This is a tough subject to speak about, but I will do my best. My intention is not to make anyone feel guilty about their milk consumption, but rather to state the facts about the dairy industry and leave people to make up their own minds. Solutions are at the end because I try not to make people despondent but rather raise awareness of problems and provide some solutions. If you have any ideas on how we can farm more humanely please let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org
There is no such thing as humane dairy farming. Calves are weaned almost immediately so that the milk that should be theirs can go to us. They are often fed milk replacer which is the equivalent of us feeding our children formula. Not that great. Male bull calves are often sent off to be processed as veal, or sent to a feedlot. The cow is kept pregnant for most of her life till she gets “spent” and is turned into low grade meat. This is after about 4 years. Cows that are not raised this way can live up to 25 years. Cows form an emotional bond with their calves, and make the most heart wrenching sounds when separated from their calves. They get separated from their calves very early to make it easier on them before they really bond with their calf. Some cows have been known to destroy fences to get to their calf.
The veal industry is a by product of the dairy industry. Many calves that are going to be turned into veal are kept in crates so that their muscles become softer from lack of exercise. Sickening. I have never eaten veal and never will. It is disgusting. But I eat lamb, so not that great. But let me stop with the self flagellation of my eating habits, and try to improve my consumer choices. My ideal is to be semi vegan, eating meat occasionally from an animal that has died of natural causes or old age. I will do my best to find a farm that sells this type of meat for anyone that wants to do the same. And remember, if you support Ethical Suppliers and spread the word we can unite consumer buying power under one umbrella and eventually bring about the changes that we want to see in the food production industry.
I digress -back to the dairy issue: so in order for us to enjoy what used to be a luxury and is now taken for granted, cows are sometimes raised in the most deplorable conditions. Many dairy farms keep the cows confined in barns and their life is as follows: eat, get milked, eat, get milked. When the supply goes down they get a break, then they get impregnated and it’s back to the grindstone. Free range grass fed milk comes from slightly happier cows, since they at least get to graze in the pasture, enjoy a bit of sun and a nice breeze. Free range farmers usually farm for the joy of being around animals so they are often kinder to their animals.
Shoppers love a bargain but cheap milk comes with a heavy concealed cost. In the past 10 years, half of Britain’s dairy farms have closed, taking with them both an essential economic generator and part of the character of the countryside.
To remain viable, farms are becoming ruthlessly productive, moving their cattle from the fields into giant sheds where they are milked for every last drop. The once-comforting sight of a herd of cows grazing in a sun-dappled meadow is disappearing from our landscape.
So don’t think I am condemning your milk drinking – I drink milk too. It makes a cup of tea all that better. But I will look for an alternative to milk and I strongly urge you to do the same. Or at least cut down on your milk intake. If we all do what we can to cut down on our meat and dairy we can improve the lives of millions of farm animals everywhere because less of them will be needed. Then we can still milk cows, but not as much. And don’t just buy the cheapest, buy the most ethical product. Consume something that came from a good place and as happy an animal as possible. If we demand better treatment of farm animals we can really make a difference. So if you don’t want to give up meat and dairy, at least make it free range.
It is the least you can do.
Links for more reading
http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/cows/dairy-industry/ (this video showed cows wading in runny manure – lovely! But not as horrible as the skinny overmilked cow at the end. Try not to buy dairy products till you know how they were produced!)