Learn About ‘Calf Grafting’ Before You Call Vegans ‘Extreme’

This shocking Facebook post explains what “calf grafting” is. Be advised: When you read it, you may instantly want to go vegan:


In the ranching world, calf grafting is a practice used to encourage cows to “adopt” and raise young calves who are not their own.

But how do ranchers and farmers “graft” calves together? They skin dead babies and tie their body parts onto living calves with twine.

If the graphic photo above hasn’t already scared you into closing this page, here’s a video explaining the practice. Warning: As the farmer in the video says, “Some of you might find this weird or offensive or mean.”

Calf grafting—in farmers’ own words—can be used to “trick” a mother cow who lost her baby into nursing a “grafted” calf. If this straight-up Hannibal Lecter–style nightmare isn’t horrific enough, you should see some of the suggestions that other ranchers have offered to help speed up the process. These actual comments from ranchers were pulled from Facebook posts about the practice:

I wish I had made up that last one, but sadly, it’s a real suggestion from a farmer on Facebook. This next one, though, really reveals a big issue with using animals for food:

“[S]ome don’t wanna be mothers.” Cows raised for their milk or flesh don’t have a choice about becoming mothers. They’re forced to do it—only to have their babies, their milk, and their very lives stolen. “Consent” isn’t a word commonly heard in the animal-agriculture industry (and if it were, the industry probably wouldn’t exist).

As comments from ranchers themselves show, animal agriculture is an exploitative system that spits squarely in the faces of females—including mothers—everywhere, across all lines, including species. The horrific idea of “grafting” calves exists only because females in the meat and dairy industries give birth after they’re impregnated—often forcibly—repeatedly throughout their lives. Tellingly, the devices used to restrain cows who are being inseminated against their will have been informally referred to as “rape racks” by the farm workers who use them. This abuse of the female reproductive system is so unsettling that it’s (disturbingly) easy to draw parallels between the grim, dystopian plot of The Handmaid’s Tale and the real-life, present-day dairy industry.

If you want to learn more about mastitis, read this.

It’s easy to see by their body language that cow moms experience emotions similar to those of human mothers. They love, and they grieve. Yet after being raped via syringe and carrying their babies to term, those used in the dairy industry are separated from their offspring shortly after they’re born—devastating both mothers and infants—so that their milk can be pumped and shipped off for human consumption. This is agonizing for the animals, but as long as consumers support industries that exploit them, the human-driven cycle of suffering for cows and their babies will continue. By the way, here are lists of plant-based milks and cheeses if you’ve suddenly become concerned about what was rubbed or sprayed onto the animals whose mammary secretions you were drinking.

For these mothers and their babies, there is no happy ending.

Whether cows are attempting in vain to awaken stillborn calves, mourning because their babies have been stolen so that their reproductive systems can be hacked by humans, or being tricked into raising orphaned calves who are wearing the skins of their dead infants, there’s nothing about using animals for food that’s good for cows—the only ones who benefit are the humans who line their pockets with money made from exploiting these animals.

If you’re vegan, you may have been called “extreme” because of what you eat. Rest assured, there’s nothing bizarre about eating grains, produce, and legumes while reducing your cancer risk and lowering your environmental footprint—especially when the alternative is consuming living, feeling beings who’ve been draped with the hides of dead herd members and slathered with afterbirth, manure, and (apparently) hairspray. And that’s before they’re loaded onto a truck, drained of their bodily fluids and chopped into pieces at a slaughterhouse, and shipped across the country to a grocery store near you.

Animal agriculture doesn’t only destroy animals’ lives—it also wreaks havoc on the environment and human health. If you don’t want to support twisted industry practices like calf grafting, you’ve come to the perfect place to get started on your vegan journey. Browse hundreds of free vegan recipes right here on PETA.org, and order a free vegan starter kit for yourself or a friend today!

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