Saturday, April 22, 2023

Meat and Milk, Children and Mothers

Nicholas Kristof had an excellent column in the New York Times of April 15; "What a Girl’s Goat Teaches Us About Our Food" tells the story of how a nine-year-old girl in Shasta County, California, grew very fond of Cedar, a goat she was taking care of as a 4H member--so fond that, when it came time to give Cedar up for slaughter at the end of the County Fair, as was usual practice, she couldn't do it. Instead, she and her mother took the goat to a place they thought would be safe. The County Fair authorities argued that the girl and her mother were legally obliged to have the goat killed. The authorities were so determined to have what they saw as a four-legged piece of personal property killed that they liaised with the County Sherriff's office and persuaded the Sherriff to send law enforement officers some 500 miles to capture the goat and return it to County Fair authorities. Cedar was found, and Cedar was duly slaughtered, just as the authorities had wanted.

Kristof treats the incident as a reminder that "the bright line we draw between farm animals and our pet dogs and cats is an arbitrary one." He takes aim at the cruelties of factory farming and the unreasonableness of ag gag laws, and recounts how he himself has given up eating meat.

The piece inspired many comments, a number of which Kristof responded to with comments of his own, including one in which he contrasted the cruelties of today's dairy farming with the practices of earlier generations of dairy farmers. It was in response to that Kristof comment that I ssent the following letter to the Times:
Nicholas Kristof’s moving column on the horrors of the meat industry is superb. But he forgets the fundamental facts of the dairy industry when he writes that "it used to be that dairy cows were mostly pastured and had a decent life." No mother has a decent life if her newborn children are taken away from her soon after birth so that the members of another species can take her milk. And when the mother stops providing large amounts of milk, she is killed (rather than being allowed to live out her 20-year natural lifespan). Even in the old days, the dairy industry inflicted horrible cruelty on the mothers and daughters as well as on the sons who were killed to become veal. Unlike in the old days, substitutes for both dairy and meat products have become readily available; there need be no real sacrifice on the part of humans in moving towards a plant-based diet.
"What a Girl's Goat Teaches Us about Our Food" truly is an excellent column. I urge you to read it:

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