Because a presentation in a college class made by a representative of a group I still distrust used industry sources. I could not deny the realities of the animal product industry when faced with the industry's own published journals and the horribly cold language they use.
Every day, every time I think about animals, the aforementioned industry, global environmental problems, and just about everything our civilization is currently doing wrong, my vegan convictions grow stronger.
My mother spent most of my life showing and breeding Yorkshire Terriers (a breed of dog, for anyone unaware). She made a living—until a few years ago—grooming dogs. Most of her friends from the 'dog world' think I'm some kind of animal lover, but then they think of themselves as animal lovers as well....even when eating beef, chicken, etc. While I grew up around animals, I have no particular love for them—at least no more than any of my human neighbors. The reality is that I would not intentionally harm another person, or support anyone who attempted to harm another for any reason. I just happen to view animals as people. Why?
• They exhibit emotions as clearly as any human who speaks a language I do not understand.
• They exhibit the ability to feel physical pain just as clearly.
• They also exhibit full personalities, even more so than some humans I know.
For these reasons and more, I feel that any exploitation of any animal/person is wrong.
I've been vegan for several months now and I'm eating a very healthy whole foods diet with lots of variety for less than I was as a vegetarian or omnivore. I admit that part of this difference is that I'm paying more attention to what I'm getting, but vegan diets really don't cost more overall as well.
I have found Peter Singer's books quite enlightening as well. I was already a vegetarian by the time I read Animal Liberation and I'm reading The Way We Eat. Why Our Food Choices Matter now. Neither of these was a direct influence on my decision to become vegan, but certainly help to reinforce it. I do feel that Peter Singer would argue, as well as I myself believe, that your decision to eat ethically raised and killed pigs would be morally no different from eating an ethically treated and killed mentally disabled human and it is merely speciesism that allows you to treat it otherwise.
Aside from the inhumane practices behind the way milk is collected, I'm not sure if I understand the anti-lactose side of veganism. I know biologically we aren't quite meant to drink cow's milk, but ethically I'm not sure if it's that big a deal. Milk is one of the only substances on the planet created solely for consumption (honey being the only other one I know of). Kind of a bizarre grey area.
Cows don't just produce milk on their own, even if we let it be done in the most ethical way possible a cow still has to be forcefully inseminated and deliver a baby calf. What will we do with all these calves? Well unless you are willing to be paying $20+ a gallon for milk we can't afford to be letting the calves drink their mothers milk, so they get separated (male calves often destined to be veal, but lets look at the ethical case). This separation is incredibly cruel to the mother and unbearable to the child. To take two examples from The Way We Eat Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason:
"At Lawnel Farms, Lovenheim watched a cow give birth and begin to lick her calf, but forty minutes later a farmhand came and took the calf away. The cow sniffed the straw where the calf had been, bellowed, and began to pace around. Hours later she was sticking her nose under the gate to the barn in which she was confined, bellowing continuously. Meanwhile her calf was in another part of the farm, lying shivering on a concrete floor. Within a few days he was dead, and his body was lying on the farm's compost pile."
"We saw one cow outside the stockade, roaming, looking for her calf, and bellowing. 'That's not a happy cow,' Temple said. 'That's one sad, unhappy, upset cow. Sje wamts jer baby. Bellowing for it, hunting for it. She'll forget for a while, then start again. Its like grieving, mourning-- not much written about it. People don't like to allow them thoughts or feelings.' John Avizienius, the senior scientific officer in the Farm Animals Department of the RSPCA in Britain, says that he, 'remembers one particular cow who appeared to be deeply affected by the separation from her calf for a period of at least six weeks. When the calf was first removed, she was in acute grief; she stood outside the pen where she had last seen her calf and bellowed for her offspring for hours. She would only move when forced to do so. Even after six weeks, the mother would gaze at the pen where she last saw her calf and sometimes wait momentarily outside of the pen. It was almost as if her spirit had been broken and all she could do was to make token gestures to see if her calf would still be there'"
Then after the calf has been torn away, the mother's udders begin to swell. She cannot relieve the pressure on her own, and there is no calf to drink the milk, so it becomes painful to the point where they willingly seek out the milk machines which often bruise and harm their udders.
Say you do take even all of this away you're still keeping an animal in captivity and not allowing it to indulge in all of its natural tendencies (and do you really imagine any system of production which treats them as a production unit wouldn't do anything more to harm the cows?)
Take away everything and you're just left with finding a cow and calf in the wild and kindly and gently having it allow you to take some of its milk... then by ethical standards this is fine. Then you're only left with the terrible health consequences of milk on humans (most of the environmental concerns are dealt with already in this scenario)
Thanks for this, and fair enough. I suppose I hadn't put that much thought into the full production methods, "ethical" or otherwise. Just wondering what some of the arguements were. I am very admitedly conlficted on my future consumption of dairy.
I just saw this Slate article published yesterday. It discusses how much more efficient soy milk is than cows', focusing on the environmental side of the issue, so I felt it added to the conversation...
I know what you mean. I loved cheese growing up and my omni friends still have no problems rubbing their pizza eating in my face. The first time I tried a vegan cheese product I got a product that looked like the American cheese squares little kids get to eat. It tasted like finely ground chalk coated in slime. I could hardly get a single square down and this experience turned me off of trying fake cheeses for a while. Finally last week I got a product they started selling at the supermarket by my house called veggie shreds, which is like grated Mozzarella cheese. In its plain form it was a bit firm, kinda feeling like cheese that had been left out for a while, but tasted reasonably close to the real thing! I've also heard really good things about a brand called Teese, so I ordered some of it online and am waiting for it to show up currently. The good thing about the Teese and veggie shreds is that they really don't cost any more than dairy cheeses do, so their affordable as an occasional treat for someone like me who is trying to work and go to school at the same time.
I just reserved that book. I was telling my husband about what you wrote here and my son overheard. He's very concerned about cows because we see them everyday in the little farms in our town. Thanks for the recommendation.