Mother-infant separation occurs when an mother an her child are torn apart from each other and forced to live in separate areas. Any mother can relate to the fear of losing one’s child, but this is something animals on farms must go through every second of every day, and often must endure the agony of being unable to care for their offspring multiple times in their lives after multiple pregnancies. The bond between a mother and her child is perhaps the strongest bond found in all of nature, especially regarding mammals. In evolution, this is because in order for a species to ensure that the next generation will thrive (and that their genetics were successfully passed to the next generation), they must care for their babies long enough to teach them how to survive on their own, as well as protect them from predators who prey on the smallest and weakest of a herd or group. A mother-infant bond is necessary for the survival of many mammalian species.
Mother-infant separation is exemplified in the dairy industry. In fact the dairy industry is built on top of it and would crumble without it. This is due to the simple fact that in order to produce enough milk to be profitable, a dairy cow must be impregnated and give birth every year. However, when she gives birth the first thing the calf will want to do is suckle. The dairy industry does not produce milk for cows, it produces milk for humans, as cows don’t have money and are unable to pay. To solve this problem the dairy industry takes the calf away from the mother and hooks her up to a milking machine so they can sell the milk to greedy humans who, unlike the calf, have absolutely no biological or nutritional need for it. The calf is either sold into slavery as a dairy cow (female), fattened up on a feedlot in the meat industry (male or female), or chained to a filthy stall where they are unable to turn around or lay down comfortably and slaughtered for veal (male). Calfs are denied the milk that nature and their own mothers intended for them and are instead fed synthetic formula. Mother cows will bellow for days and nights on end, calling out to their stolen child. There have even been instances of mother cows escaping and traveling many miles until they are later found suckling their baby. A decision no mother should have to make, dairy cows who have had twins have even had to make the decision to sacrifice one of the children so that she other could be free in hiding.
Pigs must also endure mother-infant separation. Once a sow is near to giving birth, she is moved to a farrowing crate. Farrowing crates are similar to gestation crates in that they are designed to restrict the movement of the sow, however they are built with the added purpose of allowing newly born piglets to suckle. After two to three weeks the piglets are taken from the mother and she is reimpregnated and put back inside of a gestation crate. The piglets are fattened up in a process called “finishing” and slaughtered at about five months old.
Chickens in egg farms go through mother-infant separation as well. Although they never get to see their babies hatch, hens are very protective of their eggs. They have very strong mothering instincts have been known to defend their children to the death. Their mothering instincts are so strong that in the wild, they will even steal the eggs of other hens and care for them as their own. The egg industry denies hens the ability to perform basic instinctual functions that are an integral part of a hen’s psychological health.