Occasionally when I am documenting on a working farm, I encounter a non-human resident there who connects. This breed of cow, a Jersey, is considered a dairy cow, but she has lived on a cattle and sheep ranch in Chileno Valley, California, often hanging out with sheep. Most ranchers will tel you that animals bound for slaughter are not named. The year before this picture, when she was a calf, she received the name Dolly.
Sorrely is a gelding who lives and works on a cattle ranch in Petaluma, California, gathering cows. He is usually surrounded by rolling hills and cow hands, but here, isolated against a bright, blown out sky, he is only himself, independent of context, use and environment. It's easy to project on beings who do not tell us their thoughts. When I see this image, I wonder how his senses process the world, and what people signify to him.
This mother competed professionally in western events. Unless sold, her foal will grow up on this training ranch in Petaluma, California, and be groomed to compete.
In a natural environment, domesticated pigs could live to be in their twenties. They are slaughtered at about 6-7 months.
Stinson Beach, California. This ladybug was an intrepid explorer, cresting mountains of sand the size of my thumb only to fall back and start again, or be helplessly overturned until I set her on her feet. The anatomy of a ladybug's eyes suggests they only see generalized shapes of black and white, so from her vantage point I might have appeared to be the end of the world. In the near distance, Henry waits, and a walker looks our way.
I spent a day photographing at the International Primate Protection League in Summerville, South Carolina. The monkeys at IPPL are mostly retired from being subjects of experiments in laboratories or rescued from the exotic pet trade. The founder of IPPL Shirley McGreal discusses some of the realities and issues around primate use in her Moments Of Truthinterview.
Mariposa, California. In the sorting event to come, this cow will be blocked and then herded and then chased.
Petaluma, California. A new foal on a training ranch for the sport of cutting with his mother.
Cattle vs Wild Horses
In large part to support cattle ranching interests, the U.S Bureau of Land Management rounds up wild horses who are permanently removed from the range and transported to holding facilities where most live out the remainder of their lives. The chief reason for these removals is competition for space and resources with cattle operations that lease the land from the government. More than 50,000 wild horses are being held in these facilities across the U.S., at taxpayer expense. See the project's interview and short films about these roundups.
Wild Horse Holding
Outside Burns, Oregon. A horse is tagged and waiting at at he Oregon Bureau of Land Management holding facility. More than 50,000 horses are held a taxpayer's expense in facilities like these. The BLM has infrequent success adopting out horses removed from the wild, and pressures from cattle ranching continue to shrink the allotted public lands space for wild horses. Programs are under consideration to sterilize mares as an alternative to the roundups and to reduce the numbers at these facilities. To learn more watch this interview with the Oregon BLM director and two short features.
Durant, Oklahoma. Each week the stockyard in Durant opens for sale day. I met a woman there who comes regularly with her husband, and she walked with me on a platform above the cows that were for sale, explaining what the stickers on their backs signified and also what attracted her to these sales. That encounter is available here to view.
Sonoma County, California. These orphaned raccoons were in foster care after arriving at wildlife rescue facility.
Forks, Pennsylvania. Henry and I visited Forks farm on a cold February morning, and as I tagged along with John on morning chores, we discussed the economic, ethical and environmental considerations around raising animals for food, touching on differences between small farming and industrial scale and how agriculture influences ecosystems. "Whatever, anyone thinks about raising, slaughtering and eating animals,"John wrote to me afterwards, "we (Forks Farmers) feel that it is our duty as livestock farmers to raise animals in comfort in their natural environment and treat them with respect."
Outside this weaning hut a calf waits.
The Psychology of Milk
The calf in this picture was born the day before. On dairies, female calves are removed from their mothers after one to two days, after receiving colostrum, and placed in weaning huts where they will receive a powder formula while their mothers' milk is delivered to humans. Male calves cannot be part of dairy operations, so after they are removed from their mothers they are typically slaughtered.
This is a Wisconsin dairy photographed from the highway. The white boxes in front are the weaning huts for 1-2 day old calves permanently separated from their mothers. Mothers are inseminated every 11 months so that they will bear another calf, who will again be removed, and continue producing milk for human products.
This is a view inside a hut where this female calf will receive formula until she is old enough to join a herd. Male calves cannot stay on a dairy, so they are trucked away for slaughter.
This is a typical U.S dairy in Western Colorado, where cows live in confinement facilities without access to pasture and attached to milking machines usually 3 times per day. According to Penn State's Agricultural College, "During the last 10 years, the number of dairy farms has decreased by 40%, herd size has increased by 60%, and milk production per cow has increased by 20%." From the perspective of a typical dairy cow, this means less space, no grass and more physical toll with ever-higher milk production.