Milk Monday: The Ahimsa Dairy Extends the Availability of Slaughter-Free Milk

Milking dairy cows

Hand Milking

I have written before about the herd at Bhaktivedanta Manor in Hertfordshire where milking cows are allowed to suckle their young normally and to live out their entire natural lifespan on the farm. Many of the cows have, themselves, been rescued from slaughter and even the male calves are allowed to mature as oxen and have a role to play in the life of the farm.

The herd at Bhaktivedanta Manor was described by the Daily Mail as having the nation’s most pampered cows back in November 2010 when the new facility was opened. While the proposed mega-dairy at Nocton in Lincolnshire was looming in the consciousness of Britain’s concerned consumers, the Lotus Trust seemed to be offering a very different alternative based on the ancient principles of “ahimsa” (non-violence) that are common to Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. They were also looking for ways to carry these principles to a productive model that would make slaughter free milk more widely available.

Ahimsa Milk was cleared for commercial production on the 6th of May and launched with due ceremony in the newly built barns at New Gokul Farm. In collaboration with the Commonwork organic farm in Kent, the small herd of some dozen cows will be expected to produce about 50,000 litres of milk a year for distribution in the London area and parts of Hertfordshire. At this dairy, Commonwork will be taking responsibility for the milking cows and a newly formed trust, the Ahimsa Dairy Foundation, will be caring for the non-milking animals including the calves, bulls and retired females. Although the herd will be milked by machine (unlike those at Bhaktivedanta manor) there will be a minimum standard for the care of the animals:

  • No cows, calves or bulls will be slaughtered
  • Cows will be able to graze freely on open pasture
  • Cows will be cared for for life

This means that calves will be naturally weaned and cows will be retired after approximately 5 birthing cycles at about 13 years old.  This has to be an improvement on the lifespan of the average dairy cow which is about 5 years, during which she will be forced to give birth and lactate about 4 times before being culled at the end of her “usefulness”. Furthermore, The Ahimsa Dairy Trust, will be seeking gainful employment for the males that have extremely short and miserable lives under traditional dairy systems. At Bhaktivedanta manor, for example, male cattle play an important part in ploughing and transportation.

Available on the market from July, the milk will cost £2:25 a litre with an additional 15p for doorstep delivery; it will be available by subscription only. It will be interesting to watch the progress of this pioneering project and see if there is sufficient demand for slaughter free milk to drive a growth and proliferation of expertise in alternative approaches to dairy farming.

I don’t know what I think of all this. I don’t think I could be persuaded to go back to using dairy products even if they were produced in a pure atmosphere of ahimsa. I don’t think I am comfortable with any use of animals for our own gratification, especially when going dairy free is so easy, fun and healthy. I’m still teetering between the more watertight ethical system of the abolitionists and the pragmatism of everyone else. However, Milk Mondays are about prompting the reader to think about their own choices and options and find their own answers – as much as I’d like you to all be like me …

If anyone would like to guest post on a Milk Monday and put another point of view, please get in touch.

Links:

Ahimsa Milk

The Lotus Trust

Commonwork

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