Sunday, February 7, 2010
I grew up drinking milk practically every day. My family and I consumed all sorts of dairy products such as butter, cream, sour cream, yogurt, ice cream, and cheese, all of which we bought at the grocery store. For a long time, I was not at all curious about where all this milk was coming from and how. I observed the milk at the store unquestioningly, and concluded from the rows of identical plastic jugs that milk must be the same at all times, everywhere. I did not suspect that the quality of milk is influenced and determined by a myriad of factors.
While a habitual consumer of milk, I was completely ignorant about what milk was, and took the milk I drank quite for granted.
The truth is that milk is precious. It is a life giving liquid derived from the sun and earth.
In order to live and grow, plants absorb the sun's radiant energy as well as chemicals in the air, water, and soil. They take this energy and organic matter and build their own substance from it. As the cow feeds on these vibrant green plants, her specialized digestive system breaks them down into materials for the all the needs of her body and for those of her children. Therefore, the milk is food the cow makes specially for her children. Mothers always give their children the best portion, and so it is with milk. Milk contains the condensed energy and nutrients collected from many plants, and by drinking it the young calf is nourished and becomes strong.
Man learned long ago how to get milk for himself from cows and other animals. One would expect man to hold cows and other milk-giving animals in the highest esteem. Traditionally this has been the case, but to our shame, today we take the milk of cows ungratefully and treat them brutally.
As I gradually took an interest in knowing, I became aware that most milk we are drinking in this country comes from industrialized factory farms. Essentially, industrial farms are inherently cruel and abusive, and can never meet the requirements necessary to produce healthful milk. Milk is advertised as fresh, wholesome, and delicious, but in reality industrially produced milk is a sham that cannot be compared with fresh raw milk given by healthy cows living in the manner they ought to.
It would be in our best interest if we changed our indifferent attitude towards cows and milk to one of respect and veneration. One reason we do not have great admiration for cows may be that the industrially produced milk we have become accustomed to is far from delicious. It is true that this is not by any fault on the part of the cow, but in any case the industrial milk won't make you say "Wow, what great milk! Cows are wonderful!". When we get a chance to taste how good real fresh milk is, appreciation for cows will come naturally. You could not drink real milk and then go back to the comparatively unpleasant industrial version.
When we drink degraded industrial milk for a long time with nothing to compare it to, we may come to think that we like the way it tastes, and remain complacent. This was my own situation until I became more aware of the reality of industrial dairy farms. When we learn about those unpleasant truths we will be motivated by our conscience to boycott industrial milk, and will happily go without it whether or not we can find an ethical source of milk. To my eyes industrial feedlots seem to have more in common with concentration camps or prisons than farms.
If cows are treated with utmost respect, compassion, and affection and given all they need to thrive, they will give us a boon of pure milk, from which all the other delicious dairy products come. But if we arrogantly try to extract the maximum amount of milk from sick cows miserably confined and callously mistreated for the duration of their lives, how can we ever enjoy that milk?