Yesterday I was unpleasantly struck by the incongruence of the following two stories on the subject of mammals that suck their mothers’ milk.
The first is this, from the BBC website, about a recent issue of Time magazine with a cover story on the subject of attachment parenting. The Time cover features a picture of an attractive blonde woman suckling a sturdy male child as an illustration of so-called ‘extreme’ breastfeeding. Apparently, a whole lot of people are hot under the collar about the possible exploitation of the child and the dubious motives of the people who chose to use this image to illustrate the story.
I’ve previously been pretty pro- when it comes to breastfeeding. I don’t have much time for the delicate sensibilities of people who don’t have a squalling hungry infant and breasts bulging with baby food.
But in the light of this second story, from Compassion in World Farming, I find all my sympathy for the modern young mums draining out of me and I just want to shake them.
I myself (to my shame) cannot bear to watch the CIWF footage or read the extended account but the gist of the story is that 166 unweaned calves – n.b., ‘unweaned’ meaning still dependent on their mother’s milk – were taken by road and sea on a 1,100+ mile, 35-hour journey to Europe so that they could be fattened for the veal trade in a location outside the UK.
The crucifying element of the story, for me, is that these poor animals were so young that on this horrible journey they were trying to suckle each other. Did you get that, world? They were trying to suckle each other. They wanted their mothers.
When information such as this comes forcibly into my consciousness, when it no longer just floats around in the mess of background information that I know must be true, I cannot prevent the tilt that occurs in my allegiance. To balance out such extreme cruelty and exploitation, I cannot help but shift the weight of my care and concern towards the creatures whose lives are valued so lightly.
Therefore, Mums of America, know thou that I scorn you. If I were editing Time, I would have gleefully selected this cover image in the full knowledge of its potency. It’s challenging and clever, and may well become iconic.
What do you think?