He remembers those first few hours. Nestled in the soft hay with his mother, her rough tongue cleaning him. It was quiet. It was warm. It was comforting. It didn’t last.
It’s been a few weeks now, and his memory of his mother is just that—a memory. Everything else seems all too real, though. After he was carted away that first night, he was taken on a truck to a big shed a few miles away. The shed was brightly lit and filled with others just like him. Childhood curiosity took over. He was, after all, just a baby. Perhaps he would be able to run and play with all of the others. He was young and healthy and excited. It was a good time to be social.
The reality of his situation played out far differently. Densely packed in that brightly lit shed, he would spend day and night locked inside. He barely had room to turn around or stretch out, let alone run. He was surrounded by others, but none of them seemed interested in socializing. Ideas of frolicking soon disappeared. They all seemed frozen in place. Maybe it was the confusion about their situation. Maybe it was the loneliness and fear of being taken from their mothers. Or maybe it was just the fact that there was nowhere to go.
He was fed a liquid diet made from a byproduct of cheese production. He’d never get to taste solid food. He didn’t get his own mother’s milk, at least not directly. But if he closed his eyes, he could almost imagine he was back there in the barn with her, if only for a moment. At least this wouldn’t be forever. He heard the bang of metal on metal, much like he did that first night. One by one, the calves started disappearing from the shed. They were replaced by even younger ones. These new calves looked like babies to him, but the truth was they all were. And that’s all they ever would be. They were veal calves—a surplus to a process that didn’t need them. An afterthought to an industry that already thinks so little of the animals at the center of it. No one thought of him. Except for his mother, who wondered with a broken heart where her baby was. She hoped he was safe.