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Jo vs. Februdairy

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

It’s February, a month that dairy marketers have branded as “Februdairy” – in response to the enormously popular vegan campaign Veganuary. It’s also a month where we welcomed a new resident to Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, Jo. Jo and her herd mate Aph were on a small dairy farm here in Upstate New York for their entire lives. Jo is seven and had five babies taken from her so she could produce milk for humans. Aph had seven babies taken from her. 













Like many small dairy farms, this one was going out of business. All the cows were set to go to auction where they would go to other farms or be killed. The farmer had a soft spot for Jo and Aph who had been allowed to get far older than is standard practice. She didn’t want these two to suffer through the auction and death. So we went and picked them up the day before the auction. 

When I look through the #Februdairy posts, I see people on the defense about just this sort of farm. “Small,” “local,” “humane.” There is a reactionary stance against animal rights activists who educate and tell stories about the truths of farming. Februadairy is meant to correct the record and center the stories of farmers – those voices of authority doing the work of farming bodies. There’s the message of “they don’t know our cows or our business.” 

Jo and Aph lived their whole lives on that farm. Their babies were taken from them. When we went to pick them up, the cows were chained by their necks into their concrete milking paddocks. There were some babies chained up on an opposite wall – able to see their mothers but not get to them. Able to cry but not be reassured.


The adult cows had pressure sores from the concrete. They were skinny. And they were terrified of us. This is the world that the dairy advocates want to glorify. The farmer would have defended her treatment of the cows with her dying breath – she didn’t see those conditions as abuse because they are just common practice. As common practice as forced impregnation, taking babies from mothers, killing babies, and killing the mothers by early middle age. 

We took Aph and Jo immediately to an animal hospital as they both had concerning medical conditions. Jo recovered and is doing well but Aph developed severe mastitis (an infection of the udders) and passed away during emergency surgery. She was a victim of the dairy industry again and again in her life and finally in her death.


Promotion of Februdairy centers farmers and erases Aph and Jo. It never addresses the death and suffering inherent to the production of dairy. They are already erased by the consumption of their milk and the ensuing marketing fetishization. By telling Jo’s story and centering her voice, we are doing our part to fight against this erasure.  

In Jo vs Februdairy, I’m picking Jo.  

Rachel McCrystal
Executive Director


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