Letter writer: Celebrate Mother’s Day with kindness to animal mothers, too

Graphic by Lori Deaton

This Mother’s Day, let’s reflect on the largest population of mothers in our country: the many billions of female cows, chickens, pigs and other animals on our farms. How do they rank as moms?


Maimonides, the 12th-century Jewish philosopher, wrote that the love between a mother animal and her young is not different from a human mother to her child. Many other great thinkers over the ages have discerned this. Charles Darwin, for example, wrote, “There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness and misery.”

Take mother hens, for example. They speak to their chicks even before they are hatched, with the mother clucking softly and the chicks peeping back from inside their shell. An expectant chicken plucks a bald spot on her belly so she can warm the eggs and chicks once they’ve hatched. In fact, chickens are such devoted mamas that they often adopt orphans of other species like kittens, puppies and bunnies.

Turkey hens, too, are devoted mothers who are fiercely protective of their young and will risk their lives to save them.

Pigs in the wild live in groups of two to six sows and their young. If the other mothers are also nursing, mother pigs may share caretaking and even nurse one another’s babies, so that foraging sows have more time to find food.

Female goats are patient, highly nurturing mothers and therefore are often used to foster orphaned or rejected lambs, calves, horses and mules.

Cows naturally nurse their babies for up to three years, and the strong bond between mothers and their offspring last long after the calves have matured. Cows love affection and grieve the loss of their loved ones. Both mothers and their newborn calves may cry pitifully when separated; the heart-rending cries of mothers have been known to last five days.

These are just a few short examples of the mothering behavior of farmed animals, who are some of the best mamas in the animal world. Let’s honor these noble mothers this Sunday and every day by dining compassionately and leaving meat, dairy and eggs off of our plates.

Asheville is richly endowed with restaurants for every taste and pocketbook where you can eat a vegan (plant-based) meal, from the fine dining at Plant restaurant (165 Merrimon Ave.), to down-home Southern cooking at Bean Vegan Cuisine (2145-A Hendersonville Road, Arden), to raw and 100-percent organic delights at Elements (233 S. Liberty St.), plus two vegetarian (primarily vegan) mainstays in the Asheville restaurant scene, both downtown: Laughing Seed Café (40 Wall St.) and Rosetta’s Kitchen (116 N. Lexington Ave.).

In addition, if you’d like to meet some of these mothers and other wonderful animals living out full and natural lives, Western North Carolina is rich with sanctuaries: Animal Haven of Asheville, Goat Mountain Ranch Sanctuary in Leicester, Full Circle Farm Sanctuary in Weaverville, and the Chicken Rescue and Sanctuary [in Hendersonville] also featured recently in the Mountain Xpress [Don’t Chicken Out: How to Responsibly Care for Your Backyard Chickens,” April 29]. (Be sure to contact the sanctuary before visiting.)

Oh, that all mothers could be honored and blessed this Mother’s Day!

— Cynthia Sampson


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8 thoughts on “Letter writer: Celebrate Mother’s Day with kindness to animal mothers, too

  1. joe walsh

    As someone who has adopted “farmed animals” (had 50 at one time), I can attest to what the author is laying down (no pun intended to hens). Our chickens (mostly hens) would communicate to one another and if one was off in the pasture at dusk, they’d call out to her or him to hurry up. Our goats were each individuals with distinct personalities– and they esp the females made sure that our horse was included as a member of the herd! They would call out to her from the distance to make sure tht she knew where they were. Some of our non human friends were more gregarious than others (one would ride around in the truck with me, and on occasion sit on my desk chair so as not be left out of my exciting work day). All of our animal friends (including dogs and cats)
    The bottom line for me is that you can be perfectly (and I dare say even more so) healthy on a vegan diet. Go Vegan and No body gets hurt!

  2. Kayla Worden

    Thanks for sharing about the beauty of non-human animal mothers, Cynthia. So true what you say. We invite folks to contact us here at Full Circle Farm Sanctuary to arrange a visit or to volunteer and, in the process, meet our rescued resident farmed animals who are the most wonderful ambassadors for their kind. Tragically, most farmed animals are not nearly so fortunate as those who have been rescued like those who call Full Circle home. The best thing compassionate folks everywhere can do is to live VEGAN. You won’t regret it as you will then be able to look animals in their soulful eyes and know that you are treating them with the respect and compassion they so richly deserve. Check out our upcoming events on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/FullCircleFarmSanctuary or at our website at http://www.FCFSanctuary.org. E-mail us at info@fcfsanctuary.org. Oh, and we’re actually located near Burnsville, NC in Yancey County just northeast of Asheville. :)

    • Ben

      Too bad so many animals don’t treat each other with any compassion. Ever seen what a chicken will do to a mouse that happens to wonder in its vicinity? Trust me. That otherwise well fed chicken will show that mouse absolutely no compassion as it rips it apart alive.

  3. Lea

    What a wonderful article!! I wanted to mention four other vegan meals that I’ve really enjoyed downtown…any of the veggie/tofu dishes minus the dairy at Salsas (6 Patton Avenue) – my favorite is the Sweet Potato Paquete; the Mixed Vegetable Uttapam is sinfully good at Chai Pani (22 Battery Park Avenue); “The Faithful” Savory Crepe minus the dairy at Twisted Crepe (62 Haywood Street) is great; and, last but not least, the Banh Mi Tofu burrito at White Duck Taco Shop (12 Biltmore Avenue) is crave-worthy. For dessert, any of the ‘Elite’ chocolates at Kilwin’s (26 Battery Park) are vegan (I wish they would label them as vegan…) and there is a fabulous vegan chocolate & peanut butter truffle at Chocolate Fetish (36 Haywood Street) that is worth every penny! What a great city to live in for a vegan!

  4. Kayla Worden

    Sadly, animals who are exploited and manipulated (on factory farms and small “family” farms alike) have their families torn apart which is heartbreaking to them. Don’t be fooled by claims such as “humanely raised,” “cage-free,” “free range,” etc.. These are mere marketing ploys. Check out http://www.humanemyth.org for more info. And choose to respect the family bonds of mothers and their babies by living VEGAN. It is the way of Compassion. Thank you.

  5. Martha Clayton Cottrell, MD

    As a Mother, Grandmother, Greatgrandmother I can so appreciate this article. As a Physician, who for almost 40 years have been teaching the health benifits of a plant based diet can only emphysize the win win for all , including the environment . The mental/emotional effects of no longer eating the fear, the pain and suffering that goes into the meat served at the table plus the physicql health benifits are emmense. The medical-pharmaceutical industry entice us with the latest “cures” which do not address the “cause” of illness but merely reduce the symptoms, the underlying cause continues to progress….so indeed as we choose not to support these unhealthy businesses we create our own health , the health of the planet and a humane relationship with all living beings…indeed a win win choice.

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