Every year around Mother's Day, I notice more vegans and animal rights advocates posting reminders in online message forums, via social networking and on blogs about the forgotten mothers in the dairy industry. I stumbled upon a piece by someone called Jocelyn Hoppa when nosing around online this morning that I initially figured would sound a lot like the other articles in circulation ("On This Mother's Day, Take a Moment and Think of the Plight of Mother Cows"). She writes:
Generally, once the mother cow gives birth, her baby is taken away from her. Can you imagine? Apparently mother cows bellow for days looking for their babies. Then, the mothers are hooked up and milked, which is cold and painful—a very different experience from that if she were nurturing her young. Then, after enduring this for years, they get turned into cheap hamburger.And then she even offers up health-related concerns about consuming dairy products:
If a story like this does inspire you to give up dairy, you should know that humans do not necessarily need to consume dairy for health. Calcium is found in plenty of plant foods, like leafy greens, sesame seeds (again, who knew?), fortified juices and cereals. A lot of people make the case that dairy products actually make us less healthy, because the saturated fat clogs our arteries and also its protein has an acidic nature that aggravates osteoporosis. Which certainly contradicts the notion of drinking milk for calcium for stronger bones.She spends most of the article communicating that she thinks that cows are mistreated and that dairy is unhealthy, yet also throws in the following:
I'm not vegan or anything, but this is a horrifying depiction of a process that, up until reading this note, I knew very little about. Why I ever thought cows just produced such large quantities of milk without having a ton of babies is beyond me.So, never minding the part where she's managed to overcome her previous understanding of how mammals spontaneously produce milk out of thin air, after all of this: "I'm not vegan or anything"? At the very least, you'd half-expect her to express an intention to go vegan, but it doesn't happen. Obviously, presenting someone with welfarist arguments (involving what she, herself, calls "horrifying" facts about the treatment of nonhumans) and information concerning the unhealthiness of consuming their flesh or secretions don't quite do the trick. Adding further weight to my hunch is the first comment left in response to her article, in which someone recommends Jonathan Safran Foer's beautifully written piece of garbage, Eating Animals, to supposedly learn more about how the treatment of non-humans in "factory farming" is actually "much worse". It's no real surprise that the commentator adds to this that dairy (the discussion of which is pretty much omitted in non-vegan Foer's book) is the "least of [her] worries".
So how best, then, to educate others about veganism? Talk to them about the right all sentient animals have to not be used as things; focus on how their sentience leaves them with an interest in living out their own lives as individuals -- not as our property. It's important to know all of the ancillary reasons that consuming the flesh or secretions of other animals is wrong, but it's crucial to know and understand the most important reason. Start at the root by educating yourself about animal rights by reading Gary L. Francione's Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or Your Dog.
For more information on abolitionist animal rights, please visit the Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach website.