Yesterday I had a really amazing day. I spent all of it out on the farm filming various animals with my supervisor, along with shelter director, Susie Coston who gave us the rundown. This was especially exciting for me because I hadn’t been in any of the animal pens since orientation last week. I was really happy to finally be able to go shoot footage for an upcoming Valentine’s day project I’m going to do for FS. I was like a kid in a candy store out there with the animals while I was filming.
The first group of animals we got to film was a mother goat whose baby had never been outside yet. This was a really neat experience, as I have never really been around goats much in my life. The mother goat was diligently trying to teach her little baby how to go up and downstairs until the baby finally learned and began doing sprints around the yard just to run up the stairs and jump off the porch. They truly are animals full of personality, silliness, and sweetness.
After this, I got to go in with two of the newer calves who have been in insolation. Once again, I’ve never really been around young calves before, so this was a whole new experience for me. As soon as they set foot out in the pasture though, they took off and they began chasing one another and playing. One of them was a by-product of the veal industry, the other was a downer calf. It made me feel good to know that they were lucky enough to find their way to FS and be able to live out their lives. It was definitely a cool sight and I’m really glad I was there to record it all happening.
It was the next part of filming though that really got at my heart. We got to go up into a herd of 6 young calves. Now, once again, I’ve never really been around cows. On orientation day I got to go into the area with the older cows, and I found them to be friendly, but also mellow, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Boy was I in for a surprise, these young males were so full of joy and excitement. They began romping around and playing just like dogs, or horses.
They also responded to human touch just like a dog would. They loved to be petted, especially on the necks, it just made their eyes go crazy with contentment. There was one calf in particular who I had been petting and giving him a rub down. I then just put my arm around him and hugged him. It was at this moment that everything came full circle for me. These calves were so full of life, they enjoyed one another’s companionship, human interaction, the sun, the snow, and love. They have feelings and personality and each one of them wants to live.
I initially went vegan because I could no longer support the dairy industry, as it is a direct link to the veal industry. Every year a cow must give birth to a calf in order to keep producing milk. The females are kept to replenish the herd, and the majority of males are then sent off to the veal farm. There is no way to consume dairy products without directly supporting the veal industry, they both go hand in hand. These veal calves of course go through absolute horrible lives from the day they are born till they day they die. Not to mention how painful it is for a mother cow to have her baby ripped from her.
The part that always got to me though was this notion that we need to have dairy products. I mean just think about it, A) We are the only species on Earth that still drinks milk into adulthood, and B) We drink another species’ milk. This had always befuddled me when I was younger. So I started looking into it more, and when you do, there are a lot of politics in the dairy/meat industries. For instance, did you know that many of the people who sit on the FDA have direct ties to the dairy and beef industries? This seems a little biased to me, it’s just another way for corporations to pump their ideas into the American’s heads and they make tons of money off of it. They have purposefully fed the public propaganda. There are lots of subsidies in animal agriculture, and the government is allowed to dictate how that is used, thus they’ve admitted to providing misinformation to the public.
It is also commonly accepted that milk is needed in order to have strong bones. However, animal proteins actually leech calcium from the bones. Did you know that the U.S. has the highest rate of dairy consumption in the world, but also the highest rate of Osteoporosis? There are numerous studies done that suggest In fact numerous studies have shown that dairy intake increases risk of brittle and broken bones. For instance, a study done by the Harvard Nurses’ Heath Study found that those who consumed the most calcium from dairy broke more bones than those who rarely drank milk. This 12 year study concluded that dairy increased risk of fractures by 50%! Interesting huh? In fact, over 75% of Americans are deficient in calcium intake.
To top this off, the increase in dairy intake has also been linked to various cancers, in particular prostate cancer. Dairy proteins have even been shown to promote the cancer’s cells growth by 30% as well. Research as also shown that a higher intake of dairy products may increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer by 30-50%. Also on a whole other note, animal protein consumption has been directly related to cancer.
Not to mention, eating animal products increases your cholesterol, which clogs your arteries and ultimately leads to heart disease and stroke. By cutting out dairy products, not only are you decreasing your risk for cancer, but you will also improve your blood flow in your arteries. You can only get cholesterol from eating animal-based products, not plant-based ones.
When you start looking at the big picture, there are a lot of issues at hand, and as far as calcium goes, there are lots of great sources out there. Dark leafy greens have the highest calcium content, such as turnip greens, bok choy, collards and kale. Beans and nuts are also very high in calcium, as well as various sea vegetables. There are just so many ways to get calcium out there that its really not an issue.
There are also numerous alternatives to milk now a days that are great for drinking with cookies, pouring on cereal, and baking with. Some of these various choices are: almond milk (my personal favorite, price & flavor), rice milk, hemp milk, soy milk, coconut milk, oat milk, and flax milk. As far as butter goes, Earthbalance makes great buttery-tasting spreads (they are high in fat). There are also great alternatives to mayonnaise such as Vegenaise and Nayonaise. As far as cheese goes, Daiya is my favorite. What’s even better is that these products are all widely available now a a days at your local supermarket, not just speciality/health food stores.
I suppose my point is that, it’s really hard for me to look into a calf’s eyes knowing that it was the by-product of an industry that doesn’t need to happen. Not only do thousands of them suffer and die every year, but its all for the wrong reasons. Dairy consumption has been proven over and over again to be bad for our health, and with so many alternative choices out there, its easy to make the switch to a more healthier lifestyle.
Some Interesting Link to Check Out:
25 Vegan Sources of Calcium
Why Milk is Bad for You and Your Bones
6 Reasons to Avoid Dairy at All Costs
Milk-It does a (baby cow’s) Body Good
The Food Pyramid is Illegal
(Photo Credit: Nick Ugliuzza; Edited by: Ashley Nottingham)