How long have you been a vegan?
No, really. How long has it been since you used or drank or ate something that used to be an animal or was made through the killing, torture, or abuse of the animals that we all say we love?
Was the last time you had calf's milk with your cereal this morning? So maybe an hour, eight hours? That's cool. I used to drink cow's milk all the time. Didn't second guess what I was putting into my body. You don't have to either.
But if you'd like to know a little more... when I was a vegetarian, I went on a work trip with my Chicago-based team at the Environmental Protection Agency to a couple of CAFOs. CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, and what it is, is a large-scale industrial agricultural facility that raises animals at high-density for the consumption of meat or milk, or eggs if we're talking chickens.
But I'm talking cows for a moment. I love them for some reason. I think it's their wide noses and sweet nature.
I went on a tractor tour of Collins Dairy, complete with sitting on hay bales and having lemonade afterward. They are one of the better ones -- trying to be proactive with their industry's generally negative impact on human health. Here's a quick clip:
However, "in the more intensive systems that dominate dairy production, the main environmental issues are nutrient contamination of soil, groundwater pollution, surface water eutrophication, and ammonia emissions."
We also visited Brickstead Dairy where Dan Brickstead spoke about his phosphorous reduction plan in conjunction with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the Agriculture Department (USDA). The USDA-NRCS is a federal agency that works with farmers, ranchers and foresters to implement conservation practices that will benefit the soil, water, air, and wildlife.
So we're there and getting the tour, and we're coming up to the end of the day, and we hear a huge ruckus, and then we see row on row of these little houses full of newborn calves. And because I love baby animals, I got all excited and went to say hi. I even got a kiss from this one.
Naturally, calves suckle from their mothers for up to a year, and maintain a strong bond with her for several years. However in commercial dairy farming, nearly all calves are taken away from their mother within hours of birth, while male calves will either be shot after birth, or sold to be reared for veal or beef.
I knew that these calves couldn't be fed by their mothers since the farmers were milking the cows for monetary gain (obviously), but I didn't question what they would do with them.
"Naturally, calves suckle from their mothers for up to a year, and maintain a strong bond with her for several years.
However in commercial dairy farming, nearly all calves are taken away from their mother within hours of birth, while male calves will either be shot after birth," or sold to be raised to be eaten as meat, either as a calf (veal) or adult (beef).
If I visited the place, was a vegetarian, but I still didn't realize to the full extent what was happening, maybe you didn't know either.
Here are some alternatives to cow's milk, if you're so moved to try one or two out:
rice milk, for those with allergies
macadamia nut milk for the fancy folk
hemp milk for the hippies
and maybe even peanut millk?!
And remember, if it's not your mom, it's not your milk.