Being vegan, I often get a lot of “Oh, that’s weird” or “Oh, why don’t you drink milk?!” or even “Oh, I could never give up cheese.” (I know, people say “oh” a lot in my life…or maybe it’s just in my head.) I recently realized the questions I get asked the most aren’t about why I don’t eat meat, but instead, are about why I stay away from dairy.
Intuitively, I think a lot of people understand (even if they don’t practice themselves) not eating meat. The idea for me is, an animal dies. Many people just “get” that this is why I wouldn’t want to eat meat.
Not drinking milk or eating cheese or yogurt or ice cream is another matter, entirely, however. I know I could do a fact-heavy, serious post about why dairy is bad both for the animals and for ourselves and it would probably make sense. For example, cows are consistently and systematically abused: their tails are cut-off, they are drugged, artificially inseminated by painful machines, and their children are stolen. Dairy is also sucky for our human bodies: it doesn’t actually prevent osteoporosis as we’ve been told and in fact, causes it; it makes us fat; it raises our bad cholesterol; it contributes to heart disease and cancer; it’s loaded with pus, blood, hormones and antibiotics. It’s kind of gross. Makes you seriously question that whole, “Got milk” campaign doesn’t?
I could go on and on about the facts behind the dairy industry, but here’s the thing: if you think about it, the whole concept of drinking cow’s milk is actually really, really freaking strange.
For example, did you know there is no other mammal on the entire planet that drinks the milk of another mammal? Nor another mammal that drinks even their mother’s milk into adulthood? We are the only mammal who decided that drinking from our mothers’ breasts as children wasn’t good enough, and actually, we had to continue drinking the lactations of a cow. A cow. Aside from all the information I threw at you in the previous paragraph, it’s literally just really freaking strange.
And did you know cows are just like human mommies? What I mean is, they have to be kept pregnant in order to make milk for their babies. So dairy farmers continually artificially impregnate cows, as I mentioned, steal the milk, and send the babies off to be either veal (if they’re males) or more dairy cows (if they’re female). And guess what? If we’re drinking the milk, that means their cow babies aren’t! We’re essentially going in and stealing milk meant for tiny baby calves. Doesn’t make you feel super good about drinking that tall glass of moo juice does it? It makes me feel like kind of a freak.
Going back to this whole “we do weird shit” thing, even though I mentioned I get asked more about dairy, it’s not just drinking milk that’s kind of strange: eating animals is too, we just don’t think about it because everybody does it. (And really, when did NOT thinking about something because everybody does result in something good? Ever, in history? Slavery anyone? WWII Germany, anyone?) Eating animals is pretty fucking bizarre, for multiple reasons. First of all, I saw an article recently on the Huffington Post about a woman who ate a semi-living squid, and the squid injected eggs into her mouth and freaking FERTILIZED HER TONGUE. Does that seem natural to anyone?
“Of course it’s not natural, I don’t eat squid, that’s just plain odd.” But is it? After all, how do we decide which animals to eat and which animals not to? The answer is: we don’t, it’s been decided for us and who the fuck knows why. If you think about it, it’s actually pretty arbitrary which animals we choose to eat and which ones we don’t. You gleefully cut into a big piece of dead cow at the most expensive restaurant in town, but would you offer similar treatment to your beloved dog? You wouldn’t, and at this point, you’re all, “OF COURSE NOT. I would NEVER eat my dog, you sick fuck!” But then, why the cow? If you have no idea, now might be the time to examine your beliefs and/or your eating.
And oddly, our cognitive dissonance isn’t just with eating. I once saw, walking the streets of New York City, a woman in a fur coat, who was carrying a little brown dog…in a fur coat. I’m not kidding. I wish I was. What kind of strange creatures are we that we put a dog in another animal’s fur? That’s pretty messed up. Even if you aren’t vegan.
Of course, the reason you might not have examined your beliefs until now has nothing to do with you, specifically. As I mentioned, we’re in the habit of doing what people have done for thousands of years. (Again, ignoring the fact that after a while, it often doesn’t work. Women’s suffrage, anyone? How about civil rights?) But the truth is, we also seem to be incredibly disconnected from our food. Isn’t it kind of weird that we can go into a supermarket, pick up a nice, pink fleshy pound of animal fat (which got to be that aesthetically pleasing pink artificially, I might add) go home, cook it and eat it without ever thinking of what it was once before, i.e. a living, breathing animal? It is kind of weird.
Actually, a lot of people think eating meat is natural. And it might be…but it probably depends on your definition of the word “natural.” For instance, these days, to us, it might just be “natural” to go into that grocery store and pick up a dead animal, never thinking twice about it. But as Harvey Diamond once said, “You put a baby in a crib with an apple and a rabbit. If it eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I’ll buy you a new car.” Chances are, if you did that, you’d find the toddler playing with rabbit and eating the apple. In fact, if it was the other way around, we’d consider that child as having taken the first step toward the triad of sociopathy (1. Cruelty to animals, 2. Bedwetting after the age of five, 3. Obsession with fire setting.) Strange that as adults, we can go into that grocery store and pick up another animal and feed it to the same toddler, and no one thinks anything of it.
At the end of the day, it’s just plain weird and extremely hypocritical. So in case anyone asks again, that might be my answer:
“Why don’t you eat dairy?”
“Because it’s freaking weird!”
I’ll let you know how it works out.