To produce milk, a cow must be kept almost continually pregnant. Her life is an unending cycle of sexual exploitation, deprivation and heartache, having calf after calf taken from her just hours after birth. The bond between a mother and her calf is strong and both mother and baby cry for days after their forced separation.
This painting came about as I was struggling to come to terms with a comment I always get at the end of talks and one that we all see posted on images or videos exposing cruelty in animal agriculture: “I’m going to keep eating animals and animal products but I don’t support abuse “. It always baffles and infuriates me because somehow the message got lost that all animals trapped in the animal agriculture industry – whether factory farm or small scale farm – endure abuse daily. Why do we only recognize a raised fist or a kick as abuse when much more insidious, long-term devastating abuse is overlooked? The forced separation of mother and calf that the dairy industry relies on is a perfect example. We need to stop giving ourselves a cop-out. Animal agriculture is based on ripping families apart, forcing them to exist in unnatural conditions, exploiting their reproductive systems and finally, brutally taking their lives from them. We can talk about all the welfare issues we want but at its heart, animal agriculture relies on completely taking away the freedom – and lives – of animals.
Originally from a small, farming community, I connected with farmed animals from an early age.
I’ve been an animal cruelty investigator for over a decade, working as the Canadian Head of Investigations for international animal advocacy organization Animals’ Angels, Canadian-based organizations Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Farmed Animals and the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition, and most recently as the Director of Investigations for Mercy For Animals Canada where I oversaw the completion and release of seven undercover investigations.
I’ve been fortunate to have a good working relationship with the media who helped provide exposure of the horrors inherent in animal agriculture through investigative pieces, including No Country for Animals (Global National), Bêtes à bord (CBC Radio-Canada), No Country for Horses (CBC National), Food for Thought (CTV W5), Cruel Business (CTV W5), Behind the Barn Door (CTV W5) and These Little Piggies (CTV W5).
All of my work – investigative and artistic – seeks to challenge our basic beliefs about farmed animals and foster a sense of compassion for all animals.