Milk: Not HarveyPosted: April 1, 2009
Search “milk” in google and the first three results are for Sean Penn’s silver screen rendition of the famed gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk. The fourth result is the drink’s Wikipedia entry followed a little ways down by the infamous GotMilk campaign website.
But then there is this website: NotMilk.com. I congratulate whoever conceptualized the facetious name and spent as much time as they did organizing this copious database of milk articles.
If NotMilk.com is not your “cup of milk,” if you will, there is also MilkSucks.com and NoMilk.com. But if you’re totally uninterested in any of these websites, you could always go to the M.I.L.K. (Moments of Intimacy, Laughter, and Kinship) website.
The elimination of milk from my diet began as a teenager’s rebellious rage against her despotic parents – every night at 7PM, there would be an ominous cup of that unnaturally turbid substance secretly taunting me in the upper right hand corner of my placemat. At the end of a painfully awkward dinner, the glass of milk was the only thing standing between me and the sanctuary of my bedroom. I would pinch my nose with thumb and forefinger and pour the drink down my open throat followed by a gulp of refreshing water – a notably similar experience to my current practice of drinking vodka.
The shift in my no-milk defense came after reading The Ethics of What We Eat by radical philanthropist and theoretical baby killer Peter Singer, whose work I have a strange affinity toward. By the title alone, you can only imagine what sort of PETA-like information filled my receptive mind, but from then on I had a more justified reason for avoiding lactose.
Industrially farmed dairy cows are traditionally confined to “tie-stalls” for most of the year where they are fed and milked. While some farmers allow their cows to wander around, the “happy cows come form California aesthetic” is over exaggerated. In reality, cows who have the opportunity to explore do so on dirt plots, and rarely on the rolling green pastures that the infamous commercials suggest.
Because dairy cows produce milk only after they give birth and for the following six months, farmers artificially inseminate them once a year. Calves are taken from their mothers within the same day and left to die from starvation, are slaughtered, or used for veal. Bonds between mother cow and calf are no different then in humans, and a mother separated from her calf will morn and show signs of distress for a considerable time.
A seemingly encouraging fact is the modern dairy cow produces three times as much milk as it did fifty years ago. However, this is not due to a natural progression within cow culture. Rather, it is scientific innovation that is leading our cows to glow green at night. Bovine somatotrophin or BST is a genetically engineered growth hormone injected into cows for increased production. The site of the injection is often tender and red and can lead to mastisis, a painful utter infection, or lameness. To fight the BST induced infections, farmers inject their cows with antibiotics. BST is illegal in both Canada and the EU, not just for ethical concerns, but more importantly because BST and the antibiotics appear in the conveniently packaged drink silently plotting on your grocery store shelf. Activists continue to pursue the removal of BST from the American dairy system.
One of the most recent campaigns by people for the ethical treatment of milk products (does not exist), is the removal of rbGH – recombinant growth hormone. Similar to BST, rbGH has been rejected in Canada and the EU. Recently, Yoplait and Dannon have both jumped on the ban bandwagon. rbGH has been linked to increased infections in dairy cows which leads to greater antibiotic use, and linked to unresolved health concerns in humans including cancer.
Mutant growth hormones aside, milk also contains traces of the cows pus and blood. That needs no explanation.
If this were the Daily Show with John Stewart, this would be your moment of zen: