HOW I, AN EX-DAIRY FARMER'S DAUGHTER, BECAME A TRUE ANIMAL LOVER
By Kirstine Høj, Direct Action Everywhere’s Danish chapter
I have never considered myself an animal lover— even as I went vegan. I did it for justice, because I realized that there is no excuse for animal (ab)use.
I grew up on a dairy farm. Most of the time, I saw the cows through the window (as I am writing this, my heart hurts). They had chains around their necks, bound in the front to a long iron pipe. That was my view through the windows inside the house. I saw slaves degraded to milking machines. So how could I possibly obtain a natural and loving relationship to other animal species during my childhood? The fact is that I did not; and the reason might very well be that my empathy for my nonhuman friends was blocked from a very early age. I do not blame anyone for this; all I am saying is that I think my experiences shaped this disconnect.
Neither do I hate my dad, not at all. He took over the family farm - which was bought around 1870 - as the fourth generation, did like his ancestors did and took as good care of the animals as he could under the conditions of slavery. He even let the young calves be on grass for summer, even though it was conventional agriculture. My mom also grew up on a dairy farm, and I talk unwaveringly and unapologetically with both of them about the seriousness of the animal rights issue. Because of my background, I feel a special obligation to speak out for the nonhuman animals, until they all have achieved their freedom. I have noticed that the fact that I myself grew up on a farm and now am a part of the animal rights movement makes a strong impression on people. Therefore I feel it is important to tell my story, even though I in many ways am a quite private person. I also do it to underline that being vegan and being the daughter of a (now former) farmer is indeed possible. Animal rights is an issue for everybody, since it’s the biggest injustice, as I wrote about in an earlier blog post.
Disconnected and misinformed
I am a bit ashamed to say that throughout my upbringing, I thought that my dad was doing the animals a favor by milking them. Cause they had to be milked, right? The horrifying truth is that their milk is mother's milk meant for their babies, and that humans are separating babies from mothers and destroying families. Neither the baby calves nor the mother cows ever even got to see the fathers - the bulls - whose sperm was forced into the cows by artificial insemination (in other words, rape). Humans rape livestock to keep the production and profit going. They put their hands in the cow and eject sperm. It is sexual abuse, and it's happening as a standard practice— considered normal. I have seen it with my own eyes on the farm.
That I became vegan had nothing to do with a youthful rebellion, but everything to do with justice. It wasn’t easy to say to my parents that I had become vegan; but it was necessary. Since then, I have begun to love animals – and I do not mean that as a cliché. I mean: I love them from the bottom of my heart, and it hurts me to know how they’re suffering on such a massive scale. I believe I’ve always loved them; but I wasn’t able to realize it, because I was a part of the horrific system called animal exploitation. Luckily, some ex-farmers have made the connection and are now vegan animal rights activists. Especially because of my background, it saddens me that I now and then hear vegans talk about farmers as if they are the scum of the Earth. Because they are not. They are just as conditioned as vegans were we/they became vegans.
The hardest for me about going vegan
The hardest thing for me about going vegan wasn't to realize what speciesism (discrimination of animals because of species) is, and that it is wrong; it was to realize that what happened to the animals on my dad's farms was wrong. In fact I have found myself being traumatized: Mental pictures from the farm, where I grew up sometimes follow me like pictures from war follows a soldier. I just had a nearly sleepless night while writing this blog post with pictures of every day life for the animals there and new realizations about it. If you are not a vegan, that might sound ‘extreme’, but if you understand that I now value non human animals as much as humans, it is easier to understand. For the animals it was an Eternal Treblinka, and that is exactly what I am seeing in my nearly sleepless nights and on a bad day too when I see people eating dairy products.
I haven't driven by the farm, where I grew up since becoming a vegan. But I could imagine I would have a little breakdown seeing the place again. Now I know. Now I know that the baby calves (obviously) need to be with their mothers and not being taken away to be by themselves in what I in my fantasy thought of as a calves kindergarten except calves were always there. I somehow twisted myself into thinking, that it made perfect sense, that the calves were together in another stable. Imagine if I had made the connection about what happened while living there. Now I know that the reason the calves liked to lick my hands most probably was that they instinctively missed to get milk from their mothers’ utters, even though they never had. Now I know being born be being dragged out with iron chains around the legs isn’t natural. What I describe are normal practices in the dairy industry.
Speak out for the animals!
I’ve always been very opposed to any kind of injustice I saw and been very engaged in a lot of matters. So when faced with the biggest injustice of all – humans’ exploitation of other animals - it was natural for me to do my best to end it. As I wrote I am a very private person. But if telling my story can make just one person – and preferably the whole world - to stop exploiting animals it’s all worth it. My difficulties with sharing this is nothing compared to what the animals, who I love so much, go through in every moment of their way too short lives. However, it is not mandatory to love nonhuman animals - as I do now - to become a vegan, an anti-speciesist or animal rights activist, since animal liberation is about social justice. As an activist powerfully said in our Ghosts in Our Machine October Day of Action: “We are not asking for your compassion, and we are not asking for your mercy. But we are asking for justice.”
I don’t know why it is that people often tend to relate better to personal stories and seem to be very interested in that I grew up on a dairy farm and now am an animal rights activist. I have experienced that when leafleting about veganism. I – like any other vegan – are not the interesting ones here. For once there is a subject, which isn’t about humans. I wish it was enough just to tell about what the animals experience, and that all of it is unnecessary and must end. I hope my story made an impact. My message on behalf of the non human slaves around the world is: SPEAK OUT FOR ANIMAL LIBERATION UNTIL EVERY ANIMAL IS SAFE, HAPPY, AND FREE. That is what I want you to remember the most from this blog post. Please do so. Thank you.