them more cognisant than cats or dogs. It’s unfair then, that we as humans befriend one and eat the other.
Fish have neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, that relieve suffering, and the only reason for their nervous systems to produce these chemicals is to alleviate pain. Fish, killed by the tonne, are one of the most misunderstood creatures on our planet. They are not even considered as sentient beings by many. Contrary to popular belief, fish feel pain just like any other sentient being, due to the presence of a nervous system. Sadly, their life is measured in kilos of meat, not in numbers, making them undoubtedly the most exploited species.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Exploitation of farmed animals for food is carefully packaged in clean sheets and white lies, making their suffering invisible to consumers at the selling point. The marketing of milk, meat, eggs, and fish has been so smartly projected as being sourced from “happy animals” that it confuses even those who are aware. We, as conscious individuals, have the choice to decide the course of someone else’s life by simply refusing to consume and buy animal products.
It’s high time we removed the apostrophe from Mother’s Day, honouring a single mother, but Mothers Day — a day to mark the existence of all mothers around the globe. Let’s teach our young ones the true meaning of compassion by adopting a cruelty-free diet. By making small changes, such as substituting cow’s milk with almond milk, egg omelettes with vegan pancakes, and meat with jackfruit, tofu or soya, we can spare many innocent lives.
The writer is the Director of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations. Call to action for readers: Log on to www.dontgetmilked.fiapo.org to try the #21DayCompassionChallenge