I haven’t been missing cheese or yoghurt as much as I thought I would, but my heart does ache for butter. Having said that, I am happy enough with my chilled olive oil and nut butters, and I have a number of vegan ‘butter’ recipes to try when I have a bit more time. I heard of the work of Ahimsa Milk and its slaughter-free milk herd towards the end of last year when it turned up in an FB share from a vegan friend. It reminded me that I had also seen an item on TV about a property owned by the Hare Krishna organisation where cows were husbanded through their full lifespan, which is about 15-20 years. It was touching to see how physically large cows can be and how dignified they are in their old age. Beef cows are typically slaughtered at 3 years and the life of a dairy cow depends on her ability to remain fertile and to bear calves, but probably 6-7 years. I could talk about the fate of male calves – but it’s pitiful, so i won’t.
I do like feeling better informed through this vegan enquiry although gathering knowledge about industrial scale farming and food production has an emotional toll. I now know for example that a dairy cow will have her first calf at about 2 years and then be milked two or three times a day for 10 months thereafter (her calf having been removed from her within 24 hours of birth, once it has taken her colostrum). She is then ‘rested’ for 2 months before being inseminated again, artificially. This can continue for 6-7 years but if at any time fertilisation does not occur, her body will no longer be of service and she will be consigned for slaughter.
Essentially it is a numbers game, balancing breeding and rearing costs against declining market prices for milk, and a growing demand for cheap animal meat. But maybe if we all ate just a little less meat and a little less dairy we can start to change the face of farming like the people at Ahimsa.