The absolutely brilliant 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood The Handmaids Tale has been adapted by Hulu into a critically acclaimed and multiple award winning TV series of the same title.
The Handmaids Tale depicts human females being enslaved and kept like prisoners – just as farm animals really are! Just like dairy cows, these human fertile women are also raped and exploited for their reproductive systems.
I was so eager to view The Handmaids Tale that I ordered series 1 on DVD from HMV to arrive with me on UK release day back in March 2017 – not something I would normally do.
Atwood drew on the Book of Genesis Chapter 30 for her novel in which Jacob, (Sons of Jacob ran Gilead), had 2 wives; sisters Rachel and Leah (The Rachel & Leah centre in Gilead – a place to house and train handmaids). Leah could bear children, but Rachel could not. She was envious of her sister and said “Give me children, or else I will die”. It was suggested by Rachel that her maid Bilhah be used to bear children on her behalf.
While viewing series 1 I very briefly shared my feelings and findings via social media, but since the return of this outstanding TV drama with series 2 on Channel 4 this May, I find that it so strongly portrays the daily practices within the dairy industry, I feel compelled to say more about this in relation to other female animals we share our planet where this injustice is their way of life.
Based in a dystopian future, The Handmaids Tale tells the story of women who are captured by soldiers and kept against their will in the Republic of Gilead; a place set up by underground religious extremists known as the “Sons of Jacob” who took over America believing it needed to be saved from corruption and sin.
Following an environmental disaster, the biggest percentage of the population had become sterile, and as women in Gilead are regarded as the “lesser sex”, the entire fertility crisis is blamed solely on women, believing that men could never be the problem (even when it is indeed often the case).
In a desperate bid to repopulate, the few remaining fertile women are captured and “given” to society’s high-ranking men and their wives. The fertile women who become known as handmaids live with their high-ranking “master & mistress” in a bid to provide them with a child.
The handmaids are kidnapped and ripped away from their own families; all their own needs, wants and desires are completely disregarded and dismissed. Their own pre-Gilead names are cast aside, they are no longer allowed to even discuss who they used to be, and they become known simply as the property of their master. The main character is Offred – this name refers to the commander who “owns” her; this handmaid is owned by Fred – so she is the property of Fred – “Offred” (In the TV series Offred is played with sheer perfection by the outstanding Elizabeth Moss )
The Handmaids are kept in the homes of their “masters” as breeding stock serving only to provide babies to their masters that their sterile wives cannot.
In a ritual held known as the ceremony, they handmaids are held down by their “mistress” and raped by their “master”; this ceremony happens once a month on fertile days in an attempt for commanders to impregnate their handmaid. This rape happens every single month until they bear the fruit of their master and become pregnant.
The standard greeting among Gilead residents is “Blessed be the fruit”, to which the standard reply would be “May the lord open”!
Once handmaids become pregnant, they are treated with greater care; they are given more food and better treatment until they give birth. Once they have given birth and nursed the baby, their baby is stolen from them and handed over to the elite barren couple with whom they have lived with until pregnancy occurs. After this point the handmaid never sees her baby again.
Once a barren couple have been given a child by a handmaid, the handmaid is then shipped off to another childless barren elite couple where she must have her name changed to that of her new master, and she must repeat the entire rape, pregnancy, birth, nursing and theft of her child process all over again!
If a handmaid refused to cooperate or appeared to be unable to “bear fruit”, she would be shipped off to the colonies. The colonies are areas of America contaminated by pollution and radioactive waste. Women living here become known as unwomen; they are condemned to a life of hard work in cleaning up the radioactive and toxic waste. Here they may face a life of disease and illness and certain prolonging deaths.
The story of these women resembles the true life of dairy cows; the handmaids even have ID tags embedded into their ears.
As we watch The Handmaids Tale I am sure many of us feel truly grateful this is adapted from a fictional novel. We would all find the happenings in Gilead truly unthinkable; the very idea of being repeatedly raped and exploited for our reproductive systems is beyond being barbaric, inhumane and immoral.
However, this drama really does portray a real-life parallel universe for millions of females all around the world.
If we are horrified at the very idea of the treatment of these females in The Handmaids Tale, then why is it normalised and accepted when it’s actually truly happening every minute of every day to millions of females on a mass global scale?
In fact it is not just normalised and accepted, but we advocate it through education and major global advertising. We condone it and invest our money in it. We pay for this to happen every single time we pay for and consume the many products produced by the very industry that bestows this fate on millions of fellow female earthlings across the world! This all happens through one of the biggest industries on earth – the dairy industry – this is the true cost of dairy – this is the real handmaids tale!
The Handmaids Tale is a drama, the real handmaids however (dairy cows), have to live this very existence and much worse for every day of their entire miserable existence.
Cows Don’t Miraculously Produce Milk…..
Just like humans, in order for cows to produce milk they must be pregnant. Contrary to staggering popular belief, their bodies don’t just miraculously produce milk. In order theses beautiful gentle animals do continuously produce milk, cows must be kept constantly pregnant.
In order to do this bull semen must be collected. The collection of bull semen is an industry in itself (bit that’s another story). Bull semen collection is done in a number of ways – they can use an artificial cow vagina in a dummy cow. The bull enters this wearing something like a condom in which the semen is collected. Another way is to enter a semen collector up to the bull’s penis. The bull is stimulated until he ejaculates, and the semen is collected! We are always told how “natural” dairy is – so it is natural and normal to jack off a bull and collect his sperm right?
Wrong! This is so wrong on every level – it’s a violation!
Next is to artificially inseminate (A.I) that semen into the cows vagina.
So…the famer places the cow into what’s known in the industry as a “rape rack”. The farmer then inserts his arm into the cows anus to locate her uterus; once located the bull semen is injected from the A.I gun into the cows uterus.
The rape rack restrains the cow against her will while she is sexually assaulted – just like the mistresses who hold down their handmaids while the master rapes them.
Like humans, the gestation period for cows is also 9 months. Also like humans, cows are highly maternal mammals. However, in the dairy industry once a cow gives birth, her baby would normally be stolen from her within 36 hours of delivery. This is beyond comprehension for any mother. The Handmaids in the drama have to breastfeed their babies before they are taken away from them, but because humans want to steal the mothers milk from the cow as well as her baby, the baby is not permitted to drink the mothers milk.
When their babies are stolen the mothers harrowingly bellow and scream in distress for days, and the poor new babies are frightened and crying for their mother. Such is the maternal instinct of the cows that often she will hide her calves because she has learned from past experience that humans will steal her baby from her.
What happens to those stolen babies greatly depends on their gender. Most baby boys in the dairy industry are shot in the head and discarded like rubbish when they are just days old simply because they don’t have a womb which can be exploited; they are “surplus to requirements”.
Baby girls usually enter the same miserable cycle as their mothers, annually raped, constantly pregnant, her babies stolen from her and her milk stolen and used for humans – used as nothing more than a baby making and milking machine!
When dairy cows have gone through a number of pregnancies, and their bodies can no longer deal with the constant strain of being pregnant they become weak, tired and often their legs give up and they become lame. Dairy cows have extremely heavy and unnaturally large udders, which are a strain on the body and the legs, and they can regularly contract a painful infection called mastitis which leads to pus and bacteria in their milk.
By age 4 or 5 their spirit is completely broken and their bodies give up. Once they are not producing enough milk
they are of no further use to the farmer; and at this stage they are known as a “downed” or “spent” cow. At this point the downed cows will be crammed into a large transport truck and sent to slaughter – her flesh will be used for pet food, pies, burgers, soup, baby food and other meat products.
The hardest working animal of all farm animals is the dairy cow – she gets no rest all in her life and then is slaughtered around 20 years before she would be expected to naturally die. The normal life span of a cow is around 25 years!
A mammary gland is an exocrine gland in mammals that produces milk to feed young offspring.
Mammal babies drink their mothers milk!
All mammals are viviparous which means their babies live inside their mothers womb and are born from the womb – just like humans… they all have 4 limbs which vary depending on where they live!
There are cows, sheep, pigs, goats, horses, donkeys, monkeys, mice, cats, rats, bats (the only flying mammal who have wings), kangaroos, elephants, hippos, anteaters, bison, wolves, deer, panthers, giraffes, foxes, hedgehogs, dolphins, seals, whales (all marine mammals who have fins) rhinos, pandas, kuala’s, camels, dogs…lions, tigers & bears (oh my); then there are humans! Yes…WE are the SAME as ALL OF them – we just look different but we are all mammals!!!
(There are many more mammals that mentioned too).
All mammals drink breast milk from their mothers! Because the babies rely on their mother’s milk to live, it is imperative that the mammal Mums have to care for their young!
Babies get the milk from their mothers mammary glands, (breasts) and that’s why we are all called “mammals”!
So…human breast milk is for mice – Dog breast milk is for whales – Bear breast milk is for humans….correct?…NO – of course it is not correct! – Ladies would you breast feed a calf?
Don’t steal babies from their mothers and don’t steal their milk for your cereal.
There are SO many amazing plant based milks out there now – there is absolutely no need for adult humans to breast feed from another adult mammal.
Prince is a Holstein Friesian bullock who was saved from slaughter – he is the son of a dairy cow – he was one of the lucky ones. Now we try to share his story to help people see cows are no different to other mammals – you can follow his story at
Wear your message every time you get dressed – clothing, bags, key rings and other items carrying messages are a great way to start vegan advocacy conversations.
Support our work for animals
ALL our products are ethically sourced, printed in vegan ink and are not-for-profit – every penny raised is donated to Lotus Animal Sanctuary.
Please help us to raise awareness for cattle and all farm animals by sharing our links and stories.