Spiking Myths of Irish Farming

We had another interesting encounter with an Irish farmer at our 8-hour Vegan Information Day yesterday. This was at least the fourth of its kind. Irish farmers seem to object to what we say about the “spiked anti-suckler” (left) that we display.

In line with the description from the Irish agricultural company that supplies this device, Agridirect.ie, we say that this weaning tool is placed on a calf’s nose in order to stop him taking milk from his mother.

The farmers insist that they do not use the spiked anti-suckler for this advertised purpose but, instead, its use is to prevent one adult cow from taking milk from another adult cow. This may well be one of the uses this device is put to – as well as acting as a calf weaner.

This is the FULL description of the spiked anti-suckler from the supplier:-


One of the most difficult and stressful things about trying to wean a calf is separating the calf from it’s [sic] mother. But using a Spiked Anti Suckler will let a calf stay beside it’s [sic] mother during the weaning process. The Spiked Anti Suckler is a used and tried and tested method of weaning and is made from a durable aluminium so that is can be disinfected and used over and over again.

How the Spiked Anti Suckler works

The Spiked Anti Suckler is attached in between the nostrils of the calf. The Spiked Anti Suckler is fully adjustable and lightweight and will not irritate the calf. When the calf tries to suckle from the mother the strategically placed spikes will irritate the mother cow and she will back away from the calf.* This will wean the calf from the mother and encourage the calf to eat more, because the calf is with it’s mother during the weaning process the whole experience is less stressful for both mother and calf. When no longer needed the Spiked Anti Suckler can be removed in seconds and stored away for the next weaning season.

Features of Spiked Anti Suckler

  • Easy to fit
  • Prevents suckling
  • Made from durable aluminium
  • Less stressful for both mother and calf
  • Can be reused


As you can see from this description from Agridirect, this is in line with what we say the anti-suckler is used for. There is no mention here for the use that the farmers insist is the only thing they use it for, to keep adult cows away from adult cows.

We think that we must be wary when farmers talk about “adult” animals used in the farming industry. For example, about a year ago a dairy farmer revealed that he regarded a calf to be an adult cow as soon as they forced weaned him or her – and that could be a matter of a few days, or less. Obviously, this is absurd. They seem to believe that a mammal moves from infancy to adulthood in a matter of days – and with no period of adolescence.

They are, we believe, talking about young cows who have been separated from their own mothers very early and have therefore missed out on suckling and, thus, they still get to urge to nurse sometimes.

Indeed, when this latest farmer objected to our description of the use of the spiked anti-suckler, we put that very point to him. Essentially, as ever with farming practices, they are trying to solve a problem they themselves have created. We said that he likely used this device because the cows had been removed from their mothers when they were very young. He seemed to acknowledge that, and certainly did not challenge the suggestion, by saying, “yes, but that means that the smaller calves miss out if the larger cows take the milk.”

We repeated that we agreed that his was one use of the spiked anti-suckler, but said that it was used as a calf weaner as well, perhaps by other farmers. He still insisted that this wasn’t the case and, when it was pointed out that the official description was all about calf weaning (which he refused to read – twice), he simply said that he was a working farmer, so he should know.

We find it inconceivable that Agridirect are not aware of the uses their anti-sucklers are put to (they sell at least 3 types of anti-suckler devices). One might expect that at least one farmer would have mentioned to them that their product description is all wrong! Not only is the full description false, according to these farmers, it fails to describe what the anti-suckler is used for 100% of the time.

The Vegan Information Project will continue to describe the use of the spiked anti-sucklers in terms of the official description of its use by the supplier. Irish farmers have for decades, and perhaps even generations, hidden what they actually do to the other animals they exploit and violate the rights of. It seems that initiatives such as Go Vegan World, our own weekly street work, and work by other groups such as Vegan Education on the Go (VEGO), means that Irish farming myths are beginning to unravel – and about time too!


* The spiked anti-suckler is the nastiest of its type we’ve ever seen – typical that it’s supplied by an Irish company. A hunter and farmer talked to us about this device less than a month ago. He agreed that the aluminium spikes where designed to physically hurt the mother cows. However, he said that this would make the cow kick out in pain at her own offspring, essentially rejecting him – not merely that she would “back away” from her calf.





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