I’ve been avoiding this topic simply because I don’t want to face it myself…because it is inconvenient and confronting. The topic of dairy. I’m not sure how many of you actually understand what it means to eat dairy. I didn’t for a long time. If you are a vegetarian who consumes dairy, it is almost the same as eating Jello. You’re not directly eating meat, but animals had to die in order for you to get it. I’m referring to the use of gelatine in jelly products and I’m talking about calves, the waste product of the dairy industry. I’m not about to paint a very pretty picture, but here it is in a nutshell: within 24hrs after they are born, baby cows are taken away from their mothers and then sent off to the abattoir for slaughter. No, they are not used for veal, they are simply a waste product. Yes, the mothers do bond with their calves, and yes they bellow for them when they are taken away. It is one thing to have a farm, have some cows and use them for milk and meat, but a breeding factory where animals are waste products, disgusts me. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I’ve included a link to the #AnimalsAustralia website for you to have a look at the fact sheet on dairy. Right now I am asking myself and I’m asking you: Is this ok? Do we need so much dairy that we have to treat animals like this? I’m wondering, if the world consumed significantly less animal products, could we get closer to ethical farming?
At the end of 2011, I was shocked to find out that dairy calves were waste products in the mainstream dairy industry. At the time, to save money, #DairyFarmers were asking for permission not to feed the calves for the 4 days after they were born, before sending them off to the abattoir. Essentially, they wanted to starve them. So in addition to taking them away from their mothers immediately after birth, they wanted to starve them too. Shall I say it again? I wanted to puke. In response to this, I sent an email to the farmers who supply my dairy products, #MungalliCreekDairy, to find out what their farming practices were. They are an excellent company who provide quality dairy products locally. Below is a copy of the emails we exchanged in January, 2012:
Sent to: Mungalli Creek Dairy
To Whom It May Concern:
First of all, I am a huge fan of your products….they taste Devine, and I don’t think I could ever go back to mainstream dairy. Now, I just need to clarify a couple of things. A couple of weeks ago on The Project, they were covering an issue on the Australian dairy industry and how they are pushing to not feed the calves during a 4 day period before they are sent to the abattoir. First of all, and maybe a bit naive on my part, but I was not aware that cows were forced to calve once a year in order to keep milk production high. On top of that, I didn’t realize that these calves were subsequently slaughtered. Many people, including myself, were horrified by this discovery. I thought by not supporting the beef industry that I was doing a good thing, but now it seems as though the dairy industry has a much darker side. So my question for you is, what are your practices with your cows and calving in particular. I don’t expect it to be perfect and ideal, just not grotesquely cruel.
An honest and detailed reply would be much appreciated.
Thank you for your enquiry about Mungalli Creek Dairy farm practices and thank you for your kind comments about our products. We are aware of the recent press and concern about animal welfare, in particular the inhumane treatment of bobby calves from some dairy farms. We have responded to several queries from our customers and many have recommended us on their blogs or websites. If you search the internet you will see that other Organic companies also treat their animals with care and respect.We are a small family run farm and manufacturer. Two other even smaller, local family-run Bio-Dynamic farms supply milk to the Mungalli Creek Dairy factory and they follow the same practices. As our business is the production of milk, and the farm acreage is small, only the female calves can be kept on farm for future production – several of our girls are now over 15 years old! On average our milkers last for 12-15 years in our milking herds instead of 3-8 years in a conventional herd. Organic farming principles ensure the wellbeing of farm animals. Mungalli Creek Dairy’s cows graze on lush tropical pastures with rainforest on the verges and a bull is used for breeding (novel I know!) Most healthy cows have a calf each year. They produce the bulk of the milk in the first few months, and then taper off, and build body condition until they are rested, then they are ready for calving. The aim of our farm, is not to produce huge quantities of milk, but to produce quality milk from healthy cows grazing organic pastures.
Farmers who care for the land using Rudolf Steiner’s Bio-Dynamic principles also care for their animals and as a result the contented cows produce a higher quality, healthy milk. This was brought home to us after the major cyclones of Larry, 5 years ago and Yasi, earlier this year. The stress to the cows caused by the extreme weather resulted in outbreaks of mastitis which organic farmers usually have no problems with as cows are not stressed or forced to over-produce.
All calves at Mungalli Creek Dairy Biodynamic farms are fed by their mothers in the paddock until old enough to join other calves in a calf paddock with access to a shed for feeding and shelter. If you’ve visited us at the “Out of the Whey” teahouse attached to the factory, you will see the calves in the paddock adjoining with their shed accessible for young visitors to see, and pat, the calves.Our preferred option for the bull calves, after they are old enough, is to give them away to local property owners to hand rear. We have a list of farmers and property owners who are eager to take them and Dan Watson (Owner/Manager) is happy to deliver them if need be. Unfortunately, in the rare event that there are any remaining unclaimed bobby calves they are humanely euthanised by Dan and buried near the rainforest on the farm. Dan has said many times that it is the worst thing about being a dairy farmer and he wishes that only girls were born!.
In a perfect world we would wish that the bobby calves would have as good a life as their sisters.
I hope I have answered your query, if you have any further queries please don’t hesitate to contact me.
(Trish O’Shea of Mungalli Creek Dairy)Ideally all dairy farming would work like this. I can live with this. Is unethical farming due to the large demand for dairy? Or is it possible to create sustainable and ethical farming practices at the current level of demand? Organic and ethical dairy products cost more. I’m happy to pay more and eat less, but is the rest of the world ready to do this? Animal products, whether it be meat or dairy, when they come from stressed, sick, and poorly-treated animals, are not good for you, period. If you feel at this point in your life that you cannot give up dairy, try to find locally-sourced products. This is what I do at the moment. I eat very little dairy, and purchase from quality sources (Mungalli Creek and Misty Mountains Dairy) as I’m not ready to give it up entirely just yet. Many many people in this world rely on very little animal products or avoid them altogether (children too) and they are healthy and happy. Continue to make small changes, and over time you will see big differences. I’m in no way shape or form where I think “we” should be, but I’m walking in the right direction.
Thanks for reading. I’m interested in what you think. Please share.
|Photo from Animals Australia|
|Photo from Animals Australia|