Dairy. Dare we give it up? A lot of people don’t see the harm. And for all its faults it’s a surprisingly uncontroversial industry – in the public eye anyway.
But there are lots of things that people just simply don’t think about. Like the fact that cows aren’t just milk machines. Producing milk all the time is not in fact their natural state. Like any other animal, cows produce milk for their young. So to produce milk the farmer has to make sure the cow is impregnated on a regular basis. And of course having the calf drink the milk itself would also be counter-intuitive. That milk after all is being produced for human consumption. So the farmer necessarily has to separate the mother from her calf. If this already doesn’t sound a little cruel to you you’re not thinking about it hard enough. A mother’s instinct to nurture her baby is one of the strongest in nature and parting child from parent produces huge amounts of suffering.
Cows may not possess the intelligence we do or the ability to grapple with complex problems but that does not mean they cannot feel distress and pain. Willingly imposing distress and pain on a living creature on a systemic level is not an unreasonable definition of evil.
So they may not go to the abattoir like cows raised for beef but not being killed for food does not necessarily make their life a happier one. In some respects you could argue that dairy cows have it a lot worse. Add to the fact that they rarely live past 4 years old as at that point they can no longer produce enough to make them commercially viable and are sent to slaughter. By contrast a cow raised in a sanctuary can live for up to 20 years.
There is so much wrong here and that’s without even thinking about the strange health fallacies that are circulated by our governments and schools. We don’t drink human milk past infancy but we accept that to regularly drink milk from another animal is somehow part of a balanced diet that gives us vital vitamins. If you think about this at all for more than a minute it seems crazy. Milk was certainly a way of getting nutrient dense food with a high fat content at a time when food was scarcer and getting enough to eat over the winter was a worry. With globalised food production that’s not a problem we face anymore. But still we drink milk because we are told milk is good for us because of its calcium content. Never mind that calcium is present in a variety of foods which you might eat every day including a number of vegetables.
The evidence that milk is good for you is actually quite limited. But it’s in the interest of the dairy business to make sure the world believes it is. Like many things this all comes down to money. But that’s a very big topic for another time. This video gives a great overview.
The upshot is if we were all to stop doing what we’re told and start thinking we would realise this industry is abhorrent. It is unnecessary and leads us to view animals as machines instead of living creatures. When thinking about food there’s a lot more to consider than whether or not the thing on your plate is a dead animal. Some of those dead animals may have had happy lives. Commercially produced dairy products on the other hand are a pretty solid testament to high levels of animal suffering.