Cheri Ezell was working as a goat milk farmer when she met her husband, Jim Vandersluis, a dairy farmer.
“One day I entered the barn while he was milking and noticed an obviously ill calf. When I questioned what would happen to her, he told me regardless of the calf’s illness, she would be sent to a livestock dealer where she would be sold for meat. I learned that dairy cows have to be bred every year in order to continue to produce milk, and how their calves are taken from them shortly after birth–they’re lucky if they get colostrum from their mom, which is the first milk that is important for their survival. While some of the calves are kept as replacement heifers, most of them are sent to slaughter or the veal operations, which is a very short life, and not a happy life.
The verbalizations made by mother and baby as they bond are just one small aspect of their emotional lives that we humans tear apart. The mother calls for her baby for many days after they’re separated. How can such a thing ever be called “humane?”
In time, our consciences would not allow us to continue milking our cows for the purpose of producing dairy products. Instead, we increased the goat herd and began to sell goat milk. I thought, perhaps this was an alternative — I could have the animals and I could have the milk, and the babies could go for pets… But we still had to make a living, and I soon realized I couldn’t possibly make enough money from the amount of milk that I was producing and then have the babies go for pets. There were just so many babies, every year you have to have babies. And not very many people are interested in buying goats as pets.
In certain communities, it’s tradition to have baby goat meat during the Easter holiday. So our farm was overwhelmed every Spring by people looking for baby goats. We would weigh the 25-35 pound kids, and the customers paid. They were then hogtied and literally thrown into a trunk or the back of a pick-up truck like a piece of luggage. Jim soon was saying, “I will carry the goat,” and he would gently put the goat into their vehicle. One day we were standing by the gate of the goat barn, listening to one of our baby goats being driven away, crying in the trunk of the car. It was at this horrific moment that Jim and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes and began our journey to a no-kill life.
Jim and I have since left the dairy industry and converted our farm into a sanctuary for farmed animals, wildlife, and companion animals…for Jim and me, there is now a very clear distinction between humane and inhumane farming. Humane farming is cultivating a plant-based diet. Inhumane farming is breeding any sentient being for production and consumption.”
— Read Cheri’s full account of her and her husband’s transition to veganism and animal activism here. You can also follow their story in the documentary, Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home.