I’m sorry, but I don’t support the dairy industry.

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COW

I feel for our dairy farmers—I really do.

I can’t imagine how it would feel to have everything you’ve ever known dwindle around you. To have your livelihoods rendered worthless. To be thrown into unfair debt. I have no doubt that dairy farmers have the best intentions—and maybe some of them really do look after their animals. But even so: dairy is a destructive industry, where animals are objectified as means to an economic end—and this isn’t okay.

Before you abuse me, take a moment to consider my words—humour me.

Let’s think about the practicality of dairy and how we actually get milk—cows don’t just magically produce it: it results from pregnancy. Like humans, cows carry their young for nine months.  Unlike humans, most cows will have their young taken away within 12-14 hours after birth due to their economic strain. Calves less than 30 days old—known as bobby cows—will often be sent to the slaughterhouse. In Australia, this is around 400,000 calves per year. This “cruel separation” is a traumatic experience, destined to be repeated over and over for a cow’s workable lifetime— every 13 months. These calves will never even taste their mother’s milk.

There are 1.6 million dairy cows in Australia. While cows will naturally live around 20 years, cows in the dairy industry are only expected to live around seven to eight years. Australian cows also produce around 5730L of milk per year—which is incredible, as the average is only 2900L.  Our farmers are struggling, and no matter how beloved certain cows may be, farmers simply need to get as much as they can from their livestock. But is money worth these drastic measures?

Speaking of drastic measures, let’s talk about industry standards. Yes, there are standards—and yes, they’re a lot better than a lot of other countries. They do genuinely try to provide better lives and treatment for cows in terms of welfare. But some aspects are still quite barbaric, such as dehorning and castration. Dehorning is a common practise for male and female cows, which involves sensitive tissue being sawn off. Castration, while considered a major operation for older bulls, can be done to males younger than six months by anyone—no matter how inexperienced. Shockingly, there are no laws required for pain relief.

has-new-zealands-milk-gone-bad
Bobby cows. Image via Vice.

Is cruelty and objectification not enough to convince you of a change of heart? Well, let’s look at health factors.

For decades, we’ve been fed the idea that dairy is best—that we need it. But consider who would have encouraged this propaganda: that’s right, the for-profit dairy industry. Yes, dairy is the source of calcium and other vitamins, but to put it bluntly: it’s not meant for us. It’s meant for a rapidly growing baby calf.

Dr Mark Hyman said consuming dairy is actually not in our best interests, and that we’ve been force-fed many ideas that are not factual. For instance, milk doesn’t reduce fractures—it may actually increase the risk of them by 50%. By consuming five to seven portions of fruits and veggies per day (and no animal products), a person can reduce their risk of heart disease by 47%, strokes by 26%, and cancer by up to 18%. Furthermore, about 75% of the population is lactose intolerant. Know why?

Because. We’re. Not. Meant. To. Drink. Another. Animal’s. Milk.

mother-and-calf-cows
Breaking this bond is the price of dairy. Image via My Mind Vegan.

Think about it. Think about what they’re not telling you. Do you think animals should be used purely for economic gain? Even if you don’t think it’s wrong for them to be killed for our consumption, I’d like to think that—as reasonable agents—we can agree that cows should at least be treated well—starting with stricter industry standards and better policing. Even if they’re going to be slaughtered, at the very least, they should live fulfilling lives.

Does this make you feel sad? Do you wish things were different? Well, they can be—and you can help. Change begins with education. Even one mind changed can start a revolution. As it is, we don’t need dairy—there are plenty of plant-based sources of calcium, like dark leafy greens, beans, pulses, nuts, brown bread, enriched fruit juice, plant-based milks, soy mince, tofu and so on. Dairy is dwindling—the number of farms in the last two decades has decreased by two thirds. Maybe there’s a reason for it.

Dairy farmers, I feel sorry for you—that you’ve been brought into this war and are struggling. That you’re only paid 37 cents for a litre of milk, despite it costing 38 cents to produce. But instead of supporting our farmers by buying their product, why don’t we encourage them and donate to them to create new and sustainable livelihoods—livelihoods that don’t rely on forced slavery.

Some things are meant to change—and I for one choose compassion.

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Cows smile when you don’t eat them or take away their babies. Image via Reddit.
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37 thoughts on “I’m sorry, but I don’t support the dairy industry.

    bumpyroadtobubba said:
    May 25, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Reblogged this on bumpyroadtobubba.

      fightloudly said:
      May 26, 2016 at 8:25 am

      Can vegans stop fucking comparing animal agriculture to slavery. That’s so fucking racist…

        somethingbeginningwithz responded:
        May 26, 2016 at 9:07 am

        What else would you call their forced exploitation?

        Just Grow Food said:
        May 26, 2016 at 10:16 am

        Explain how it’s racist..?

        v said:
        May 26, 2016 at 12:08 pm

        mate, you should look up the definition of racist again and while you’re at it, look up the animal agriculture industry and educate yourself.

        ForVeganSake said:
        May 26, 2016 at 12:56 pm

        Fightloudly has made 3 mistakes in just 2 sentences.
        1. You have assumed the poster is vegan, so you discriminating against vegans.
        2. There is no comparison to slavery, it is slavery. Forcing something to do a job is slavery.
        3. This is not racism

        Tracey Williamson said:
        May 26, 2016 at 11:19 pm

        Racist ? How is it racist ? Animal agriculture is slavery, pure and simple , it has nothing to do with race of the species.

        anonymous said:
        May 27, 2016 at 6:41 am

        Dude, my family survived the holocaust, and I am saying that animal agriculture IS the holocaust. Why do you think so many (1/20) Israelis are vegan?? I can at least say that animals go through what my own family went through.

        Understand said:
        May 27, 2016 at 1:54 pm

        I’m so sorry that others on here don’t see the point you’re trying to make fightingloudly.. I understand what you’re saying and agree completely! However as they say, it’s hard to fill a cup which already full.. No matter what we say, if someone thinks their way is better and refuse to open their minds to anything, the message will never be understood.

    Michael said:
    May 25, 2016 at 11:26 am

    ” Furthermore, about 75% of the population is lactose intolerant.” Where in your source does it say this?

    cariadcollective said:
    May 26, 2016 at 1:23 am

    Beautiful. x

    Salli Sixx said:
    May 26, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Brilliant article, agree completely.

    Louise said:
    May 27, 2016 at 12:02 am

    Hi there. Louise here from Daily Mail Australia. Was wondering if you’d be willing to speak to me about this blog post and your views on why you don’t support the dairy industry. Obviously it’s a really talked about topic right now so it’s interesting to get different views on why people do and don’t support the industry. My email address is louise.cheer@mailonline.com. Pls get in contact as soon as possible if you’d be willing to speak to me. Regards, Louise

    Graeme M said:
    May 27, 2016 at 4:16 am

    Nice write-up. I began looking into dairy a couple of months ago after reading all about its supposed negatives. I must admit I felt rather ambivalent about the industry but my own research backs up what most anti-dairy people say. I like that you’ve been sympathetic towards farmers as I tend to think they are as much caught up in a frame of mind as the consumer. The only thing I might pick you up on is that there is some research that suggests that a moderate amount of low fat dairy does seem to offer some health benefits in particular in relation to cardiovascular disease. However it is not entirely clear to me why that is so, and as far as I can see, those benefits are not compelling when you consider alternatives and also the ethical question. Really, the bottom line is that if we stopped dairy tomorrow and we partook of plant-based alternatives, we’d solve the ethical question and possibly ensure equal or better health outcomes. The only argument in favour of dairy seems to be economic.

    Here’s my take on it for interest’s sake:
    https://gm136.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/ok-so-im-off-dairy-too/

      somethingbeginningwithz responded:
      May 27, 2016 at 5:09 am

      Hi Graeme, thanks for your comment! Interesting insight. I am going to be doing more research on dairy, using my university’s extensive library for sources.

      I will certainly have a read of your take, thanks so much. 🙂

        Graeme M said:
        May 27, 2016 at 6:33 am

        Thanks ‘Z. The dairy question is not as cut and dried as it might seem. I am convinced we can do without it on ethical grounds, but it can be tricky to get to the facts.

        You are right that we aren’t meant to drink it – we evolved to our current form some 200-300,000 years ago and drinking cows milk seems to have appeared less than 10,000 years ago, hence the lactose intolerance thing. It’s thought that drinking milk began in Europe and may have offered a survival advantage due to providing Vitamin D and a more continuous supply of protein. It actually does seem to be good for people in its natural form as consumed back then – cheeses and fermented milks.

        Even today, low-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt do appear to provide some benefits. As far as I can tell – and I admit to just a cursory understanding – these help to provide protections against cardiovascular disease, though many of the studies I read seem to be sponsored by the industry. I think it’s probably true though. It’s thought that the particular make-up of cow’s milk offers the benefits, but I am suspicious we can get those elsewhere. Certainly, calcium, iodine, protein and so on are available in plant-based alternatives, and calcium is probably the thing most touted as the benefit of dairy. That said, high fat forms of milk and such things as butter, cream and ice-cream are definitely not good for us!

        Regardless I reckon most people drink or eat dairy simply because they like it. It’s a pleasure. So when you factor in the ethical question, I can’t see it’s justified when we could do the same thing with plant-based products. My wife made some vegan chocolate brownies on the weekend and test ran them with people at work. Everyone thought they were great and were surprised it was vegan!

        This is a great site!
        http://www.shellethics.com/dairy/

    anonymous said:
    May 27, 2016 at 6:44 am

    People don’t realize that animal agriculture workers are usually undocumented, far too underpaid, abused, and fired very quickly and often. And since journalism (photographing and videorecording) of animal agriculture is illegal and can land some poor journalist or normal person or worker in jail, we don’t know the big picture of what goes on in those places.

      Cheryl Daniel said:
      May 27, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      anonymouse said: really? please tell me the law that says journalism of animal agriculture is illegal? this is Australia not China.

        Graeme M said:
        May 27, 2016 at 9:02 pm

        Cheryl Daniel, it’s not illegal to write about it, but I think ag-gag legislation makes it very difficult, if not illegal, to possess or display imagery obtained from trespass on private property. Which is simply disgusting. I know farmers and the like claim the activists stage all of what they see or record, but my thinking is that if animals really really were treated properly there’d be nothing for activists to find. Actually… if the animals were treated properly, there’d be no cruel factory farms, perhaps no animals farmed at all…

    anon said:
    May 28, 2016 at 3:14 am

    I looked at the link for 75% of the population are lactose intolerant, and nowhere in the paper linked does it say that! Fact checking required.

      somethingbeginningwithz responded:
      May 28, 2016 at 9:19 am

      Hi Anna! Thanks for your comment. It seems I added the wrong hyperlink; if you read the comments below, I’ve used other sources with that information 😊.

    Salli Sixx said:
    May 28, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    People can nit pick and want fact checking on many aspects of the post but the cruelty of the dairy industry is undeniable. Even, for arguments sake, if drinking the breast milk of another species was natural for humans, why would anyone want to buy into the cycle of enforced pregnancies and then depriving the mother of her young. Cows are mammals are naturally bond with their young just as human mothers do. The moms grieve their young. If you have ever heard their pitiful bellows you would never forget.

    Bee said:
    May 29, 2016 at 1:43 am

    Anyone who thinks that dairy is cruel please come to our communities, there are many people willing to show you around their farms and you can meet the cows. I assure you the cows are pretty happy

      somethingbeginningwithz responded:
      May 31, 2016 at 6:19 am

      Hi Bee,
      I would love to have a chat with you for an interview if you were willing?
      Kindest of regards.

      Graeme M said:
      May 31, 2016 at 6:36 am

      Hi Bee, I’ve talked to a couple of dairy farmers on their blogs but rarely do we get too far once the discussion turns to cruelty. I did ask one farmer if I could visit because I’d love to see a dairy farm in action (my uncle owned one when I was a kid but back then it meant nothing to me) but nothing came of that. Whereabouts are you?

      Graeme M said:
      June 3, 2016 at 1:22 am

      Bee, I’ve not seen you say anything since you offered your invitation, but I’d like to know more about your own views and why you think dairy isn’t cruel. You may have seen my link above, but I did a post of my own about dairy after having spent quite a while researching it. I’d welcome your comments there where I could discuss further with you?
      https://gm136.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/ok-so-im-off-dairy-too/

      Oh please said:
      June 3, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Why is it that we are always challenged to come visit the farm? Why not ‘come visit the saleyards on mondays when the pens are full of calves, watch them get loaded on the trucks and then come visit the slaughter house’?
      Why not ask people to visit the slaughter house when the spent milking cows are hung up by their leg and watch them bleed out?
      The notion of happy cows is ridiculous, they are a commodity and nothing more. Dairy is buisness.

        Graeme M said:
        June 6, 2016 at 2:05 am

        It is interesting Oh please, that when I get to that kind of place in my online discussions with dairy farmers they tend to just stop talking and refuse to publish comments. Is this comment from Bee yet another example of that? Happy to make claims, less happy to properly defend those claims. I am more than willing to go visit a dairy farm and ask the hard questions, as long as they are willing to answer honestly and objectively.

    Debbie said:
    May 29, 2016 at 1:54 am

    Yes its cruel but thats what humans do noone seams to have an outcry when sociey forabily removed human babys from there mothers gave them to strangers to raise and fed them powered chemicals. Im sure those mothers are still crying for there stolen babies as well. Noone has an out cry over these babies often used for experiments in the medical field .adoptees where the first babys to be experimented on with vacinations .

      somethingbeginningwithz responded:
      May 31, 2016 at 6:20 am

      Hi Debbie,
      You’re completely right that a lot of awful things do happen, that certainly need more attention. I am merely bringing light to one. Thank you very much for sharing your insight.
      Kindest of regards. x

    Graeme M said:
    June 6, 2016 at 2:16 am

    Out of interest, ‘Z, did anything come of either Louise’s request for an interview, or your request to interview Bee (presumably a dairy farmer?)?

    I mentioned in my comments above that I have engaged online with a couple of dairy farmers but rarely do we get down to the hard issues. My view is that the farmers tend to simply avoid the less attractive issues and gloss over what does happen. As an example, see this thread here (please I ask anyone reading this post NOT to comment further there as these people are going through a tough time – regardless of your feelings about dairy, these are just normal people trying to make a living and right now they are struggling).

    https://milkmaidmarian.com/2015/06/13/the-ethics-of-profiting-from-animal-welfare/

    You’ll see at the bottom that the last couple of comments are directed at me, and there it ends. What you don’t see is my response which was never published. If you don’t mind me hogging space, I’ll post those comments here.

      somethingbeginningwithz responded:
      June 7, 2016 at 1:24 am

      I completely agree. I was in contact with the journalist from the Daily Mail, who said they were intending on republishing it (I even went out to take cow selfies!) but have not heard back in the last few days. No response from Bee either, sadly.

    Graeme M said:
    June 6, 2016 at 2:16 am

    Post 1 not published at the thread above:

    I should clarify slightly Marian. My questions aren’t about determining what I think of you personally, so I am not trying to send “general insults” your way. You and your family sound like decent people and you write a thoughtful and informative blog. My interest, as a consumer and as someone with an interest in animal rights, is to evaluate the dairy industry on my terms.

    And it’s what “my terms” might mean that results in our widely differing perspectives. You certainly are not open to my views and while I think I am open to yours, I simply cannot agree that dairy is a moral industry. But morality is highly subjective and as John Keily notes, our society generally has a different ethical perspective from mine. I would say that from the point of view of our society, you and your husband run a humane, caring dairy where you follow responsible practices in managing your herd.

    However, when you write about what you do and how dairy works, you have a vested interest, quite literally, in representing the industry in a good light. And therefore you tend to misrepresent certain aspects of the thing. I don’t think intentionally, it’s just that what makes perfect sense to you, and what you probably believe, is quite different from how it looks to me. I doubt there is any way that I can say to you that what you do is, in my opinion, immoral without you feeling insulted.

    Of course you might look to the other side of the fence. Animal rights people, I suppose of whom I am one, often spend a great deal of time and thought in evaluating what we think an appropriate moral stance is. I don’t think what I think on the basis that I have some fluffy notion that the lion should lie down with the lamb while bluebirds sing in the sky. But I do think there is more to the equation than “that’s nature” or “it’s how it is” or “that’s the circle of life”.

    So we are insulted, if you want to use the term, when we are assailed from all sides by people like yourself who think and say that our views are thoughtless, uninformed, and not in tune with society. Or who like to claim that because they work the land, it’s not possible for those not of the land to have an opinion about the ethics of animal treatments in farming.

    It cuts both ways.

    And when it comes to the morality of dairy farming, I think I am on safe grounds with my opinion. You will not agree and there is no appeal I can make to you that will see it otherwise, but that’s neither here nor there. It is MY opinion as a consumer that counts, and the opinion of other consumers. If I believe dairy to be immoral then I should choose not to consume dairy, which is what I am doing. I should also like to see more consumers similarly convinced. That’s where activism will pay dividends, not in trying to convince farmers but in convincing consumers…

    Graeme M said:
    June 6, 2016 at 2:17 am

    Post 2 not published at the thread above:

    Coming back to my comments, I think it’s instructive that you didn’t answer my question. Instead you deflected it, which is exactly what I mean by misrepresentation. You avoid the question, or you misrepresent by omission. I did not ask you where you would prefer to live if you were a cow. That’s rather like saying if A will hurt me so much and B will hurt me more, I’d rather stay with A.

    I asked you a simple direct question. Can you answer it? Would you like you and your family and friends to live life as a dairy herd, with all the practices of a normal dairy applied to you all?

    As for where I think there are misrepresentations in your commentary, let’s take but two. Bobby calves and the life of a cow.

    As far as I can tell from what you’ve written, you don’t like what happens to bobby calves. But sadly it’s a necessary part of the system and you wish fewer male calves were born. As you note, sexed sperm can help solve that in time, but for now, not so much.

    However, I can say without fear of contradiction that were you not a dairy farmer, you would not face the problem of bobby calves. That is a fact. And regardless of your claims, the bobby calves lose their lives very young to suit your need to make money from them.

    In your various posts I gather the sense you do your best for these male calves, within the constraints of the circumstances. For example you say “I hate selling any of our animals but we simply can’t keep all the bull calves.” And this kind of sets us to think “well, I guess that’s not so bad. And most of the dairy farmers do as Marian does”.

    But as near as I can tell, many bobby calves are indeed slaughtered at a young age, presumably for veal. According to industry figures, some 630,000 calves were slaughtered in 2015, mostly sourced from dairy. Dairy Australia claims that “around 400,000 bobby calves are processed each year in Australia supporting local jobs and providing a valuable protein resource”. While it was hard to find, I did establish that the average age of slaughter for calves is:

    Bobby calf: 1-2 weeks
    Veal calf: 4-6 months.

    On those figures, somewhere around half a million baby animals are killed every year to satisfy human taste buds. None of which would be supplied by you or your fellows if you did not dairy farm. Of course I can’t point the finger of blame squarely on the dairy industry, it is the consumer who drives this demand. But there it is.

    So when you reassure us that you do your best for these unfortunate male calves and really it’s not too bad, I think you are misleading us about the true state of affairs.

    Then you talk of the life of dairy cow using Cheeky Girl as an example. Now, here, I had some trouble uncovering useful facts, but I think there are some inferences to be drawn from industry sources as well as scientific research.

    First, there is no evidence I can find apart from your blog that a dairy cow is on average likely to live to be 14 or 15 years of age. Some might, but even then I note that is between 4 and 8 years short of the typical cow’s lifespan. Rather, I note that they tend to live for 5 to 7 years on average. Causes of death vary, but leading contributors are mastitis, herd reduction, cash flow.

    I am not especially clear on this but as far as I can tell, culling is an essential part of farm management. Bascom and Young, 1998, suggest that farmers in Europe at least tend to cull for several reasons.

    “A study was conducted to determine why cows are culled, whether cows are culled for multiple reasons, and whether farm characteristics can help explain why cows are culled. The primary reasons for culling were reproduction (i.e., failure to conceive), mastitis, and low production. Much variation existed as to why dairy farmers culled cows. ”

    Simple maths can tell us much here. If your herd is 260 animals and they are calving every year or two, very soon your herd will be quite large. So clearly there must be a constant flow of animals off-farm.

    The Dairy Australia Input Monitor tells us that for the YTD for April this year, total cull cows for Australia was 69,648. I couldn’t quickly find birth rates for comparison.

    The monitor notes that:

    “…cull cow prices are still at record highs for the year to date, with sales volume per head up 36%, and the average price up 44%”.

    So culling is both necessary for herd management as well as a useful source of cash flow. All of which I suspect obscures that cull cows are sold to die. Industry sources that I researched suggest that cull rates are around 20-30% of herd size per annum, so we can conclude that around one third of cows don’t get to 14 years of age.

    Thus, I am inclined to think that your claims that cows live to ripe old ages don’t reflect the truth. It might happen for some, but not for most it seems. And certainly not for poor producers, bobby calves and those who fall short in some way.

    Certainly this is only a shallow analysis and I am not pretending any authority for what I have found, but these facts tend to support the conclusions of those people who believe that dairy is not a moral industry, rather than your case.

    In my view, denying animals natural freedoms and rights because they serve our needs for profit and entertainment is not moral. I do not believe that dairy products are essential to human life. Rather, we consume dairy for its taste and because we have been socially conditioned to thinking it is the natural thing to do. There are as I noted originally, many plant-based alternatives. And these are getting better all the time. They can offer comparable taste, can be fortified to offer comparable nutritional value, and presumably require less effort to produce, but in particular, do not evoke any animal welfare concerns.

    If we cause considerable harm to animals who would never have existed but for our desires, I think we have behaved immorally. The evidence I can find supports the case put by activists. Yes, you and your fellows may operate relatively ethically within the framework of the dairy industry, but my position is that the industry itself is immoral.

    I am glad I found your blog, because it provoked me to do some actual research, and I feel comfortable that what I’ve uncovered reinforces my view that we do wrong to exploit and harm our farmed animals.

    Ralph Graham said:
    June 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Graeme M said, in reproducing his response to a dairy farmer “Yes, you and your fellows may operate relatively ethically within the framework of the dairy industry, but my position is that the industry itself is immoral.”
    My position exactly. It is good to engage with a farmer like Marian (as I have on her blog) as she is articulate and respectful but you can be a crop farmer instead of dairying as no matter how you dress it up or try to improve it, dairying is unnecessary, cruel by design and destructive of health and the environment.

    Thank you to the blogger for the excellent article (please consider using your name rather than a “sentence” 🙂 ) and to you Graeme for your excellent writing, with its meaningfulness and clarity.

      Graeme M said:
      June 23, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Thanks for your comments Ralph. I must say that I have found the position of many farmers strangely confused. They often claim to be very caring of their animals, even to the point of claiming that they love them. There must be some kind of definition of ‘love’ completely at odds with my own sense of the word.

      After all, ‘love’ as I understand it means to have a deep affection or passion for someone, to be concerned about them and their welfare, to want the best for them. Yet every farmer who raises animals for food desires from the moment they are born for those animals to die. They specifically breed their animals to die. They carefully plan their animals’ deaths. Their very job is to prevent their animals living a long life. And if they are dairy farmers, they will kill their male calves whilst still babies.

      How can this be love?

      A dairy farmer commented on my Facebook page recently:

      “I will openly and forthrightly state NO ONE LOVES ANIMALS MORE THAN I DO. NO ONE DETEST CRUELTY MORE THAN I DO. All our animals (about 800) are named, cared for and treated almost as well as our children. I am not a saint, just a typical farmer. Up in the middle of the night to check they are ok, don’t eat until the animals are attended too, grieve when an animal dies etc. etc.

      I totally respect a persons right to not eat certain foods but if it’s meat because you wrongly think it is cruel, please don’t wear leather shoes or drive a car with leather seats etc.

      On the whole farmers are an animals best friend not their enemy. That’s why most farmers do what we do.”

      It seems to me that with best friends like that, our farmed animals need no other enemies…

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