So what is vegan food about ? This is a question I have been wondering about since I first heard the word over 30 years ago. As a farmer and a meat eater I might come across as biased but I am going to try to put the facts across as I see them to have a balanced debate on what people should be eating. This article is about dairy farming in Ireland.
i’ll start by saying that I am not against or I don’t have any problem with vegans, vegetarians, different races or religions or any other group of people that have different views or beliefs than I have. People should have the right to eat or believe whatever they want to and I am writing this article as a farmer and to tell it the way I see it, whether you believe or agree with it is completely you.
Although I am now a part-time dry stock farmer I have had over 20 years experience working in the dairy and pig industry and also worked part-time in a small butcher shop and abattoir in the early 1990s. I am a keen animal and nature lover with an interest in environmental and ecological issues.
The reason I am writing it because I think someone should as I see with the growing trend of veganism there also seems to be a growing trend on farmer bashing and vigilante attacks on farmers or hunters around the world. I don’t think illegal activity or spreading of propaganda in order to spread one’s ideology is the proper way to go about things and in my view is nothing short of proselytism.
Of course there are some bad farmers too but the same as people in all walks of life they are the minority. Some people neglect or abuse animals the same as some people neglect or abuse children but that doesn’t mean that we should condemn everyone who has children. It doesn’t matter what walk of life people are in teachers, police,politicians,priests,vegans or farmers there are always a few who give the rest a bad name.
As a farmer nature and animal lover who has worked in most fields of agriculture at one time or another over the past 30 years i’ll try to answer questions I have seen on various advertising campaigns and social media platforms with my own views and ask some questions of my own.
Should people be eating animals
As I am a believer in nature I would say yes. Humans have been around for 200,000 years and have been eating animals for just as long. We are designed by evolution to be omnivores and if any omnivore has a chance to eat meat whether its a chimpanzee, gorilla,orangutan,bear,pig or human they will and as humans we also have the choice if we want to eat meat or not. Unlike a true carnivore like a cat which will not eat veg or a herbivore like a sheep which will not eat meat. evolution has designed us to eat both, even out teeth are made in a different way in order to chew our food whether carnivore, herbivore or omnivore.
When we go to Mc Donalds or Burger king it’s not just for the french fries and likewise if we get a steak dinner in a restaurant most usually enjoy the steak, probably because humans evolved throughout time to get protein from meat whenever available. Today through a better understanding of food and science there are other sources of protein available from plants but that doesn’t change the fact that we are omnivores that are designed to eat meat when we can get it just like humans before us for the past two hundred thousand years.
Should we change our eating habits to please other people?
Is it wrong to kill animals for meat?
That is very much a moral question and even if people have always being doing something doesn’t mean that it is right. The way I see it all animals die at some point and it’s the quality of life they live that I would be more concerned about. I also understand how cruel nature can be and for any animal living in the wild it really is the survival of the fittest.
Unlike domestic farm animals wild animals they have to endure weather and hunger on a daily basis and when they finally do meet there death it could be slow and agonizing due to injury, hunger or cold and it could well take days or weeks to die or they might be lucky and be ripped apart by another wild animal and it might well be a combination of both.
A few might be lucky enough to die quickly enough or to be run over by a car or shot by a human but I have seen enough to know that without human intervention it is often not a humane end for animals. Domestic animals in the vast majority of cases have a quick death whether it is your cat or dog that is taken to the vet to be put to sleep or a farm animal that is stunned or shot at the meat factory.
While it might not look pleasant to see images of slaughtered animals hanging upside down it is in my view a quick and humane death compared to an animal dying without human intervention in any other way. Domestic farm animals are just that, domesticated and just like a domestic dog through evolution have lost the ability to fend for themselves and without humans or a farmer the vast majority would starve or succumb to the elements of the weather in there first winter. In most cases farm animals need farmers in order to survive.
I think it would be better to engage with factories and veterinarian on the best practice on handling and slaughtering animals if you think any improvements can be made. It should be as fast, painless and stress free as possible.With billions of people on the planet looking to eat meat there is now more of a demand than ever before so whatever about your views on the matter it will probably continue for some time yet.
What do you think is the best way for an animal to die?
Does dairy take babies from there mothers?
The short answer is yes of course but dairy cows have been breed and developed through selective breeding to give more milk, around five times more than one calf needs which means if the calf was left with it’s mother the cow could possibly develop a painful infection called mastitis and get sick, They are not designed the same way as other cows like beef breeds. If a dairy cow is not being milked she should not exist as they now produce too much milk for just one calf and are not suitable for anything else.
My view of when the calf is taken from it’s mother is the bond is broken after around a day sometimes longer, if they are within a close distance to each other and can hear see and smell each other. The sooner they are separated after birth the easier it is on both cow and calf as the bond is not as strong. The calf will usually forget about it’s mother once it is bottle-fed by the farmer. It is fed by bottle until it is strong enough to be trained to a teat feeder where it’s fed by sucking milk through a rubber nipple in the shape of the cows teat.
The cow will call out for the calf for the first day or so but will also stay with the rest of the herd. After a few days the cow and calf seem quite happy in there own herd groups. Examples of this can be seen in plenty of other animals too like when you take a small puppy or kitten from it’s mother they soon adapt to there new surroundings.As long as the cow and calf are well cared for are well-fed have a clean dry bed I really don’t see the problem anymore than someone getting a puppy or a pet that is taken from it’s mother.
Another statement that I have heard quite often is humans are the only animal that will drink another animals milk this is not true lots of animals will do this give your dog or cat some milk cheese or butter and see if they refuse it, even some fully grown cows will sometimes suckle another cow if she lets them.
(The above video was very like my routine and my milking parlour when I milked cows)
I know this is probably hard for anyone but a dairy farmer to understand but I think dairy cows want to get milked especially for the first few months after calving as if every morning and evening they will be waiting at the entrance of the field to come in for milking. If they are not locked into the field the most will come into the milking parlor by themselves and with newer robotic milkers the farmer will not even have to be there the cows will walk through on there own.
You might believe that the cows have been brainwashed into this practice but I think maybe genetics evolution and a hundred years of breeding have made them this way. The fact remains that milk and milk based products are in rising demand around the world particularly in china which has a larger population than Europe Australia and the united states put together.
What should happen to dairy cows if everyone stopped drinking milk?
Are cows raped?
This would be almost funny if it wasn’t so serious. No farmers don’t rape there cows Artificial insemination or AI for short is the practice where a cow is inseminated with semen from a bull with a long straw which is less than the diameter as a pencil and in the case of cows only, the persons hand is put in the rectum to guide the straw into the cervix. The practice is normally carried out by a trained AI technician who is properly trained by the company that supplies the AI and semen straws.
Some farmers have done training courses on how to do it but because of the difficulty and costs with storing the semen in liquid nitrogen and to keep the straws frozen in a special flask most leave it up to the AI companies technician. It is normally done in a cattle crush or confined area for the safety of the cow and the person.
The reason AI is used is for a number of reasons one would be to improve breeding and genetics in the herd and to improve the overall herd in areas the where farmers thinks it is needed such as fertility and protein and butterfat content of the milk. The farmer needs to constantly improve efficiency and be at the top of there game if they want to stay in business.Another reason is that they can use sexed semen to get female calves as the males have no real commercial value.
You could be asking yourself would I like this done to me well no but I am not a cow and in my expert opinion in animal behavior the cows don’t seem to take a lot of notice and would go as far as to say that some might possibly enjoy the experience. As an example when you let the cow go after the process the first thing she could do is mount another cow.
The whole thing might seem very invasive to a human but cows are not humans they are cows and every 21 days when they come in heat or come bulling as farmers call it then there hormones go into over drive and they will jump on anything. Cows won’t eat and will spend the day mounting other cows and in fact I once had a pet cow that tried to mount me, I didn’t consider it to be a case of sexual assault or attempted rape rather it was just a cow doing what a cow does when they come in heat.
When I said the cow is put in a cattle crush for safety reasons I meant it and while the process might seem invasive to someone who does not know about it I can say that is a lot more gentle and safer than the natural method as the bull just wants what the bull wants and he doesn’t care what gets in his way.
I have never seen or heard of a cow getting hurt or injured while using AI, on the other hand with the natural method as with any kind of sport or physical activity there can be some accidents and injuries and in context I mean probably one in a thousand, for example I have seen a few injuries over twenty years including back or tail injuries to the cow from the bull or a leg injury to bull from dismounting onto a gate or a slip or fall.
Bulls can also be dangerous to the farmer with a number of attacks and fatalities every year. This has nothing to do with a bulls dislike for the farmer on the contrary it’s often the quietest pet calf that turns out to be the most dangerous bull as he has lost all fear of the farmer and can attack without hesitation or reason. The bull will attack just because they are his cows and in his view nothing or nobody will interfere with his right to mate with them. Another male bull will be top of the list for attack but for some bulls a dog or a person is fair game to take there frustrations out on.
So its safer and better to use AI and it is up to the handler to know if the cow is bulling or not so in my view if the cow is on a standing heat then she is indicating that she is ready for mating and therefore it not rape. Nobody is going to try to AI a cow that is no in heat as that would be a waste of time effort and money as the cow would not become pregnant. It has to be the right time for the cow in order for it to conceive.
Do you still think it’s wrong for a trained professional to artificially inseminate a cow?
Is live shipping cruel and should it be stopped?
This is one that I honestly cannot answer because I have never been on a ship with the animals or followed them on to the countries they are shipped to. I have heard that they are well cared for during transport and are accompanied by a vet to see after any welfare issues. While I might suspect that a lot of the backlash against live shipping is propaganda similar to what is being put out about farmers I won’t state facts or make claims about something I have no experience in as to do that could be misleading.
What I can say is to explain why it is happening. Male dairy calves have little or no commercial value which is one of the reasons I agree with the practice of using sexed AI to get more female calves. As there is no market or demand for veal in this country and no profit to be made in beef. Rearing dairy bull calves for beef would be a loss making exercise as in this country our costs are too high and margins are too tight to do so.
The countries that they are exported to have lower operating costs like feed, wages and the cost of living. If live shipping stops from this country and there is no veal market for calves here, then the only option left for farmers would be to shoot the calves at birth and nobody would want to do that. Even today with live shipping farmers are feeding and looking after bull calves for weeks and then selling them at a loss.
If you think live shipping should be stopped then you should at least try to come up with a viable alternative. If beef farming was more profitable it would be one or if farmers were paid a fair price for the food that they produce. Stopping it without a market will only cause more problems and the countries that we are exporting to will just source livestock from somewhere else.
What should happen with dairy bull calves if live shipping is stopped?
Link below is full video of calves being shot and slaughtered (view at your own discretion)
My message to vegans
By all means eat whatever you want I have no opinion on what others want to eat nor am I qualified to talk about it. I have never tried a vegan diet nor am I a nutritionist. i’ll leave that up to the people who know about it and are educated in that field. i’ll only preach on what I do know about and thats dairy farmers.
Dairy farmers are some of the finest and hardworking men and women in our country or any country around the world. They work seven days a week and look after there animals every day of the year to supply milk and food for billions of people around the world and often for very little reward.
All I would ask is that you educate yourself to the facts of what happens on farms go and work on one and take part in looking after the animals and then you would be qualified to speak from firsthand experience. Taking part in illegal activities like braking into private farms or sharing propaganda of edited videos and false news stories is not going to help anyone whether you believe it or not.
If you want to make a change you have to first understand what is happening to help come up with a solution to any problems that might be there. Engage through dialog rather than vigilante attacks on decent people and see that farmers could be part of the solution if you would just work with them rather than against them.
You might not agree with my point a view but they are the facts as I see them as an ex dairy farmer. If you have a comment or view on the matter you can leave a comment below.