Mothers and Daughters and Sons and Steaks, by Michelle Schaefer, VLCE

Photo of poster: unknown artist by Michelle Schaefer

Rachel isn’t her name. It’s the name I’ve given inmate 47973, for she was stripped of her name the minute they put her in prison, though she committed no crime. Barely old enough for an estrous cycle, Rachel is pregnant with her second baby. She feels him growing inside her. Although conceived through rape, Rachel loves him fiercely and will fight to protect him when he’s born. She will lose that fight and her son will be taken from her as her first baby was. Nine months inside her, and they will take him and do horrible things to him and she cannot stop it. They will pump Rachel’s breasts, but her baby won’t get the nutrients. Her tender nipples will crack and bleed; they will leak pus and she’ll be in pain.

Jeremiah isn’t his name. It’s the name I’ve given inmate 61928, as he was never given a name. Jeremiah was given a cell so small he could not turn around. Deprived of nutrients, he didn’t grow right. He never knew fresh air. They killed him when he was a child. He was luckier than his older sister, Jessica; more fortunate than his mother, Rachel.

Jessica isn’t her name. This is the name I’ve given inmate 52093, because she never received a name. She was taken from her mother, Rachel, the moment she was born and raped the moment she became fertile. She lives the same as her mother—the one she grew inside of for nine months; the one she frantically looked around for at birth; the mother who cried for her when she was taken—the mother she never knew. She didn’t know her brother, Jeremiah, born after her. She does not know what will happen to the baby now growing inside her or what will become of her.

A woman from Syracuse, New York, actually named Rachel, shouts her order as she tells her children to pipe down. It’s hot and everyone wants a vanilla ice cream cone—except for the youngest, who wants a chocolate shake.

A man from Kansas City, Kansas, given the name Jeremiah, treats his clients to dinner at the steak house before their flight. Jeremiah know what businessmen want. Only the youngest member of the team flinches, but the rest order the veal, enjoying being treated like royalty.

A high school sophomore from Denver, Colorado, whose parents named her Jessica, is at a restaurant with friends. They order elaborate meals most will throw away. To avoid judgement, Jessica orders the double-bacon cheeseburger like her new friend, a senior, instead of the black-bean burger she’d prefer.

Cows must give birth in order to lactate. Artificially inseminated on what the industry calls the rape rack, their babies are stolen from them minute they’re born. The mothers cry out for days. Without dairy, veal wouldn’t exist. Cows carry their babies for nine months, just as human do. They love their babies and, just as humans, they long to nurse, nuzzle, and bond with their babies. They cry, and some go crazy when their babies are taken from them, just as we would. What we put into our mouths is our choice. We can vote with our dollars, whether or not we’re brilliant, famous or wealthy. It’s empowering to realize that something as simple as, “Will you please make that with almond milk, instead of dairy?” can change the course of history and put us on a collective path to end suffering without compromising our lifestyles.

Compassionate eating simply makes life better for everyone. I swear on my mother’s life, it’s true.

Michelle Schaefer has her B.A. in writing, M.A. in psychology, and is a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator. She writes a weekly Meatless Monday column for the Journal & Courier (jconline.com) . She may be reached at veggiechel.com.




7 thoughts on “Mothers and Daughters and Sons and Steaks, by Michelle Schaefer, VLCE”

  1. Michelle- Your essay is beautifully poetic while still being a poignant polemic. I seldom share such vegan “propaganda” (let’s be honest, to carnivores all veg lit is propaganda) with my carnivore and lacto-veg friends, but this I will duly share. Thank you!

  2. Michelle – Your essay is a poignant polemic while still being beautifully poetic. I seldom share veg propaganda (let’s be honest, to carnivores all veg lit is relegated to propaganda), but this I will duly share with carnivore and lacto-veg friends. Thank You!

    1. Oh, Mark: you are the best! And Michelle: if you don’t know the work of Mark Mathew Braunstein, notably RADICAL VEGETARIANISM, a classic and a page-turner, ya gotta read it.

  3. Wow. This is beautifully written and terribly tragic. I cried reading it and will share it with those who need to understand where their precious cheese comes from.

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