Milk Monday: More Dairy Doom

It seems I have accumulated enough bile to write about the dairy industry a few more times, so welcome to “Milk Monday” –  a series that will run for as long as I have enough verbal ammo. I am prompted to write about this again by the resubmission of plans for Britain’s first Battery Dairy Factory by Nocton Dairies in Lincolnshire. My previous post on The Two Faces Of Dairy Farming in Britain also drew a little criticism that I can’t let lie.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Image via Wikipedia

I think that for modern westerners, milk is a little bit like water in that it is virtually ubiquitous in every household and we have a sense of entitlement about it as the recent furore over milk in UK schools confirms. The population has bought into the idea that it is our only source of dietary calcium, for instance, and woe betide anyone who proposes to take it away – after all you don’t want to be aligned with Margaret Thatcher! However, unlike water, milk is squeezed out of animals and it is not essential to sustaining human life.

I am more frequently asked to defend my abstention from dairy products than I am for meat and it is very difficult to boil it down to an elevator pitch. I usually quip that, “you wouldn’t suckle from a cow” and then judge by people’s reaction how curious they really are. For the genuinely curious, I recommend you tune in here for the next few Mondays.

Brown cow in a field

Cows in Fields? Not for much longer ...

At the outset, I want to try and be fair to the majority of british dairy farmers who manage the average sized herds that have been part of our countryside economy for hundreds of years. My mother lives in a rural part of Devonshire, very close, in fact to the home of Peter Willes who is one of the Nocton dairies partners. I have spent time in that communitiy and met some of the people whose livelihoods and way of life are tied to their animals and they do care about them. I even helped to build a milking parlour one summer! Apart from anything else, a dairy farmer has a vested interest in the welfare of the animals because a sick cow and even a miserable cow is less productive. I also had nominal responsibility for a small milking herd for several weeks during my gap year in Zimbabwe. Those ones were milked by hand, as I recall. Apart from that my credentials for commenting on this come from being a curious consumer with a great interest in where my food comes from.

Laying aside, for a moment, the question of “if” we should consume dairy at all, I would beg the reader to concern themselves with “what” dairy. It is very likely, unless, large amounts of pressure and protest are immediately applied, that our milk, butter and cheese in the future will come from herds that bear no resemblance to the happy Anchor Butter, smiling, green field grazing cows depicted on the packaging (if it ever did).

Apart from the grave concerns for animal welfare in the proposed megga dairy that have been raised by the RSPCA and numerous animal welfare groups, WSPA’s “Not In My Cuppa” campaign have also pointed out that traditional and sustainable dairies will struggle to compete with the zero-grazing factory approach to production:

A farmer consulting on our campaign told us that dairy farmers get around 28p for a litre of milk that would cost the shopper 90p in the supermarket. Problem is, it costs around 28p for a farmer to produce that litre of milk …

As consumers, it has been proven time and again that we have the power to change industrial practices through our choices. Is it really worth a cheaper pint of milk to see our countryside become industrialised, traditional dairies going out of business and cows living short miserable lives being milked round the clock with no grass in sight? Not in my cuppa!

Links:

Daily Mail article about the plans with diagrams and figures in true Daily Mail style.

This Is Lincolnshire: RSPCA joins the fight against the 8,100 cow super-dairy.

Not In My Cuppa Campaign.

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8 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by WSPAUK , Seymour Jacklin. Seymour Jacklin said: Milk Monday: More Dairy Doom: http://t.co/yNQJLMj New Post on Seymour Writes. @notinmycuppa #dairy #agriculture #campaign […]

  2. Interesting stuff Seymour, will look forward to next week’s Milk Monday!
    Have you heard about a guy called Peter Atkins in the Durham Geography department? He’s just recently published a book on milk.

    • Hi Matt,

      No, I have not heard about Peter Atkins and his book. I’ll have to check it out. This dairy thing seems to be turning into a running theme with me and I feel a little uninformed at times especially when people are aggressively in defence of it.

      Another book I’d like to check out is “Cows and the Earth” By Ranchor Prime. It’s story of the first and only farm in the UK to run entirely without slaughter or fossil fuels, and the only farm to produce cruelty-free milk.

      Cool.

      See ya ’round 🙂

    • If you are friendly with Peter Atkins, you could mention that I’d be interested in reviewing his book on a Milk Monday in the future if he can push one my way. It is still small fry, I get about 1,200 hits a month and my Milk Monday posts account for a good proportion of that. Worth a try, I guess 🙂

  3. I don’t think I’m going to get as far down the dairy-free line as you any time soon but share a number of your concerns. If you’re investigating this further I’d be interested to know what you find on the relative merits of organic milk – on a basic level I assume it will be a good way of avoiding factory farmed milk as I can’t see organic certification being obtainable with the pharmaceuticals likely to be necessary to make the factory process work. But more generally, are there other minimum welfare requirements that go with organic status and therefore make it a better option?

    I thoroughly recommend farmaround having been a customer on and off for 6 years and would encourage anyone reading this to support them wherever possible with their milk initiative. They also do great tinned tomatoes, although that’s not strictly relevant right now.

  4. Farmaround are good, indeed, I get most of our groceries from them and they are soon going to be one of the few distribution lines for Ahmisa, slaughter free milk. I will be blogging more about this on future Mondays.

    I think that by and large “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean better welfare. I think the cows could even be corn fed as long as it was organic corn. I am certainly continuing my enquiries and will let you know.

  5. […] Posts Milk Monday: More Dairy DoomWho Is Edward Monkton?Foraging Friday: Glorious RosehipsThe Two Faces of Dairy Farming in the […]

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