When PETA’s undercover investigator first sent photos and video footage of Jerry and Peter to PETA headquarters, I was doubtful that the calves would live to experience clean earth beneath their feet, fresh air in their lungs, and warm sunlight on their fur. Jerry couldn’t see, and Peter couldn’t stand. They both were infested with lice and had ringworm infections and pinkeye. Peter was nearly drowning in the urine-soaked and feces-covered pen in which he was confined.
Both male calves were born on a dairy factory farm in Pennsylvania. Of course, the reason that female cows produce milk is to feed their own calves (not people!), which means that they must be impregnated and give birth before they will lactate. Although considered by their mothers to be beloved infants, male calves are considered by farmers to be inconvenient byproducts—just something to get rid of in the milk-generating process. Female calves are doomed to a lifetime of milk production.
On this particular factory farm, the conditions were so filthy that cows were forced to live ankle-deep in their own waste, and many calves went blind from painful pinkeye infections. Dead animals were left in a barn with live animals for days. In fact, one mother cow was left in a stall with the bloody body of her calf.
PETA’s investigator purchased Peter and Jerry, and we rushed them to The Cow Sanctuary, which is run by Helga Tacreiter, an honest-to-goodness guardian angel to cows on Earth. With much love and medical treatment, both survived. I had the good fortune to visit Peter and Jerry last weekend in order to report on their progress. Their transformations are hard to believe and so heartwarming!
Jerry is a shy type. He will likely always be a sort of wall flower because of physical challenges caused by the diseases that plagued him and his mother on the filthy farm. His sight is impaired from pinkeye scarring, which may have heightened his sense of smell. It’s precious the way that he walks along sniffing everything on the ground—the earth, plants, and rocks—much like a large hound dog. He seems to like to stand near fences, which might help him feel secure, and he is often found standing side-by-side with Peter, the other calf who was rescued from the dairy farm.
Peter always looks out for Jerry, but he also spends a lot of time with Victor, the smallest and youngest of the three babies at the sanctuary. Victor came to the sanctuary just a couple of days after Peter—he was rescued by a local animal control department from a religious family who was going to sacrifice him in a ceremony. The three boy calves comprise their own separate herd but play with the big cows when supervised. Peter and Victor interact with the big cows in much the same way that puppies and kittens do with adult dogs and cats—always trying to get them to play when the adults just want to rest. They love to get chin scratches and treats such as apples and bread, which are part of the daily routine.
Helga believes that Peter will one day be the herd leader because of his serious confidence and great personality. I agree, and it brings tears to my eyes when I remember the video and photos of him when he was first seen by our investigator. Not only did Jerry and Peter survive to know physical comfort and emotional stability, they are also both very happy.
And little Victor makes three. A perfect little herd of growing young steers who will live out a natural life—something that is extremely rare for cows today. By becoming a PETA monthly donor, you’ll allow us to continue saving animals like Jerry and Peter through our groundbreaking investigative work. You can also help by letting your friends and family members know that laws covering animals used by the dairy industry are weak and by asking them to support our 12-point program and reduce their own consumption of dairy products.
Do you think that people know about the cruelty in the dairy industry?