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Under the Shadow

The cow pictured is pregnant and resting under a tree. She is instantly tense and wary at the approach of a human, her distrust and unease clear in her eyes and the tension of her body as she poises to lumber to her feet.

The idyllic myth of farm animals living happy carefree existences, frolicking in green pastures while their every need is catered to; serves to soothe the conscience of consumers of post slaughter products. 

This cow brings a moment of her story into our view. 

The obscenity of the "lived a good life" argument...when that life is an illusion overshadowed by the certainty of violent death.

The Mother-to-be looks stressed and distrusting. Behind the dark buildings loom in the distance. Ultimately nothing good lies ahead for her or her baby. 

The slaughterhouse in the background of the painting is from an old photo of a historical Australian abattoir. 


The purpose of this series of Narrative Art pieces is to bring to viewers a tension which invites further thought and information seeking. You are not being told what to think - you are being offered a journey of discovery - perhaps deeper self awareness along with an expansion of knowledge to guide your own actions.

With that in mind, take the steps into a world of reflection and go beyond the words below....imagine yourself in the minds and bodies of the animals and feel their experience.

Bravely feel your own discomfort and resistance and step forward anyway with a kind heart and clear mind.

What does 'Highest standards', 'Protected', 'Welfare', 'Humane' and 'Guidelines' really mean. Behind the soothing jargon is there something more sinister?

Like Alice in Wonderland... welcome to the rabbit hole, may your journey be enriching.

Under the Shadow: Text

In the Shadows

People like to imagine that 'beef' cows get to 'keep' their calves with them for an extended happy period. In some instances this will be the case but the larger and more intensive the farming practice the less likely the little family stays together for more than a few months during which time the babies will likely also be dehorned and the males castrated:


Early weaning of beef calves

has become more popular in recent years for a number of reasons including better utilisation of limited feed and as a drought management tool. There is plenty of experience to show that it can be done well. However if it is not done well the impact on weaner survival rate and performance can be significant.

In most situations you would aim to have calves at least 12 weeks of age or around 100kg live weight before weaning.....

If cow survival is of concern, calves can be weaned earlier than this, but calves less than 80kg are harder to manage. They may require some milk replacer in their diet and concentrates during the rumen development phase.

The calves and adult cows can be transported and kept in holding pens at livestock exchange and slaughterhouse for extended periods without food and water.

Class of cattle

Maximum time off water (hours)

Cattle over 6 months old 48

Calves 30 days to 6 month old 24

Lactating cows with calves at foot 24

Calves 5 - 30 days old travelling without mothers 18 

Cows known to more than 6 months pregnant, excluding the last 4 weeks 24

According to Clark Tanks Australia :

A lactating cow has water requirements of up to 100 litres per day. And yet she can be legally transported without food or water for 24 hours.

Young animals and adults can require from 25 to 80 litres of water per day - yet they can be transported and held for up to 48 hours without food, water or rest.

Most people want the best for animals and want to believe that the words 'humane' and 'welfare' mean that animals have not suffered nor experienced pain or fear. There is a fairytale idea that animals are transported effortlessly and walk quietly into a slaughterhouse- are stunned before they realize what is happening and then are swiftly chopped up into steaks without any stress or hassle.

The truth is far from this ideal.

Those who are defensive about the reality of suffering throughout any industry related to animals, are quick to claim that the documentaries revealing truths are not representative. 

Having personally spoken to 4 ex-slaughterhouse workers I have listened to very disturbing and distressing accounts of cruelty and suffering as common practice.

Take time to learn what the industry standards actually are and make your own mind up. Stop and reflect.

The words 'protected' and 'adequately fed' sound reassuring in the account below. However reading further reveals that a transport time of 18 hours from time of last feed is acceptable as is a time off feed of 30 hours in total. This is for very young calves ( 5 to 30 days old)

Bobby Calves are protected under the 'Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines Land Transport of Livestock'.

The Land Transport Standards specifiy bobby calves:

between 5 and 30 days old travelling without mothers must:

  • be protected from cold and heat

  • be in good health, alert and able to rise from a lying position

  • have been adequately fed milk or milk replacer on the farm within 6 hours of transport

  • be prepared and transported to ensure delivery in less than 18 hours from last feed with no more than 12 hours spent on transports; and

  • have an auditable and accessible record system that identifies the calves were last fed within 6 hours of transport unless the journey is between rearing properties and is less than 6 hours' duration.

In addition, the dairy industry and its supply chain partners have agreed to an industry time-off-feed standard of 30 hours. Industry has also committed to tagging calves so that their movement along the supply chain can be tracked.

When nursing from their mothers, young calves will drink between 7 to 10 times a day, though their meals will be fairly small. If you're thinking that there's no way you can do so many feedings every day, that's OK! Bottle-fed calves only require 2 to 3 feedings a day — and that's a much more manageable number.

Under the Shadow: Text

Leave me alone

The wariness on this cows expression reflects a life of fear and confusion. She has no autonomy, she is exploited for her reproductive system - forced to produce calves for the meat industry. 
She may not know the truth- may not be aware of the shadow of the slaughterhouse hanging over her...but she clearly is aware that nothing good comes in human form.

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