The Handmaid’s Tale is a Hulu web series based on a dystopian society where fertile women are captured and forced into slavery to fulfill their “destiny” and provide children to the men (and their wives) who helped create the society, named Gilead. The women are raped and inseminated, as well as being abused in their journey in Gilead, with little chance of escape. Any effort at escaping will result in death, if and when they are caught. Once they have fulfilled their purpose, they are either killed or sent to the Colonies, where they will work in waste facilities until they die. The women’s children are taken away from them, and given to the prestigious families of Gilead.
Does any of this sound familiar? If you know the practices of dairy farming, they should. Much of what these women, the handmaids, go through is similar to what dairy cows go through in most farms, be they family farms or industrial.
Dairy cows are inseminated by the farmer, who shoves an insemination rod up the cow’s vagina – a confusing and uncomfortable situation for the cow. She becomes pregnant, and once she has her calf, the baby is taken away from her and raised to be a dairy cow, or sent to slaughter to make veal. Farmers then take the milk that was meant to be for the baby cow and sell it to humans. This cycle continues until the dairy cow is exhausted (to the point of her collapsing), where she is then sent to slaughter to make beef.
I know Margaret Atwood did not mean to allude to animal farming when she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, however the similarities between what a handmaid and dairy cow go through were clear enough for me to write about. The biggest difference is that one is a fictional novel (now web series), while the other is happening in the real world right now. Most people are horrified to see one sentient being raped and having her baby taken away, yet justify it all happening to another. Mothers are mothers, whether they are human or not. Why cause them pain and suffering if we don’t have to?