The above video is both long and brutal but it sets the stage for how some of us have arrived to where we are today (you don’t need to watch it now, proceed). You see, for years, milk cows have had a predetermined life cycle. They get pregnant and their calf is taken from them within days and the mother is milked. This cycle is repeated for about 4 or 5 years or until the mother becomes less productive. She’s then sent to the slaughterhouse and made into beef for consumers. The calves of milk cows are either sold and grow up to be milk cows themselves or they’re sold as veal cattle, briefly fattened with milk or grain, and then slaughtered.
That’s the cycle and it’s been the cycle for the many decades that milk has been an industrial product in the U.S.
Cows Live Up To 20 Years:
But now, some vegetarians, taking their cues from Indian street cows, want to keep drinking milk despite the above cycle and their suggestion is thus: don’t ever send unproductive cows to the slaughterhouse. This means feeding and housing these cows and the calves (yes, calves will continue to be born because milk) until all of them die a natural death. It also means no slaughterhouse cruelty and no meat on plates. Mother Jones runs the numbers on what that would mean:
If all dairies became slaughter-free, we’d need three to four times as many dairy cows to produce the same amount of milk, which would mean adding at least 27 million additional cows to our herds. Those added cows would each year produce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to four large coal-fired power plants. We’d also need more meat cows to keep up with the demand for products such as veal and dog food. Pasturing all of these cows would displace wildlife or agricultural crops, straining biodiversity and increasing food prices.
In short, ecological disaster. Now I can understand why a vegetarian wouldn’t want to give money to the industrial milk industry and essentially be paying into a system that’s in the business of killing cows but what’s culturally incredible about the no-kill solution is that it’s equally industrial in its binary thinking.
Industrial milk production is based largely on one thing and one thing alone, profit. The animals are not animals, they are raw materials. The finished product that these companies make is milk and meat. In the pursuit of that goal they will do many things that the average person would consider brutal and cruel and the effects of that goal will be substandard meat, local ecological despoilment, lots of water and corn being grown, and a lot of humans doing inhumane and abusive things. But, that’s the demand that industrialization levies. It’s profit or bust. Say what you want about this and I have many thoughts but in many ways it is not wasteful even if it is resource intensive.
In the case of this vegetarian no-kill concept you have an idea that’s been arrived at by almost exclusively well off people or at least people that can afford $10 a gallon milk. They’ve come up with a new system that still gobbles up tons of resources as cows are fed, watered, and pastured but in the end the cows just die. Those resources are never recouped in the form of meat on the table. All the energy that went into producing them is lost. This system is inherently incredibly wasteful and all that waste is a product of one myopic fixation. These vegetarians intend to continue drinking milk no matter the cost and in furtherance of that goal they’re willing to engage in a system that’s completely unsustainable and that, if it were universal, would destroy the planet. It’s an idea based on infinite cows.
Almond Milk Is Wasteful (as is every plant-based milk):
And it’s not just no-kill dairies that are committing the sin of propelling forward in a way of thinking that’s ultimately counter to their intended goal. The internet is awash in articles on almond milk this month. I assume this is because writers eventually read the labels on the things they buy.
According to Tom Philpott, also over at Mother Jones (they’re knocking it out of the park this month), what you’re doing when you drink almond milk is eating what’s essentially a handful of almonds at twice the cost and then drinking a bunch of water because that’s what almond milk is made of.
By law, food manufacturers have to name ingredients in order of their prevalence in the product. For Califia and other almond milk brands, it starts like this: “filtered water, almonds.” Given that it takes 1.1 gallons of water to grow a single almond in California, where 80 percent of the world’s almonds are produced, drenching the finished product in yet more water seems insane.
That’s right, almond milk is horribly wasteful. What’s more, milk is nutritionally better for you in most ways that matter. It has better quantities of the nutrients you as a mammal need than almond milk does. So, almond milk costs more and isn’t as good for you and its production creates a lot of CO2 just so the facilities can basically run a giant blender. The only thing milk has in it that you may not want more of is fat and cholesterol. But what do you expect, nature intended it as a meal for babies to get fat on, specifically cow babies.
So, what’s a vegetarian hipster whose thinking has been so molded by industrialized farming that he/she can’t think any differently to do when he/she’s just gotta have some kind of milk-like drink?
You’ve Got Two Choices:
Suck it up and don’t ever drink any milk type thing again or suck it up and start buying milk from a local farmer where you can verify that the animals are treated humanly prior to slaughter and the calves aren’t being sold for veal.
Those are the only two choices you have here. There is no hidden side-door you can go through that will lead you to magical milk that doesn’t come from animals and isn’t silly, wasteful of resources, and less nutritious. I’m not arguing for either choice but I am arguing that people should choose one or the other. Ideological consistency without practicality is bad for the soul.