Julie DickinsonBorn of the Herd
Animal Rights Poetry By Julie Dickinson From All-Creatures.org

Poems of compassion dedicated to the non-human animals who share this planet with us and the people who fight for them.

Born of the Herd
By Julie Dickinson

In twenty-four hours you will be removed from your mother, her scent and short-lived familiarity. Her protection. You won’t have her milk, that is for us.

[This second person, creative fiction piece was written in response to the writer and academic, Alex Lockwood’s ‘The Collaborative Craft of Creaturely Writing’ (referenced below) and depiction of ‘Anton.’ ]

cruel dairy
Art by Julie Dickinson

You were born in a state of confusion. Down the birth canal as you fight and wriggle for life. You fall out, glistening, alive, yet unable to quite make your legs work. A rough tongue licks you from above as air sweeps into your lungs. You cry out, voiced, at once an individual. You would have liked to remain that, just you and you alone. No one can be in your place. I imagine that I call you Emerald or little Emmy, because the green fields are so vivid that day, as if painted by an unseen god-like hand.

In twenty-four hours you will be removed from your mother, her scent and short-lived familiarity. Her protection. You won’t have her milk, that is for us. The rest of the cows will watch you leave, and she will mourn you. But you’re luckier than some, having those limited hours to feel comforted. Some are removed earlier, despite the ruse of meeting alleged farming standards.

You are not allowed to be fully realised, Emmy. You are an object and your keen mooing is gut wrenching to me. The sound, once endearing from childhood now a fraudulent depiction of an iconic British countryside. I shrivel inside and know that doesn’t help you. Though at least I do not turn from your plight. I honour you in sorts, your individuality, your brief life, suffering and future death. We control you. We make sure you are never fully ‘animal,’ within your species, social bonds and behaviours, engaged fully in the green fields that were made for you as well as us. We isolate, restrict, kill and package your body parts under plastic. And we are so efficient about it, you vanish without a trace as if you were a myth.

You mother is milked until death. You will never see her again in this life. Your father, a sperm donor, is part of the human machinery of forced insemination. And as night falls you watch through the bars of your crate, Emmy, alone and confused. Calling out as your mother does in the distance. Breathing in the darkness. A veal plate future, a beef cow, a new future dairy queen. You may die earlier in your crate. In some cases, exposed and in a ringed pen with barely any cover, lying in filth and rain drenched soil. You tremble and shiver as an activist’s camera’s tries to capture you. Transform your image to a banner of disgust and severe wake-up call. I want to take every one of you out of there, Emmy, in a limitless rescue. A recognition of the inherent wrong doing of my kind. I am so sorry, Emmy, that I am not there for you.

The human animal will, at its best, do anything to prevent your suffering, at its worse, create an illusion and convenient fog of propaganda to mask your state. I have no excuses for you, Emmy. We can no longer say we are blind. Some days I want to walk with you to face your horrors. To stand between you and the smell of the slaughterhouse, the snaking pens that hide the raw truth and brutal end up ahead. But I imagine you know what’s coming, being far more attuned than me. And the only way I can live with myself is to say that I will continue to remember you. Your individuality. I will imagine myself amongst billions who do not see you as a corporate statistic, product, or something to be simply shot in the head. You will not have suffered in vain, little Emmy. I will never wash the imagined blood from my hands. Your blood Emmy, your mother’s blood, and all of your kind.

Reference

Alex Lockwood. ‘The Collaborative Craft of Creaturely Writing.’ In Beyond the Human-Animal Divide: Creaturely Lives in Literature and Culture. Ed. Dominik Ohrem and Roman Bartosch. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

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