Fiction by Sarah Hunter
“The Last Freedom”
By Sarah Hunter
The last I saw of my mother was her running after me as I was driven away in a cage on the back of a trailer. Her eyes were stricken with fear... Looking back on that memory, I now realise that wasn’t the first time she’d had her baby taken from her. And I still remember every word she called to me as I was taken away.
‘Don’t let them hurt you, never forget that I love you,’ she kept on
repeating through her panicked breaths, her voice strained by her constricted
throat as she ran. All I could do then was watch, completely oblivious as to
where I was going. But even if I had known, what could I have done? If even my
own mother couldn’t save me, then I doubt my young, weak self could have. I
trembled and swayed with the unstable trailer as it drove over the rough
ground, eventually stopping at a gate. It was then that my mother could catch
up, and she pressed her face up to the wire cage.
‘I don’t know where they’re taking you—but you can’t trust them. You
need to stay safe,’ she explained to me with a pained expression, while our
noses pressed up against one another. Then the vehicle started again, and I was
driven through the gate that closed swiftly afterwards and left my mother stuck
behind it. I cried out to her for the last time as the vehicle began to pick up
speed, and the realisation hit me that I was going to lose her. All I could do
was watch as she frantically tried to find a way to reach me.
That moment was the last I saw of her, and would be only the
beginning of my hardships. The vehicle ended up taking me to another facility,
where I was carried out of the cage, kicking and throwing my head back in
protest, before being hurled into a small pen, where a number of other
youngsters were also contained. We were made to stand in that concrete-floored
pen shivering, each of us too scared to interact, and desperately longing for
the comfort of our mothers. A group of men then grabbed us one by one, and hurt
us by piercing our ears with tags before rubbing a strange chemical on our
heads that burned, and shoving us carelessly into another pen. Once each of us
had been through this torture, we were herded up into another trailer. This one
was big enough to contain all of us together, and once inside, the door was
slammed shut, leaving us anxiously staring out through the gaps in the trailer
walls. Another youngster, slightly smaller than me, nudged my side as we were
driven off yet again, to another frighteningly unknown place. I looked down at
her, momentarily diverted from my own suffering. Her large, dark eyes looked
into my own with confusion and terror, and I tried to comfort her for a second,
before being distracted by the sudden stopping of the vehicle. The trailer
shuddered and caused us to crash into one another.
Heavy footsteps on bare dirt followed, and then the sunlight flooded
in as the door was opened again. This time, the men grabbed each one of us and
carried us into a shed, where we were thrown into individual, tiny pens with a
gap in which we could stick our heads out through the bars. I looked around
nervously, trying to ignore the persistent stinging pain in my head and ears.
My surroundings were dark and menacing. I barely noticed a bucket, which at
that point was empty and bright white, along with a dummy that was attached to
Soon we learnt why the buckets were there, as milk was poured into
them one by one, and we drank from them listlessly. Each day we would cry out
for our mothers, and each day we realised how much more impossible it was that
we would see them again. All we could do was stand in our pens, or lie down if
we dared touch the filthy, cold ground, and mourn for our mothers. Months
passed by in those constrictive, dark pens, and eventually the milk we were
given changed to water, and the white of our buckets turned grey from grime and
wear. It was then that the next stage of our hardship began.
For years after I would routinely be made to have a baby, only for
them to be stolen from me, repeating the time when I had been taken from my own
mother, not so long ago. And just like her, I would call out similar words to
my babies as they were taken away, with their eyes wide and limbs kicking
frantically. There was nothing else I could do aside from tell them I loved
them and hope that maybe they would escape this perpetual cycle of
exploitation. And all this was done so that my milk could be taken away,
although I could never think why the humans would want it. Each day we would
walk into the sheds with glazed-over eyes, forced by the absence of our babies
and the pain of our full udders, and have these people take our milk.
This stage of my life was coming to an end though, as after six
years, I was beginning to produce less milk. And as that was all my worth was
based upon, I would soon be of no use to them. Furthermore, my body was growing
weak and tired, and I was struggling to walk. My feet were painful and badly
damaged from the poor conditions, and this inhibited me from walking normally.
Eventually the day came when I found myself being herded into a
trailer yet again, along with a number of others I had shared this suffering
with. They were just as worn-out as I, and so we all ambled into the dim
lighting of the trailer together, to our doom or to our freedom, I did not
know. The drive was longer than expected, and as we stood with our noses to the
air that whipped past outside, we tried to imagine where we were going. But the
scenery outside was of plain green pastures, occasionally patched with
remaining woodland, and offered no answers. Unexpectedly however, the vehicle
started to slow and turned down a driveway. We eyed each other nervously, as we
realised our confusion would soon be answered. Would this be our liberation?
The truck came to a stop and I yet again heard the sound of heavy
footsteps on bare ground. The trailer door was opened, and we were shouted at
to get out, so with startled expressions we stumbled out into the foreign
surroundings. The man threateningly waved a stick at us, and we were forced
into a pen nearby to the truck. Behind the pen stood a massive shed and out of
it wafted the strong smell of blood.
‘...you can’t trust them,’ repeated my mother’s words in my mind as
I was forced into the pen along with the others, who were tripping over their
weakened legs as they tried to avoid being hit. One by one we were then pushed
down a narrow path between two high metal fences, leading us down to a tight
box, in which my friend before me was trapped in first. A strange man then
suddenly appeared beside the box, and through the gap in the fence he stretched
out his arm, a shiny metal barrel in his hand. With a subtle move of his
finger, the object let off a sharp bang, before her body collapsed to the
ground with a thud. And just like that, her life was over... She hadn’t even
protested... She hadn’t known what was about to happen, or what that man was
going to do. Maybe in that moment, she’d even been optimistic? Despite the
stench of blood and the stained railings maybe she had imagined she would soon
be reunited with her babies who had been stolen from her year after year? Maybe
she pictured herself running free with them in a field, her legs as strong as
they had been when she was younger.
But now, it was my turn. I did not have the benefit of doubt... I
had seen what would happen to me. I had been given no freedom, in all my life.
I had never chosen to leave my mother, I had never chosen to have babies, or
for them to be taken away from me, or even to give my milk to people... And
now, I did not wish to die. The only freedom I ever had was in my own mind. And
as I was forced into the death-box, I closed my eyes and pictured the most
idyllic scene I could imagine. My friend may have been caught off-guard, but I
wouldn’t be. I pictured my babies beside me, with their large eyes full of
curiosity, and the sun shining brightly on their coats. There was a cool breeze
that surrounded us, carrying with it the welcomed scent of lush grass... But my
vision was interrupted with a piercing bang.
My only freedom that had remained, was taken.
- Sarah Hunter has a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in
Writing, and Screen and Media Studies. She also has a Graduate Certificate in
Arts majoring in Peace Studies. Sarah aims to write about other animals in a
non-speciesist manner, and by doing so demonstrate the importance of ending
their exploitation. Sarah is based in Queensland, Australia.