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