I don’t often write posts like this, so please forgive the heavy subject matter. The following contains “extremist vegan” statements. Read on at your own risk. 😉
I usually write about hummus or cakes or sunshine and rainbows; all things “happy vegan”, taken from everyday inspirations. Yesterday, however, inspired me in a different way. I found myself in a very amicable chat about being vegan with someone at work. It started on the usual “why are you vegan” path and progressed to the inevitable “happy family farm” argument that I love so much. (While watching her drink a latte. Cough! You have no idea where that milk is from!)
I parroted all the usual “vegan” answers: the basics of supply and demand, the veal industry, the inevitable cruelty of artificial insemination, etcetera, but, I know that none of those reasons are actually why I don’t drink milk. For the first time since going vegan, the real reason came bubbling up within me and popped out, so honest and so right.
I found the words.
“I’d feel like I was stealing.”
When I look at cheese or cream or milk, I don’t think that it’s mine to eat. When I watch someone eating a giant slice of decadant cake I want to grab them and say: that’s not YOURS! You have TAKEN that milk from another living being just so you can enjoy your yummy cake!
Slightly irrational, I know. But…well, is it? It would be irrational to actually go and shake the person, but is it irrational to think it?
When we milk cows – are we taking something that’s not ours?
It sounds like a really deep question, but for me: it’s a no-brainer.
How can a cow consent to be milked? How can a cow say, “Yes, it’s okay for you to take my milk. Hook me up!” And why would she? Why would a cow consent to be artificially inseminated, impregnated, have her baby taken away to be killed, hooked up to a machine up to three times a day, re-inseminated and impregnated AGAIN and, eventually, taken off to the slaughterhouse?
Oh yeah, sign me up.
Let’s not kid ourselves that we house animals anymore for their protection and companionship. Humans breed and house cows for meat and dairy, pure and simple. The conditions can be nicer on a family farm, but let’s not pretend that cows aren’t a business. They are a business. “Property”. We take what is theirs and sell it.
A cow does not consent by walking into a milking bay.
If you’ve had the pleasure of watching a cow NOT walk into a milking bay, you’ll know what happens most of the time, specifically on factory farms. Cows are intelligent creatures. They want to avoid pain and suffering. Like any prisoner – they do what they’re told to avoid punishment. When cows don’t do what they’re told – they are hit or beaten and there are plenty of traumatic videos I can direct you to.
Even on a “happy farm”, cows are artificially inseminated. How can a cow consent to that?! Cows are gentle creatures, with a loving nature. They are not prone to attacking people or violence. Humans have been exploiting this gentle nature for far too long. I argue that just because cows are not “fighting”, does not mean they are saying “yes, this is okay. I am loving my life.”
Instead I say, let’s focus on – how a cow can indicate she’s NOT consenting?
Well, she can cry, wail and make noise.
She can refuse to move when asked.
Her body can get sick.
She can chase the van that’s driving its baby away.
She can refuse to step OFF the truck upon arrival at the slaughterhouse.
If you don’t know where I’m heading with this – cows do all these things. Cows often show they do NOT consent. Their bodies can be riddled with tumours and diseases showing the utter rejection of their bogus “food”. They can have literally just given birth and then wail and cry while watching their newborn be taken away by humans. They can be so brain-dead from lack of stimulation that they do simply just stand and do nothing when they are meant to “move”. And then we humans call them “stupid”? I’d like to know how smart any human would be after a living the life of your average factory-farmed animal.
Animals have no say. They have no voice. They have no option.
These realities, if I think about them too long and hard, devastate me. Humans take the fact that animals have no voice and abuse it. They abuse it to such an extreme that we now farm animals by the BILLIONS so humans can enjoy chicken breast for dinner, having NO idea what they’ve paid for.
Abuse. Pain. Slavery. Neglect. To intelligent animals.
We see it on every level of human/animal interaction. Animals are here to be cute for us, entertain us, clothe us and feed us. If you are vegan, you take on the possibility that maybe an animal would just want to exist for its own purpose? Maybe to raise her child? Maybe to feel love? Maybe just to stand in a damn field all day? I don’t really care! It can do whatever the hell it wants. And guess what? We are not going to be magically overrun with cows if we don’t eat them and suck them dry. There would just be less of them because we aren’t BREEDING THEM.
I’ll stop for a breath. Are you still with me? Sorry for the rant.
Let’s get back on track: is dairy stealing?
Looking at cheese now, after years of my own journey and questioning and “veganifying”, I feel like eating cheese would be taking something that is not mine. Milk belongs to that cow, that calf. It was taken unnaturally, by human hand after forcing a cow to be pregnant.
And the cow had no say. Still has no say. She’s still there on the farm. Still there, suffering in the factory.
Meanwhile humans are enjoy their cheese sandwiches and getting on with the day.
No thank you.
I’ll stick with my hummus.