I thought it was poignant this weekend, as our transatlantic cousins celebrated their “Mother’s Day”, that some took the opportunity to consider “motherhood” in the widest sense of the word and, fittingly, took the opportunity to highlight the plight of the dairy cow. I have had people tell me that dairy cows don’t have mothering instincts and habitually reject their calves anyway. But I feel that, if this is true, it only reflects the extent to which the practice of using cows as machines to feed our own tastes has become a fundamental assault on one of the most primal instinctive bonds in nature (that of mother and child). I have also been told that animals are purely creatures driven by instinct and that it is wrong to read emotion into them. Not only is this unscientific but if it were true, it would still seem to me to be a good reason not to interfere – if all the animal has is instinct, how can we justify setting ourselves against it? (I’m talking about an instinct to nurture young here, if I was faced with a hungry lion’s instinct to kill and eat me I would fight very hard against that.)
I’m not a mother and I never will be, I can’t protest a mother’s rights with anything approaching true empathy but in another of those genteel conversations I have with people about why I abstain from dairy (usually while they are tucking into their ice cream) I asked a friend if he was comfortable with a cow being milked two or three times a day so he could drink what was meant for a calf. His wife, who was nursing a sprog at the time, rolled her eyes and said she had some idea of how that might feel.
Well, in light of all that … it just seems to have a rightness about it when I hear this week that the WI (Women’s Institute) in Britain is to vote whether to join the campaign against mega dairies at their June Annual General Meeting. Of course, we’ll have to see how the vote goes but I am expecting that these human ladies will choose to stick up for those non-human ladies?
If they decide to, the WI will be joining a strong coalition, which includes the WSPA’s “Not in my Cuppa” campaign, CIWF (Compassion in World Farming), 38 Degrees, and the Soil Association, that is vigorously opposed to the introduction of industrial scale farming in the UK at the same time as holding out for a viable and sustainable agricultural future. These organisations proved very successful in activating and focussing the efforts of concerned consumers (the public) earlier this year to produce an “overwhelming” public response against the proposals for a factory dairy at Nocton in Lincolnshire. As those plans were finally withdrawn, there was a strong sense among campaigners that the battle had only just begun and that, in the shadow of dark whisperings about a looming food crisis, there were still many others who saw further industrialisation of animals as the only answer for Britain.
Plans are now being made for a pig factory at Foston in Derbyshire, housing 2,500 and 25,000 young pigs and facilities of this scale are unprecedented in the UK although virtually “the norm” in the US. I can only expect that there will be more proposals to be faced down in the coming months so I do hope the WI gets on board, too.
If you are new to Milk Mondays, you might like to read some of my previous posts on the topic of dairy, ranging from factory farming to ancient methods of storing milk. I obviously feel strongly about milk and I write as a concerned non-consumer of dairy products in the hope that readers will give some thought to where their food comes from, the ethical and environmental dimensions of that, and decide whether it is something they want to be a party to. These are my own opinions, although I try to be as informed as possible, and the offer is always open for anyone involved in “milk” to do a guest post from their perspective.
- Plans for ‘mega dairy’ scrapped amid fears for the environment (telegraph.co.uk)
- Gigantic pig farm will house 25,000 animals in metal sheds (dailymail.co.uk)
- Why is breast milk ice-cream repulsive? | Sarah Ditum (guardian.co.uk)