Dairy Involves Cruelty


Modern milk production involves a lot of cruelty. There are plenty of healthier and compassionate alternatives which Jains would do well to embrace, argues Mr. Ingrid Newkirk


When I was a child growing up, I had one regret : not to have been born a Jain. Other children wished they had been born movie stars or astronauts - I just wished to be a Jain.

No matter what high ideals politicians may talk about, the true foundations and tenets of Jainism are the world's key to peaceful co-existence and respect, and the practice of ahimsa is perhaps the most amazing and simple moral view.

So, when I hear bad news : Jains forgetting why there is anything wrong with eating meat, or - most recently - finding Jains involved in running export slaughterhouses in India, I can only think : if Jains can't get it right, what hope is there for the rest of us!

In my early years in India, the images of happy cows were everywhere. The cows who wandered the dusty streets sometimes wore garlands, symbols of respect placed about their necks by Hindus of Jains. Despite their tremendous size, they are as gentle and tame as family dogs. One day, as I walked up twp steps and was standing at the entrance of the house watching the family do its daily chores. Twenty minutes later, when I returned down the same street, he was still there, blocking the entire entrance, enjoying the company of his people.

Not that life was easy for them. Overworked bullocks pulled carts through the clamor of city streets, breathing in the stinking fumes and sweating. Sometimes they collapsed under their burdens. When cows cease to be useful, off they go to auction. We visited the weekly cattle sales in India. Several thousand bullocks and cows stood confused and uncertain in a dusty field. The temperature soared to 100 degrees but there was no water and shade. The cows, tense with fear, did not understand why they had been taken from their homes.

Such things happen where mist of us never see them. But they all happen for one reason : people eat flesh and drink milk. Milk is not a vegetarian food: there is piece of a veal calf or bull calf in every glass of milk. I say milk is not vegetarian because the calves are taken from their mothers so that we can drink the milk they need, and we want. The females are made into milk slaves, like their poor mothers, unless they die of diarrheal diseases, like scours. The boys are out is small crates in dark sheds, chained by the neck, to be made into veal parmigiana and veal cordon blue at 14 weeks. That is the age at which they walk for the first time in their lives! Or should I say, 'wobble', for their little legs are swollen from standing and balancing on wooden slats.

There is nothing more joyful than a baby calf - jumping and waggling his long tail and enjoying life. But because of factory farms, no smell the grass ever. Our greed has condemned they to imprisonment and then to death. All of their mothers have their only joy, their calves, taken away - so that we can have cheese and milk and ice - cream.

On a recent trip to India, we watched a man with a dull knife saw into an old cow's throat. Her eyes were wide as saucers. She knew what was happening, and she could not believe it was true. After all these years of providing milk, this was her reward. And it is invariably the case - there are few retirement homes for cows and the few there are (almost all run by wonderful Jains) cannot begin to manage even a tiny fraction of the number of cows bred and exploited by the enormous demand of our species for the milk they produce. Milk, by nature, is meant to feed their own young.

If we have one ounce of compassion in our bodies, one grain of religious or ethical thought in our minds, we will not wish to play any part in this cruelty-almost-beyond-words. We will refuse meat and - be brave! - milk. We will be vegans.

The mother cow - a dear, docile, gentle vegetarian animal - has been reduced to a meat and milk machine. In the US she is put on what farmers actually call a rape rack to be brutally violated via artificial insemination. She is hyper-ovulated, to make her body work to the breaking point and beyond. She is given injections of hormones to overload her udders - harmones that are passed on in her milk. In India a broom is thrust into her body to force milk production or she is injected with a drug that cause painful contractions. Sometimes she is so malnourished, that all the prodding and poking in the world won't bring milk. Then everyone turns a blind eye as she is sold to slaughter.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "No matter how scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed, no matter how many miles away, if you eat the flesh of the animals from it there is complicity."

If we buy meat and cows' milk we must face the facts: we are subsidizing the violence and misery. The cows' and calves' miserable skins are, of course, made into leather handbags and shoes. To me, leather stinks of dead, suffering cows.



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