Honey, Babe and the Beauty of Motherhood
As Mother’s Day approaches, animal protection organizations often begin to use the holiday to educate the public about the sad fate of many animal mothers in the meat and dairy industries. Animals exploited for their motherhood are victims whose stories deserve to be told. But this week, we are taking a different approach.
We want to share something incredibly special with our readers: the beauty and joy of animals who are allowed to raise their young.
When we rescued senior cows Honey and Babe, the last thing we expected was pregnancy. Both are estimated to be around twenty years old. Honey and Babe were never abused animals. In fact, most of their lives were spent living peacefully on a pasture with their herd. They were cared for by a kind woman who saw them as companions rather than as food. When their elderly caretaker could no longer care for them, Honey and Babe came to Animal Place.
Honey and Babe shortly after rescue.
After living at the sanctuary for several months, both cows surprised our caregivers and veterinarians! They both delivered healthy young calves only weeks apart. Calves, Elliot and his younger “brother” Edgar have become a constant source of entertainment for sanctuary staff. They bring us joy and laughter in the form of nonstop play and antics.
Honey and Babe are both wonderful mothers to their calves. Just like humans, both are unique individuals in their parenting styles.
Honey has been an incredibly protective mother. She has been wary about allowing Elliot to socialize with humans since his birth. Babe takes a more relaxed parenting style. She trusts animal caregivers to spend time with Edgar. Both mothers, despite their differences, have raised healthy and happy calves.
Little Edgar sleeps peacefully beside his mother, Babe.
Watching Honey and Babe live out their roles as mothers reminds us of the importance of family structures in animals. The tenderness and deep bonds in their herd is a beautiful thing. Most cows, whether on dairy farms or “beef” ranches, do not get to keep their calves for life. When given the opportunity, these social herd animals make wonderful mothers.
One of the very best parts of Honey and Babe’s calves joining Animal Place is that these two calves are some of the rare few animals born into sanctuary life.
Elliot and Edgar are not and never will be aware that cows are taken from their mothers in the animal farming industries. All these young and innocent calves know is the constant, unwavering comfort of their own mothers: the daily baths from their rough sandpaper tongues, their watchful and protective eyes, and their warmth to snuggle up to when the cool evening air sets in at night.
In the eyes of Elliot and Edgar, they are not “lucky” calves; they are just calves living as they should. Their opportunity to live out their lives in a natural family structure may be rare, but to them, it’s just the way things are and always will be. The high level of care and love that comes with their lives at the sanctuary is not seen as a “privilege”. Rather, it is simply the default that comes with being a resident at Animal Place.
Most Animal Place residents have months or years of trauma to overcome. Elliot and Edgar’s lives, on the other hand, are clean slates. The most dramatic inconvenience these two will likely ever know is breakfast being delivered a few minutes late.
Mischievous Elliot tests Auntie Babe and Mother Honey’s patience.
As animal advocates and caretakers, it is refreshing and heartwarming to see this. Knowing that the vast majority of farmed animals experience a great deal of suffering in their lives can be a heavy burden to bear, but watching two infants discover a world in which no harm will ever come to them is a truly magical thing.
Animal Place strives to create a world where all animals are treated as gently and compassionately as Honey, Babe and their sons. In this world, parents and their young would stay together as long as they would like.
In the meantime, witnessing the pure joy of two mothers raising their babies undisturbed is the greatest joy that we as animal rescuers could imagine.
A life in the grass and sunshine.
Written by Chelsea Pinkham