Be Wary of Dairy
An Meat and Dairy Article from

FROM lauren Ornelas, FEP Food Empowerment Project
June 2021

Many plant-based milks have been in our communities since before colonization, and for some of us, colonization is what brought cow’s milk to our shores (Columbus brought cows to the Americas on his second voyage).

It was in the mid-1970s while in elementary school that I first went vegetarian. Part of the reason I went vegetarian was that growing up in Texas meant I would see a lot of cows. Given that my parents had gotten divorced when I was four, I hated to be separated from my mom and my sisters when my mom had to work. I could not imagine being responsible for why the moms and the babies were separated from their families. It just hurt my heart even when I was in elementary school.

Later, of course, I learned about the dairy industry and eventually saw up close the trauma the industry inflicts upon so many.

The first investigation I did was when I entered a “veal” shed, and it was exactly like the documentaries I had seen: dark with tiny crates for the “male” calves. But they were all empty. I was relieved in one way but also confused as I was told by the local slaughterhouse that this was where the calves they killed were from.

Eventually I went outside and saw this farm had switched to the so-called “humane” version where the calves are outside and are not chained by the neck but just in a crate that is a tiny bit larger. Beautiful brown eyes were looking at me—these were the cows who look like deer. Some of the calves were larger than others, and you could see the frustration in their eyes as they struggled to turn around while the others who could not turn around were kicking the front of the crate, trying to get out.

This was in the area of the so-called “Happy Cows” of California.

In the Central Valley of California, I saw rows and rows of small crates where the female calves were confined until they would be artificially inseminated and would join their mothers in the milking herd. Some of them were chained by the neck, and in the heat of the Central Valley, if the calf kicks over her water she will not survive. So, many of them die this way.

One of the most heartbreaking incidents that I saw—which I know goes on a regular basis in these areas—was a baby calf being auctioned off whose umbilical cord was still wet. It was just unimaginable to me what the mom and baby must be experiencing.

When you consider that most human animals do their best not to identify as animals at all in order to justify the harm they do to other animals, it is no wonder we forget that ALL mammals also produce milk when they are pregnant.

Did you know that a 2017 survey revealed that many people believed that chocolate milk came from brown cows? (Do look it up!) So maybe it is hard for many to understand that cows who produce milk do not get to live out their lives and die of old age. Instead, when their milk production goes down, they are killed and used for food such as hamburgers.

We are so truly separated from where and who our food comes from.

These mama cows have no rights to their own bodies as they are constantly exploited and abused and then have their babies taken away.

I am amazed at all the things the industry tries to do in order to get us to consume dairy products, and I don’t just mean in their advertising as it is a dying industry struggling to stay relevant. I do not say that lightly—I understand the repercussions in terms of jobs, but as farmers they can still stay in that industry, just be plant-based.

For those of us who are lactose normal and/or just don’t want to contribute to the suffering of non-human animals, it is amazing to see how many options we have available to us!

Milk has been watered down (in some ways literally) from reduced fat, skim milk, lactose free, and now A2.

Of course, many plant-based milks have been in our communities since before colonization, and for some of us, colonization is what brought cow’s milk to our shores (Columbus brought cows to the Americas on his second voyage).

Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) has been working on these issues since our inception, but when we were based in Sonoma County, we coordinated informational outreach events. These included standing on a very busy road with the cows (yes, even though they had green grass) where the crates filled with the female calves were close by.

We were holding signs encouraging people to see for themselves these beautiful animals as the individuals they are.

Did you know there is actually a term coined “Sonoma aroma” to describe the horrific smell that wafts through the county due to the dairy farms? It can be unbearable.

As part of our events, we held signs, handed out leaflets (specific to dairies in Sonoma County), as well as vegan ice cream and vegan cheese. The first day, one of the owners threatened to break my jaw as I tried to explain why we were there and had every right to be there. Eventually the dairy escalated their tactics to deter us from being there, from false police reports of abductions, then facing the sprinklers from the grass to hit us (dispersing the waste), having a truck drive by and dump waste water on us, to eventually running over our vegan ice cream and almost running us over.

This is clearly an industry on the defense.

With all of that said, I am really looking forward to our new anti-dairy booklet that will be ready soon, and we have some big plans that we look forward to sharing with you all! It will be worth the wait!

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