Another blog, Honk if You’re Vegan, is running a series on my art. This is part two: Does Art Respect Animals?, wherein I wonder whether artist’s needs to see animals a certain way really does affect the artwork.
Posts Tagged ‘cow’
Posted by tinako on July 25, 2013
Posted by tinako on July 23, 2013
Posted by tinako on January 19, 2013
As part of a local environmental organization’s initiative to increase packaging recycling in school lunchrooms, I’ve been taking a turn going in to our school district primary school once a month and helping the kids recycle their lunch materials. These are first and second graders, so they are sweet and fun but need a good deal of assistance. In case you’re wondering about the details, there are about 200 kids eating at once, and every table gets a bin to toss their recyclables in, and in one cafeteria a student from that table brings their bin up to the sink and recycles everything with my help. In the other cafeteria, I go and collect the bins after lunch and process them myself. We recycle rinsed milk cartons, plastic cups and lids which fruits and veggies come in, plastic “silverware,” milk/juice boxes and pouches, water bottles, and chip bags. Unfortunately they still use Styrofoam trays which we can’t recycle. It is painful to watch the trash fill up with those, used for 15 minutes and lasting 400 years. Of course it would be great if the district used reusable items, but they got rid of their dishwashing (and cooking) abilities when they shrank the kitchens to make room for more students 10-15 years ago or so. So we are doing the best we can. About half the kids bring their lunches and don’t generate much trash.
I didn’t anticipate when I signed up for this just how much milk I’d be handling. Each needs to be opened up and given a quick rinse, but frequently the milk needs to be dumped first. I pour a lot of milk down the drain in my two hours. In addition to coming home smelling like it, it makes me very sad to think what the cow went through to provide what I’m dumping. She desperately wanted to give it to her calf, who wanted desperately to have it, but the USDA school lunch program forces it on children who don’t need it, want it, or drink it.
Well, most drink some of it. From memory, I estimate that about 40% of the kids get milk, 90% of the milk chosen is chocolate (even when the kids don’t open it), 30% of the cartons are completely consumed, another 40% are partly consumed, 25% opened but pretty full, and 5% are unopened.
This last time I went in, the leader told us we had the option of saving the unopened milks either for our families or the food pantry. And so here is my dilemma. Do I save milk, which I don’t think is particularly healthy, especially the 90% that is chocolate (22 grams of sugar, almost two tablespoons, in one cup of milk), to provide to hungry families, or open this junk the cows suffered for and pour it down the drain? Is this sugar-milk less wasted if it is processed through a human gut than directly down the drain? Am I a vegan promoting milk by providing it to the poor? Is it arrogant of me to presume to choose for them, or is it caring to not dump USDA surplus sugar-milk on them? What if it was candy instead? Is it my right as a volunteer to decide according to my own deepest value, compassion? If I don’t pass on this milk, will someone purchase or donate replacement milk, at the cost of further animal suffering, or will an alternative be more or less healthy, compassionate, and wasteful to the environment?
Having to make a quick decision, I thought that if I was this conflicted, either choice was probably acceptable – the choices that would best serve one and all had already been bypassed by others, and it was not my fault that I was not left with good options. I decided to collect the milk in my cooler and let people who visit the pantry decide. I delivered about a gallon and a half. I tried to remember the lesson of Torn and deliver it cheerfully.
What do you think I should do next month?
Footnote: Food Pantries Request Healthy Food Donations has milk in the yes column and sugary beverages in the no column.
Posted by tinako on March 22, 2012
My Dad owns 200 acres of farmland and woods several hours away in central New York. Only about 15% of it is in production, rented to a local farmer. The rest he just plays with: planting trees, putting in ponds, mowing rotations, trails. The object is to improve it for wildlife. He follows a good forester’s advice and is head of the state forest owner’s association, which encourages responsible stewardship.
Anyway, an unusual visitor showed up last fall: this steer. He escaped from a neighbor’s land (actually a mile from my Dad’s). The neighbor had only this one steer to look after for someone else for pay, and he ran off. So the steer was in my Dad’s woods, and the neighbor didn’t know how to get him out, so planned to shoot him and drag him out. My Dad protested about doing that on his land and the neighbor, with no plan B, abandoned the steer for the winter.
Fortunately it was a very mild winter, and also my Dad’s hunter friend brought in bales of hay. This was especially kind of the friend since he wasn’t happy the steer was eating from feed plots he had planted for deer.
So the steer is still there, and appears healthy (see this video). When I first heard this story last fall I suggested to my Dad that he call Farm Sanctuary. He did but I’m sorry to report that they declined to get involved, which was very disappointing. None of us are farmers and have no safe place to keep or send this guy. Now that he’s clearly been abandoned by his owner to the elements all winter I’ve just contacted Farm Sanctuary myself with this trailcam photo (which was one of their caveats – they wanted to know what kind of cattle he was).
I’ll let you know what happens.
Posted by tinako on May 31, 2010
In case you haven’t heard, there is a very violent video making the rounds of the internet showing undercover footage on an Ohio dairy farm. I have chosen not to watch it, since I already chose not to support this industry. You may be interested to read a few thoughtful comments about the video that I’ve come across.
- Here’s is a letter from Farm Sanctuary’s Gene Bauer, in which he reports that Farm Sanctuary has offered to take the cows and wants to help support prosecution, but that laws in Ohio are very lenient.
- Here is a blog posting from Rae Sikora.
- And here is a blog posting from Tim Gier, stating why he thinks it is a mistake to suggest this video to non-vegans.
Posted by tinako on May 15, 2009
Many people tell me that they can understand my problem with eating meat, but why do I object to milk and its products? Milking cows doesn’t hurt them, right? This is something they make, and they actually need someone to take it. And dairy farmers love their cows.
I suspect that milking machines or milking by hand is probably not all that uncomfortable to a cow. But we need to take a look at the bigger picture, because that cow’s life is not summed up by grazing in sunny pastures and twice-daily trips to the milking machine, though that is what we think, because that is the image that has been promoted to us. Here are the facts about U.S. dairy cows. While other countries and smaller farms may have different customs, most of these facts, from simple biology, will apply anywhere.
I was shocked to learn, a little over a year ago, that cows cannot give milk unless they are pretty much continually pregnant. Since I heard that, I have verified it at agriculture website after website, and I have yet to see any contradiction. These are not anti-dairy sites, but governments or universities advising dairy farmers how to manage their stock. Now that I know what to look for, I find confirmation of all these facts all over the place. My Dad flat-out refused to believe it when I told him, so he asked a dairy farmer friend who confirmed all the facts in this posting. I encourage you to verify what I say as well.
Here we go. The optimum pregnancy cycle for milk production has been determined to be about 3 months rest before the next one, and with an approximately 9 month gestation it works out that that is about one calf every year. Whether or not the farmer cares about his/her cows, this is not something they can change very much if they want to earn a living. I’ve had moms respond that they were able to nurse for years after pregnancy. I don’t have a confirmed answer for this, but I suspect that while dairy cows could nurse their babies longer than a few months, they can’t keep up the overproduction demanded on today’s dairy farms, or that the machines are not as effective as a real baby at keeping up even normal production. In any case, they are in fact reimpregnated.
The calves are taken from their mothers at one day old. The only reason they aren’t taken immediately is that without that dose of colostrum they would all die, which wastes money. I have read accounts of this removal process from vegan sources and the cows fight for their calves, but of course they always lose. I am a mother and this is the part that gets to me; I know about a lot of horrific things we routinely do to farm animals, and have seen lots of abuse, but I don’t think there’s anything that anyone could do to me that would be worse than taking my baby from me and killing it. Except doing it every year. Some may say it is anthropomorphic to suggest that cows love their babies – I say it would be arrogant for us to assume only we can feel love.
As you would expect, about half the calves born are male and half female. Farmers have no use for the males, who are not bred big for meat, so they are sent to auction. Sometimes they are sent straight to slaughter, often still with their umbilical cords attached. Usually, though, they are raised in tiny crates, chained tightly by the neck to restrict their movement, and sent to slaughter at up to 16 weeks old. Veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry. Again, this happens whether the farmer is kind or not – they cannot afford to keep and feed the males.
The female calves are raised to replace their mothers, who don’t live very long. Dairy cows, which would usually live to over 20 years of age, are no longer profitable after about 4 years, at which point they are sold at auction to slaughter for hamburger. Farmers cannot afford to keep cows that are not producing – even farmers who say they love their cows say goodbye and load them on the truck.
Organic or not, rBGH or not, “Happy Cows” advertising or not, this is the life of a dairy cow – taken from her mother at one day old, artificially impregnated, hooked up to machines, having her calves taken every year until she is driven onto a truck and faces the stunner at a slaughterhouse.
I can totally relate to feeling there is a moral difference between meat and milk or eggs. I felt that way for 15 years and did not ever intend to become vegan. A year ago, I realized that I don’t abstain from meat because it is a dead body – I abstain because it causes suffering. When I found out how much suffering is in milk and eggs, I knew what I had to do.
The next time you see dairy cows standing serenely in a field, ask yourself which of them had her calf torn from her today, and which of them are scheduled for the truck tomorrow. Because it would be just as correct to call that dairy farm a veal and hamburger farm.
If you would like to hear about dairy cows, including the facts I’ve related but also some lovely stories about rescued cows, this is a wonderful podcast on the issue.
Afternote: In case you are still under the illusion that dairy is a magical pastoral occupation, as I was Googling this morning to find any new contradictions of my facts (I couldn’t), I came across this document from the University of Florida. It gives dairy farmers a model for culling decisions; that is, how to decide when to kill their dairy cows. It’s a Powerpoint type document and highlights a computer program into which you can enter things like how much milk the cow is giving, how many calves, how big your herd is, how much feed costs, and it will output whether she should live or die.