I want to start this blog by stating that I have no hate for vegans, fully respect their beliefs and choices and do not intend to offend anyone. The truth is I am a dairy farmer’s daughter, I grew up drinking milk straight from the cows, calves suck on my fingers and was riding the motorbike up the hill at 4:00 am in the morning to get the cows since before I could walk. I have grown up to have a respect for the industry and the hard-working men and women that are in it. Recently, I was enjoying an ice cream with a friend when we were confronted by a group of activists on the street who came up to us saying that we are “supporting an industry that tortures animals”. Now, me being the won’t-go-quietly type of person that I am, I turned around to defend myself and, in return was called a “murderer”. The funniest thing of it all was that I, in fact, was eating a mango sorbet.
I have always been the type of person that respects other people’s choices as long as they don’t try and inflict them on me. This is where the line is drawn between aggressive activism and just having one’s beliefs”. Another blog on this website by my fellow writer, Emily Davis, titled, Are Those Fruity Vegans onto Something, describes many reasons why someone would become a vegan. It basically comes down to health, environment, animal cruelty and simply for the social and trend aspects. These are valuable reasons, but what makes certain vegans into activists and why do they focus mainly on the animal cruelty more than anything else?
Studies proclaim that there are quite a few reasons why protesters and activists are the way they are, some pointing to upbringing and personality. Jeffrey Kottler, Ph.D., in his book Doing Good: Passion and Commitment for Helping Others explains that it is most likely that humans act compassionately for conscious or unconscious gain. This basically means that acts of passion may be motivated by the intrinsic psychological and physiological rewards they provide to the activist. As a result, the activist takes the most emotive route to get the most satisfaction.
There is a little part of me that hopes there are a few people who are selflessly fighting for a cause, but I am assuming that the people who go around calling people like me murderers are not those selfless people. As I am a dairy farmer’s daughter, it is quite often that I get tagged in anti-industry videos, that at risk of sounding defensive, are exaggerated, and quite honestly are uneducated people making false accusations. Recently, I was so kindly tagged in a video titled “the truth about the dairy industry” featuring activist, James Aspey, telling the so-called truth. James is a vegan activist that, unlike me, probably hasn’t stepped foot on a dairy farm, but hey, what do I know.
So, let’s explore this video a bit more.
Firstly, Aspey explores the world of how milk is produced, i.e the cow has to get pregnant. I will admit that part is true. But then James goes onto say that in order for dairy farmers to keep a cow pregnant she is then artificially inseminated (AI). Again, I am not going to lie: this sometimes is the case -SOMETIMES being the operative word- and it’s not as nearly as dramatic as he goes on to say, calling it a “rape rack” (never in my 20 years have I heard it called that). In fact, AI can prevent injuries and disease, both to a bull and to the cow that can take place during the mating process. Whichever way the farmers prefer to do it the process in most cases, is simple. The cows have a sticker called a “heat patch” put on their back and when the sticker says they are ready, the cows are put with the bull or A.I’ed. In the animal world, when an animal is on heat, it mates. It is nature.
So, what was the point of the video?
From James Aspeys whole video there was one thing I didn’t quite grasp. I get that he was degrading over 40 000 men and women that work 14 hour days 365 days of the year. I understand that he was using worst case examples instead of the majority of kind and caring farmers out there. I completely understood that he was ignoring the $13.7 Billion that the dairy industry provides our country. But the one thing I didn’t quite grasp was what his solution was. Why was he on the stage? To stop people from drinking milk? To shut down every dairy in Australia? To promote almond milk? Or, as Dr. Kottler suggests, to make himself feel good? I don’t know. But the one thing that I think, Aspey and a lot of activists out there don’t understand is that if we were all to turn around now and stop all milk productions, we would lose everything above and more. It is highly likely, in fact, that if we were to stop milking cows right now, then a large majority would be in excruciating pain, if not dead, by next month. Without getting into too much gorey detail, the more cows eat the more milk they produce, which makes them open their teats to release milk. In an unclean environment, This can cause mastitis that then turns into black mastitis and, well, I will save you from the rotten-udder-falling-off details.
Is the vegan-activist ideal really plausible?
Mastitis is just one risk that cows can face in a “free” environment. Causes of death like wild dogs, pneumonia, and milk fever to name a few, are all prevented by farmers in the agriculture industry. Protection and health are one of the many benifits of the farming industry. Looking from a human perspective, there are some other factors that need to be taken into account. If right now we were to stop all animal products and release all animals to return to “nature” we would be doing considerable damage to the earth. In Emily Davis’s blog, she shows how meat production uses more greenhouse emissions than cars and planes. However, there is not enough vegetation and water for all the animals and all the people to coexist effectively. Crops like wheat and legumes, which will become a staple food source if meat-a-ggedon ever happened, would be attacked by animals causing them or us to starve as a result. Which not really fixing any problems.
I’m not naive. Is every single dairy in Australia perfect? Probably not but should we all be labeled rapists, murderers and tortures? Probably not. It is like this blog post I understand that there is a difference between activists and vegans, so do I get defensive at the drop of the word, no I don’t. If there is one thing that I want meat eaters or vegans and hopefully even activists to get from this, it is that there are different sides to every story. There are many opinions, heaps of evidence for both sides of the argument and individual choices, but it is just really nice to let a girl eat her mango sorbet in peace.