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Watching (and then reading) The Handmaid's Tale has been a big part of my journey into veganism. Until watching the series I had never given much thought to where dairy products came from. I stopped eating meat when I was 7 because I didn't like the taste, but hadn't given all that much thought to the ethical side of things.

Seeing the way the handmaids were owned as property, exploited for their reproductive capacity, raped, had their children taken from them, then sent to die once they were no longer fruitful, and then watching a documentary about cows in that exact position, I felt a searing sense of conviction. The handmaids are forcefully silenced by the totalitarian patriarchal society that depends on keeping them in their place. I felt so strongly that this is the position of cows in the dairy industry, but they are even more voiceless than handmaids because they literally can't speak.

The story of dairy cows has so much overlap with the stories of many, many females over the centuries. I felt like to truly live by my feminist values, I needed to stop contributing to the silencing, exploitation and slaughter of more females. They cry and grieve when their babies are taken from them. They have no say in what happens to them. I can't support that. Dairy products now leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

Watching (and then reading) The Handmaid's Tale has been a big part of my journey into veganism. Until watching the series I had never given much thought to where dairy products came from. I stopped eating meat when I was 7 because I didn't like the taste, but hadn't given all that much thought to the ethical side of things. Seeing the way the handmaids were owned as property, exploited for their reproductive capacity, raped, had their children taken from them, then sent to die once they were no longer fruitful, and then watching a documentary about cows in that exact position, I felt a searing sense of conviction. The handmaids are forcefully silenced by the totalitarian patriarchal society that depends on keeping them in their place. I felt so strongly that this is the position of cows in the dairy industry, but they are even more voiceless than handmaids because they literally can't speak. The story of dairy cows has so much overlap with the stories of many, many females over the centuries. I felt like to truly live by my feminist values, I needed to stop contributing to the silencing, exploitation and slaughter of more females. They cry and grieve when their babies are taken from them. They have no say in what happens to them. I can't support that. Dairy products now leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

10 comments

[–] girl_undone 14 points (+14|-0)

It broke my heart to read about cows trying to hide their calves from farmers so they wouldn't be taken away. They try to resist.

Dairy products make me so sad; but also sickened. Breast milk is for a mothers child, regardless of which species of animal. When I think about or see milk I feel ill because not only am I stealing milk from a baby, but its fluid not even made for me in any way.

[–] Hollyhock -2 points (+1|-3)

I've read and watched The Handmaid's Tale and it's pretty horrifying...which worries me about forced birth and 'fertility rights'.

But just want to point out there are a lot of different kinds of farms and I have had first-hand experience with one where they didn't separate cows from calves...but just extended and increased milk production by twice daily milking. I would have cried my eyes out if we'd separated the babies from the mothers....one time we did because the cow was diseased and dying and it took several days to convince another cow to take the calf to milk.

Also, if we stopped using cows for milk and cattle in general for beef (and there's a lot of abuse there as well, depending on the ranch), one side effect will mean that many, if not all, species of cattle will die out because they've been so domesticated, they wouldn't survive in wild spaces, and a lot of that might look like starvation and disease for the survivors. This happens now with some horses, whose owners can't afford to feed them and they 'set them free' only to have a brutal and shortened life existence. It's pretty tragic. Few people could afford to just have cows as pets.

[–] Chickpea 7 points (+7|-0)

"Not all farms are bad" and "animals will go extinct" are two of the most common arguments used against veganism. Both of these are falsehoods.

"Not all farms are bad, what about local/"ethical" farms?"

Although it may seem like a good alternative when compared to factory farm systems, the reality is that even these "best case scenarios" are still just as harmful and unethical. The legitimacy of these arguments rely on the idea that animal products are a necessity and that no alternatives exist- neither of these are true. The lesser of two evils is still evil.

As you know, cows are mammals and in order for them to produce milk, they must be pregnant or have just given birth. In your "ethical" scenario, not only is the mother still forced to undergo the mental and physical stress of repeated pregnancies, forced to produce excess milk, and the calf eventually sent to slaughter or forced to live the same fate as the mother, the additional food needed to support this method puts the extra strain for resources on the planet. This is not something we can environmentally afford.

The real best case scenario here is no dairy or meat industry at all.

But cows will go extinct and take over the world if set free overnight.

Many people confuse extinction with death. The non-existence of unborn animals is not equivalent of taking a life of a living being. Saving generations of sentient animals from a horrific death will always be more compassionate than breeding them with the intention to kill for the sake of "species preservation". In fact, if species extinction is something that genuinely concerns you, abolishing the animal agriculture industry should be your top priority as it is a main contributor to worldwide species extinctions. Saving one species is not ethical if it means eliminating hundreds of others.

And of course, veganism is not something that will happen over night, so fear not- cows will not run free in the streets, this is a silly argument ;)

[–] babayaga 5 points (+5|-0)

But just want to point out there are a lot of different kinds of farms and I have had first-hand experience with one where they didn't separate cows from calves...but just extended and increased milk production by twice daily milking.

Doesn't that put a physical strain on the dairy cow with her feeding her calf while also getting milked?

[–] Hollyhock -1 points (+1|-2)

I do know there's some kind of disease that a calf can get when it's weaned too early...don't remember the name.

[–] Hollyhock -4 points (+0|-4)

They need to be fed more, yes, but we didn't breed them as often because the milk production could last beyond the time the calf needed it. One physical strain can come in overbreeding them (not enough time between pregnancies) and then in unhealthy conditions. But it's true that many commercialized dairy farms are not kind to cows/calves. I actually don't eat veal for that reason. It's been a long time since I was on a farm, but I do get dairy from farms in my area where I know the farmers and how they raise their cows...it's a lot more expensive, but I'd prefer supporting that.

[–] babayaga 2 points (+2|-0)

The way that I understood it was that there's a nursing cow that fosters other calves, but I guess I can see how a high-yielding cow could be milked twice a day and feed her calf.

[–] tamingthemind 5 points (+5|-0)

There's no point in a species continuing if they are born to be killed and live impoverished, abusive lives.

[–] Xact 1 points (+1|-0)

I live in a small farming town where I'm literally surrounded by cows, and the farms you insinuate to be ethical are not.

The farmers in my town are small, and their businesses are family owned, and many of them get the grass feed and free range label. Let me explain how they do this.

The small farms usually consist of cows kept in what is essentially a mud pit. Farmers usually own acres of green pastures, but the cows are confined within this small gated area, which is completely mud and shit, away from the grass. They have large feeding troughs of unhealthy food to fatten them up for slaughter. During the harsh winters here, you'll see them outside in -15 degree weather with icesicals hanging from them...they stand around like they're frozen. In 90 degree heat, they're standing directly in the sun, no shade or trees. It's pure misery. If you live in farm country, you know what I'm talking about.

There's farmers that keep cows on green pastures, but only for a month or so at a time before they're shipped out. This qualifies them for the USDA label of grass fed and free range. Each of these small farmers are one link in a long chain of "processing".

Small farmers also have warehouse type enclosures...similar to a factory farm, where you'll see a hundred pigs, cows or chickens in stalls or cages that never see the light of day.

During the coronavirus when the meat industry took a major hit and tons of farmers decided to destroy (kill) the abudance of animals they had because they were costly items that only existed for profitability, a pig farm near me had decided to kill the abudance of pigs....including baby piglets that were just brought into the world (no baby should know pain, in a just or good world)...by closing the large airing vents (and these aren't cooling vents, it simply allows air to circulate into what is essentially a hot garage in the middle of summer) in the enclosure and suffocating them to death via heat. They were baked alive. Those are your small farms.

The animals at all these farms get to live for a handful of years. They're born to die.

The dairy farms, even your smallest ones, no matter where is is, send the calfs to be slaughtered. For milk to be produced, they have to impregnate the cows, and they have to get rid of the inconvenient byproduct, which is the calf. That's where the veal industry comes in.