Motherhood floats my boat. I can remember clearly and vividly and with much love the day my mother walked through the front of our home with her fifth and last child – “littlest sister”. I am the middle child of five and had just turned six and Santa had just come and gone. Much to my mother’s dismay, she had spent Christmas in the hospital waving down to us as we stood under her window on the frosty, crunchy, winter lawn.
I was in love, totally in awe of and in love with my little sister. It didn’t matter to me that Christmas had been compromised, that my mom had not been there with us. All that mattered was that she, “littlest sister”, was here in my life. This is the first understanding of and connection to motherhood that I can recall, apart from the deep and abiding love I felt and still feel for my mother. This feeling has followed through all of my life. I remember mothering my mother when she was ill, sitting by her bedside and willing her to get better. I remember fretting over sick or lost furry companions and being heartbroken when our family bird died. I remember my father saying,
I don’t know what you’re so sad about. This is not a tragedy. Losing a horse would be a tragedy.
I was infuriated by the callousness of this remark and at great risk, stood staunchly before the towering presence that was my father and told him so. I could not have been more than ten or eleven years old and one did not ever talk back to my father. But I did and nothing much happened other than a lot of blustering. I felt infinitely better knowing that I had defended the importance and meaning of the life of this little caged bird who mattered to himself, to me and to other members of my family.
So, it is no surprise that when I became a mother myself, I was head over heels for these two little beings who had come into this world, gracing my life beyond description. I feel the same way about my grand-chlblets. There isn’t anything I would not do to help them and support them, if it is in my power to do so. And my son is approaching forty, so I am pretty sure that this devotion will be with me until the end of my days.
I like to think that they know and appreciate this about me. One day this past summer my husband and I were taking the grand-chiblets for a swim at the pool of some very good friends. My little grandson, who had just turned three, was nervous about it – I guess because his mom and dad would not be there. Even though his grandfather was going to be swimming with him, he was not sure about me sitting poolside chatting with my friend while enjoying a beverage in the warm summer sun. The conversation with his mother (my daughter) went something like this.
Little Guy: Grammie will not be in the pool? What will happen to me if I fall in or go under water?
My daughter: Well, Grandpapa will be in the pool to catch you.
Little Guy: But, what about Grammie?
My Daughter: Don’t worry. I know for sure that if you need help, Grammie will jump in the pool with all of her clothes on to get you.
He seemed relieved and strangely satisfied with that answer even though my husband is much better suited physically to rescuing little ones from pools and what not.
As humans, we seem to have a well developed understanding of our own motherhood, but what about motherhood in what we euphemistically call the “animal kingdom”? In general, we seem to appreciate it in lions and tigers and bears who live in the wild, but totally ignore it in the lives of those we exploit for profit, be they domestic or wild. We are horrified to see footage of a mother elephant slain for her tusks, while her baby pokes her incessantly, desperate for a miracle that will not come. Pictures of baby lions being groomed by their mothers melt our hearts and make us ooh and aw while proclaiming,
On the other hand, mother cows, pigs, goats, chickens and all other farmed animals, live abysmal lives in confinement, deprived of their children, abused, manipulated and eventually murdered, all for our malevolent pleasures. Sure, we see pictures of mother love in these animals, but they are false images created by an industry which seeks to hide the truth from us, to ensure our complicity, to blunt our connection to the truth of universal love. We look at these pictures and we say,
Hey, that is also cute.
But what happens when well intentioned and committed vegan and animal rights activists try to break through the illusions and talk about or show the truth? You know – the truth about mother cows enslaved in the dairy industry, for instance. These poor mothers are artificially inseminated (euphemism for rape) kept constantly pregnant, milked incessantly, robbed of the chance to love and nurture their infants and then cruelly sent to the slaughterhouse when they are “spent”, having lived barely a quarter of their natural lifespan. Most people turn away and say,
I don’t want to see that. It is too upsetting.
Or, they may say,
But we are doing the cows a favor by milking them. Otherwise, they would be in pain.
Ultimately, where does the responsibility for the ongoing despicable and intractable confinement and enslavement of other species lie? Is it with the industries who have created the myths that surround and protect them or is it with us because we choose to believe them, thereby protecting our sensibilities and habits and proclivities and bringing immeasurable harm to other nations of animals?
Annie’s Vegan View
Let us all restore and respect the universal truth of motherhood by simply by changing what we eat.
Hard to imagine, but true, that a plant based diet has the power to transform the world.
May all beings be happy and free.