I’ve been fielding a few questions of late about veganism and different aspects of the animal use industries. These questions have come from people who are compassionate and interested in protecting animals and the environment but aren’t 100 per cent across the issues around egg and dairy production. I too was a vegetarian for a long time before I turned vegan because I didn’t really get it. I knew I didn’t want animals to die for my diet but it took a long process of learning from my yoga teachers and meeting vegans and educating myself to shift to a vegan lifestyle. I eventually came to the realisation that animals and the natural world are enslaved to human desire and although I didn’t partake of eating their flesh animals were still being tortured, violated and killed for my food, clothes and beauty products.
I’m just going to cover the egg industry and the dairy industry in this post as most people are across the problems with animal testing and killing animals for food and clothing. However, many people have no idea what goes on in the dairy and egg industry and why anyone would object to participating in said industries.
The dairy industry
When I discovered the vastness of suffering created in the dairy industry I was shocked, but I also didn’t know why I hadn’t thought about it before.
Dairy cows only produce milk because they are constantly impregnated, violated by the hand of a man. So many people, including me once upon a time, mistakenly believe that dairy cows are somehow different to other mammals and just constantly produce milk. However dairy cows must produce a calf each year in order to keep making milk. And what becomes of these babies? Female calves are destined for the same fate of enslavement and sexual abuse and male calves, known as bobby calves, are considered ‘waste’. Each year around 700,000 bobby calves are killed in Australia and become veal.
All of the babies, male or female, are ripped from their mother’s care within the day. This is heart-breaking for the mums and they will cry for their babies long after they’re taken. I’ve heard a number of stories from people who have lived on or near dairy farms and they say that when the babies are taken the mums calling for their children is the saddest and most desperate sound. When we drink milk, not only are we stealing a baby’s food, we’re stealing a child from a mother. There was a sad story not long back about a mum who had twins and knew the farmer would take them. She made the heartbreaking decision to sacrifice one and hide the other from the farmer.
That’s not all. All dairy cows end their lives at a slaughter house. They don’t get retired to pasture to live out their natural life of around 20 years. They are killed after 4 or 5 years when their milk production decreases or they are too worn out as a result of their short life of torture and heartbreak.
This clip from Peta is confronting but is worth watching to really get a sense of what all this really means for the lives of cows:
The egg industry
The powerful image above is a male chick in the last seconds of his life. Below him is a macerator that will crush him to death. All male chicks are useless to the egg industry and whether you buy free range or organic eggs or caged, all male chicks are killed as soon as they hatch. Every year in Australia 12 million male chicks are gassed or ground up alive because they are of no use to the egg industry.
And just like the dairy industry, hens who pass their peak production are killed well before their natural lives would end. An egg laying hen would be lucky to live past two but naturally would live up to 10 years old.
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
The above mantra means, ‘may all beings everywhere be happy and free and may my thoughts words and actions contribute to that happiness and freedom for all’. If you, like me, are interested in practicing ‘ahimsa’ (non-harming) and compassion, know that it is a process of learning to interrupt our habits and selfish desires and it takes practice. We bring things into our field of view and then we bring our actions in line with our ideals of compassion, kindness and peace. Most of us continue to harm because we aren’t conscious of the harm and suffering we’re causing. Just by existing we have an impact on the world around us but all of us have the potential to reduce that impact through educating ourselves and becoming conscious of how our actions might cause another being to suffer. And then we can also begin to alleviate suffering where we see it too.
Where we are disconnected we must bridge that gap. Sharon Gannon writes the following words of wisdom in her book Yoga and Vegetarianism:
“Yoga is said to be the perfection of action by the removal of selfish motivation. Yogis use the world they live in and the way in which they interact with the world as a vehicle for transformation. A vegan diet is an informed, intelligent, and conscious way to act peacefully and selflessly each time we make a choice, because it takes into consideration the wellbeing of others as well as ourselves… All of life is interconnected. What we do to others affects us all. When we begin to feel this, we can free ourselves from the false idea that the Earth belongs to us and instead use our lives to benefit others.”
And here is an enlightening clip of Julia Butterfly Hill talking about the ‘disease of disconnection’ characterising humanity’s relationship with the earth:
If you have any questions about nutrition or tips on shifting to a vegan diet I’m happy to answer them to the best of my ability in the comments. Peace.
Earthlings – Feature length film that highlights humanity’s use of animals across the board.
What you never knew about dairy – Short clip about the dairy industry by Animals Australia
Dairy cruelty exposed – Radio National’s Bush Telegraph debates the treatment of calves by the dairy industry.
The fate of chicks in the egg industry – Five minute Youtube clip on the egg industry’s disposal of male chicks.
Making sense of egg labels – Animals Australia fact sheet on what all the different egg labels mean.
Edgar’s Mission – Incredible sanctuary in Victoria that rescues farm animals and gives them happy lives.