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Commentary: This Mother's Day, let's honor moms of all species

Rebecca Libauskas, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on

Published in Op Eds

My mother once said to me, “A mother’s work is never done.” It wasn’t until I became a parent myself that I grasped the depth of this token of wisdom. Mother’s Day is a time to acknowledge the hard work mothers do and the sacrifices they make every single day. But as we honor human mothers, let’s also extend recognition to mothers of other species whose stories often go untold. And let’s fully honor all mothers by going vegan.

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I wanted her to listen to music in utero. So I went to a concert and felt her move along to “Tiny Dancer.” Mother hens, similarly, start teaching their chicks clucks and cheeps while they’re still inside their shells. When my babies were little, I “wore” them in back carriers in order to bond with them while I got things done around the house. Wolf spiders, swans, chimpanzees and opossums also carry their offspring on their backs. Making connections with maternal instincts across species reminds us how much all animals are alike on Mother Earth.

For elephants, births are joyful occasions, and the whole family celebrates. Elder females gather around the mother to support and guide her while she’s in labor, while younger females learn about the miracle of childbirth. The entire herd trumpets their delight when the newborn arrives.

Pig moms sing to their newborns, calming the piglets while helping them learn to communicate. When the curious little ones are old enough to explore, they come running when they hear their mother’s voice. Pigs also rush to help other pigs in distress — many have even saved their family members’ lives.

Instead of daycare, baby bats have “nightcare.” Bat moms are busy hunting for food at night, eating up to 600 mosquitoes per hour. So a group of moms gets together and create a “nursery colony,” where they live together. A few adult bats stay behind each night to babysit while the others go out, and they trade the next night.

A statement signed by a coalition of scientists and released in April states that crows, chimpanzees, elephants and numerous other birds and mammals exhibit behavior suggesting consciousness. This is no surprise to anyone who knows animal mothers’ stories. We’re all different yet alike in the ways that count.

But not all mothers are granted equal respect due to speciesism. Animal mothers used for food are denied the opportunity to do anything that’s natural and important to them: Mother hens’ eggs are stolen, and while they’re nursing, mother pigs are confined to farrowing crates so small that they can’t turn around.

Consider Clarabelle, a pregnant cow living at an animal sanctuary. She was acting strangely, avoiding her friends and sneaking away. After a search, volunteers discovered why: Her baby had arrived. Since her other calves had been taken away when she was used on a dairy farm, she had hidden this one in a patch of tall grass, returning to her companions frequently so their guardians wouldn’t suspect anything. As a parent, I’d do the same.

 

Going vegan is a powerful way to help mothers like Clarabelle and all other animals on the planet — including humans. Raising animals for food requires vast quantities of land and resources, including feed, energy and water. According to one extensive study, vegan eating is responsible for emissions of 75% less climate-heating gas as well as reduced water pollution and land use compared to eating over 100 grams of meat daily. Plus, vegan living is associated with a 66% decrease in wildlife depletion and a 54% decrease in water consumption.

Scientific evidence shows that vegan foods also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. For example, in a study conducted by Stanford Medicine, researchers discovered that going vegan can lead to improvements in heart health. The study focused on 22 pairs of identical twins, with one twin in each pair eating vegan and the other eating omnivorously. Results showed that the vegan participants had notably reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), insulin and body weight compared to their omnivorous twins. These changes are all linked to enhanced cardiovascular health.

This Mother’s Day, as we cherish the maternal bonds that enrich our lives, let’s also cultivate a world where all individuals are treated with dignity, compassion and respect by rejecting speciesism. Let’s embrace vegan living for Mother Earth and all the mothers who live on her.

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Rebecca Libauskas is a climate research specialist with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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