A former dairy farmer has revealed how she became so overwhelmed with grief from her duties in the industry that she considered taking her own life.
Jessica Strathadee worked with her husband on a farm in Canterbury, New Zealand before she eventually left the industry.
She joined the farm with her partner Andrew Limbe – who was second in command at a farm which housed 600 dairy cows.
“Mothers were birthing outside my window and I was listening to their labour pains all night, then watching them loving and cleaning their babies until my partner came with the tractor and the cage and took those babies away from them forever,” she told stuff.co.nz.
“I almost lost my mind with grief then, I couldn’t believe what I had been so complicit in and what evil I had been closing my eyes and heart to while I lived there.”
Her guilt became more intense after becoming a mother herself, to the point she considered taking her own life.
“Even my love for my son wouldn’t have kept me on this earth with the horror I was guilty of inflicting,” she explained.
Strathadee described herself as an ‘ignorant meat and dairy consumer’ when she arrived at the farm, and was initially proud of her role in the industry which is central to the local economy.
But her opinion changed immediately after she discovered babies being separated from their mothers.
“I just looked at the pen full of babies covered in afterbirth, their navels still bloody, and thought, ‘f…, these are real babies’,” she told stuff.co.nz.
“I realised what it took to get the milk. They weren’t machines, they were babies who wanted their mums.”
Strathadee left the farm with her partner, and the pair have both switched to a vegan lifestyle along with their two children, and she is also working towards a degree in politics and social policy.
She is now a prominent animal rights activist and regularly gives speeches about her experiences.
In one speech, she said: “My name is Jessica Strathdee and earlier this year I had my transition from carnist to vegan. Pretty publicly outed with this article in Woman’s Day.
“But the one thing I wanted to get up here and say that they didn’t mention in the article which I thought was the most relevant, the most important part of my story, was that while dairy farming I myself was a breastfeeding mother.
“I still am a breastfeeding mother and I will never take that job or the honour to be able to nourish my child from my own body lightly after what I’ve seen in the industry.
“So that’s 2,300 babies whose mothers were denied the right to feed their young.
“And that’s something that haunts me to this day because I was responsible. And it’s the reason why I will never stop talking about the dairy industry and the horrors that go in the dairy industry.
“And I’ll never take for granted my right to feed my own child.”
- Read: Miyoko’s Creamery to help dairy farms move into plant-based agriculture in a win-win opportunity
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