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Question to a vegan - is organic milk cruel?

(12 Posts)
Writergirl Fri 20-May-11 10:17:50

I have recently become vegetarian and had my eyes opened after a great book with a particularly hideous section.

Although I was raised a veggie, I never (my mum never) explained her choice, hence I didn't really understand the benefits or adopt it as an adult until now.

I am considering making the transition to veganism as the more I read, the more I can't stand the cruelty idea.

Apart from being an 'unnatural' thing to do, I have read that drinking cow's milk is cruel because cows are forced to produce milk continually to the extent that their udders become infected and sore etc. Thus buying milk supports this process. (and cheese, yoghurts etc?)

Is this the case everywhere? Are organic labels just perfunctory? Are organic producers not ethical or humane in this way? How do I know what is true or not?!

Much of the information I am getting is US centric, and off the internet. I live in France so examples of uk brands won't help, but I'd like to know the official line.

Thanks a lot.

OhBuggerandArse Fri 20-May-11 10:19:58

Dairy farming welfare issues aside, it's necessary to slaughter calves to keep cows in milk. I imagine that's the primary argument.

steamedtreaclesponge Fri 20-May-11 10:22:31

Yep, that's pretty much it. I would say that organic milk is slightly better than non-organic, but the main problem for vegans (I am veggie and trying to be more vegan at the moment) is that the cows have to be pretty much continually kept in calf, and when their calves are born they are taken away and slaughtered immediately so that the milk can be collected from the cows. I have a friend who lives near a dairy farm and she says you can hear the cows crying out for their lost calves for weeks afterwards sad

In a nutshell, yes.

Try soy or rice milk.

Writergirl Fri 20-May-11 10:40:22

oh god, steamedtreacle, that's horrible.

Thing is, I don't know what to do with all these horrible new insights.

I see now that cruelty free should extend to animal testing, thus all my cosmetics and household products.

But what about clothes and 'cruelty' free child labour products????

the enormity of the task makes it seem impossible to do.

steamedtreaclesponge Fri 20-May-11 10:49:21

I know, it just seems like an impossible task at times! I think the key thing is not to get overwhelmed with it all, just pick one thing to do, and once that's become part of your normal life, start doing something else. For me, it's an ongoing work in progress! I only ever use soy/rice/oat milk now, and am trying to cut down on yoghurt and cheese, which are the only other dairy products I eat.

Clothes etc are definitely more tricky - I hate the idea of wearing sweatshop-produced clothes but it can be hard to find alternatives. I try and avoid the high street and buy a lot of clothes from charity shops, but there just isn't the range of ethical clothing that there is on the high street which makes it difficult. The Guardian has a good online ethical clothes directory with lots of mail-order companies which might deliver to France, if you're interested. I do spend a lot of time in Holland & Barrett (don't know if there's a French equivalent?) and have started trying to buy my beauty products from there rather than Boots. Just keep telling yourself that every little helps! And the better-informed you are, the easier it becomes to make choices about what you consume.

lljkk Sat 28-May-11 10:19:42

Treacle is right, you just try to a resonable best because you'll never get it perfect.
Confessions of an Eco-sinner is a good beginner's primer to many of the ethical issues around our consumer choices.

AnnieLobeseder Sat 28-May-11 10:22:11

AFAIK organic cows often have it worse than regular cows because they can't be given antibiotics if they get an infection.

lljkk Sat 28-May-11 10:33:58

My understanding is that they can be given antibiotics for infection, but not as growth promoters (which has been routine at times in the USA). I think that in the UK, organic or not, the milk has to be discarded for a certain amount of time after antibiotics are given. So it's in every dairy farmer's interest to manage the herd very well to avoid mastitis.

It's the treatment of the calves that nudges me towards veganism. I love cheese, but yuck, taking the young off the mother at 3 days old or bolting it in the head at Xhrs old if it's not suitable to even become veal, ugh.

Writergirl Sun 29-May-11 19:04:07

Thanks for clearing up the organic thing.

I did think it more likely that the cows are looked after on an organic farm than just not given anything. I'm sure also that small UK farms are different to the US farms that are often cited in all the research.

I've just completed my first full vegan week, and nudging towards 2 months of veggie. I'm super excited about how easy its been , and my DH has been totally on board too, which is amazing. Currently loving dairy free icecream and seitan steaks!

lljkk Sun 29-May-11 19:13:39

Do you think you need to buy specialist products to go vegan? I don't think I could stomach that.

Writergirl Sun 29-May-11 19:46:49

I think its good that there are alternatives to everyday items, so you don't feel deprived and it doesn't feel like a "lentil weaving" diet!

I do think that one does need to buy 'specialist' products such as tofu etc to replace the meat/fish/dairy element of a main dish.

Is that what you meant?

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