Philip Lymbery | Why all Mothers Matter
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Why all Mothers Matter

Image: Karen Playford

I often wonder in years to come, if future generations will look back on these times with despair and sadness when they see how we treated our fellow man and the animals who shared this planet with us, let alone how we plundered our natural resources. Will they look back and understand why we have behaved in this way or will they be angry that we have stolen so much of their planet and its riches to satisfy our short term gains?

This weekend is Mother’s Day, a time for many of us to remember what our own mother means to us. Much has been written about the unique bond of unconditional love that exists between a mother and her young, be it in the human or animal world. The wondrous instinct that no one teaches but exists within all mothers to protect, nurture, and love their own flesh and blood. It is a bond that one cannot get from any other relationship and that for many species transcends time.

Humans are not the only ones who sacrifice their own needs and go to amazing lengths to love and protect their young. In the animal kingdom there are some legendary examples, from the orangutan whose young stay with their mother for six to seven years with the females returning to revisit their mother many years later, to the humpback whale’s unfailing and completely committed devotion to her calf. Mother Nature’s inbuilt instinct in all species is to help the young flourish and to teach them how to survive, so they may eventually leave the nest and continue life on earth.

Who cannot be moved by images that show this love or indeed be deeply saddened when seeing a mother parted from her young, or a baby separated from its mother. Pictures like those of displaced baby organutans, victims of deforestation in Borneo or the recent film on social media of a cow chasing down the road after her calves.

 

For many factory farm animals, this unique mother relationship is broken and treated with zero respect. Consider the cycle of an industrially farmed dairy cow – a milk machine, whose short life is to give birth to calves, only to have them taken away at birth with many of the males being shot or transported for veal. Or the permanently pregnant, factory farmed sow whose life in a confined indoor cell, otherwise known as a farrowing crate, means she cannot turn around let alone connect and play with her piglets.

It need not be this way.

Free-ranging animals on pasture can run and jump and stretch their legs and wings. They can scratch and graze and peck and root, express their nature and enjoy the freedom to behave normally with their young and one another. This gift of freedom matters so much to them and at the same time we gain healthier, more nutritious food. Animals raised and fed on grass – the fruit of a timeless interaction between sun, rain and soil – provides meat lower in saturated fats and higher in health-giving nutrients like omega-3s.

I am reminded that probably one of the most endearing and loving qualities of a mother’s instinct is that it often transcends their own children. Like a cow that allows an orphaned calf to draw milk; motherhood is not just about having one’s own children but about taking care of, loving and nurturing life.

On this Mother’s Day 8th March, can I urge us all to take a stand for the mothers in our broken factory farmed systems around the world and encourage others to do the same? Through our food choices three times a day, we can support the best animal welfare and bring landscapes to life. It is as easy as choosing to eat more plants, having meat-free days, and choosing less and better meat, milk and eggs from pasture-fed, free-range or organic animals.

We must live in harmony with Mother Nature. The future of all life on earth, of future generations and indeed, of all mothers, depends upon us.