Burton on the Bay

 Vol. 10, No. 48

November 27- December 4, 2002

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The Ethical Case Against Soymilk

A cow is a very good animal in the field,
but we turn her out of a garden.
—Thomas Boswell: Life of Johnson, 1763 (That’s Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784)

Sam, wherever you are, you’ll find this difficult to comprehend, but here we are 239 years after Boswell penned your biography, with a move afoot here in Maryland to turn cows out of the barn.

Turning them out of the garden, I can understand; cows eat a lot, and they pretty much like things that we do — cabbages, pumpkins, sweet corn, melons and so forth. But if the folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, have their way, the bottom line is they’ll be turned out of barns.

It stands to reason, if humankind doesn’t utilize cows for their milk, cheese, butter and such, there’s no reason to put them up in barns. Let them make do outside like steers, sheep, pigs, goats, horses and such that usually have little more than a makeshift roof over their heads. If that.

A Cow’s Life
After all, bovines rate better and more substantial quarters because dairy farmers want contented cows. Farmers also like creature comforts for themselves. Who wants to milk Daisy outside when the weather is sloppy? How can a milking machine be set up out in a field?

Traditionally, a dairy operation is headquartered in a barn. In a basic daily routine, twice a day the cows are milked and usually given supplemental food. Their life is quite comfy compared to other livestock.

Often, especially when the outside weather isn’t comfortable, they are still at their stanchions when the farmer enters the barn long before the sun even sends the first ray of light across the sky to the east. Once milked, fed and watered, they’re turned out to pasture to graze on nature’s offerings while ambling about as they please.

No menial work is on their schedule. To a farmer’s way of thinking, the less exercise they get, the better will be their milk production. And to cows, milk production comes naturally; no effort involved.

After doing what cows do throughout the day, in late afternoon comes the procession back to the barn where the stanchions await, usually with more water and supplementary food. Milking follows: no sweat, no discomfort.

It’s the farmer who’s obliged to do most of the work. The cow just stands there and munches on hay, grain or whatever. For many bovines, being rid of all that white stuff is a relief.

Periodically, the milk-giver is curry-combed to rid the flanks of dried mud and other gunk; the udder is washed twice a day, and after the evening milking is done, the cow overnights in a cozy barn.

Even in the coldest weather, a barn is far from the worst place to be. Cows are big and generate much body heat; you’d be surprised at the difference in temperature inside a barn with cows and outside. This works to the advantage of both the one giving and the one taking the milk.

In summation, this writer — who in his younger days more than 60 years ago did an awful lot of milking on dairy farms small and what would be considered large — is of the opinion that a cow certainly does not have a tough life — at least while a goodly supply of milk continues to squirt from her udder.

Down with Milk
But for some people, that is not enough. I read in The Capital the other day that Bruce Friedrich is mounting a campaign to drop milk as Maryland’s official state beverage. Friedrich is PETA’s director of vegan outreach — and obviously not a fellow with a wet white mustache as Cal Ripkin wears in commercials for the dairy industry.

Ye Gods! What would my mother think — never mind Sam Johnson of yore. Mother was like everyone else’s mom, always sternly commanding “Drink your milk. It’s good for you.” The only thing good I can think of about the milk of a cow as a youngster was that it tasted less offensive than goat’s milk, which I was required to drink for about a year via the advice of a country doctor who didn’t think I was growing fast and robust enough.

We even got a milk-producing nanny goat to satisfy the doctor’s prescription, and I suppose in the eyes of Bruce Friedrich that, too, would have been wrong. Seems he’s gung ho on milk from the soybean. About soymilk, which I’ve tasted, I have this to say:

If he and his cohorts in the animal rights field somehow get their way, I’m giving up cereal in the morning. My taste buds won’t accommodate soy milk. I don’t like dry cereal, and I’m not about to try fruit juice on my corn flakes and puffed wheat or other grains as some who are allergic to milk suggest.

No sir, I’m switching back to ham and eggs, which I’m sure won’t please all the Bruce Friedrichs, seeing that a pig has to die to yield the ham, and we’re robbing the chicken of its eggs — though I can’t think of what use it would have for them.

It took me half a lifetime to accept cereal and cow’s milk as the cornerstone of breakfast. Never have I drunk a glass of the stuff without my mother, grandmother or an aunt forcing the issue.

Friedrich suggests Gov. Glendening — who in mid-term switched to vegetarianism — ask the General Assembly to reverse its 1998 act that made milk the official state beverage. The governor signed the pro-milk bill, but that was about a year before he announced his switch of lifestyle.

Cow’s milk is harmful to human health, and consumption of dairy products is linked to heart disease, cancer and other ailments, contends Friedrich, who obviously isn’t familiar with skim milk, a staple among those with cardiac woes. But getting down to the nitty gritty, he strongly suggests the traditional use of the milk of a cow supports cruelty to animals.

Pro and Con
It’s like this: We rob the cow of her milk, the calves are taken away from their mothers, and the milk saved is sold to you and me. The calf is raised on supplements, and we have milk for our cereal. And, if of the right gender, the calf grows to be a robust and pampered milk-producing cow.

To my way of thinking, it sure beats the flip side — for you, me and the cow. If real milk, cheese and butter weren’t in demand, dairy farmers would be out of business, Kellogg’s would go kaput, we’d have less healthy breakfasts, and cows would no longer enjoy the perks of barns, milk-enhancing supplements and sedentary lifestyles. Not to mention longer lives.

If not for their dairy output, cows would serve no other practical purpose than to fatten up, then be slaughtered at an age when still tender, which is much younger than a plain old milk cow’s life span. Methinks Friedrich and his ilk aren’t looking at the bottom line.

The milk of the cow is a staple in much of the world, whether fresh, powdered or even canned — which to my taste is something akin to goat’s milk. But not everyone shares my evaluation of condensed or evaporated milk from the can. David Ogilvy, for one.

This legendary advertising genius wrote in David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man, published in 1963:

Carnation Milk is the best in the land; Here I sit with a can in my hand —

No teats to pull, no hay to pitch.

You just punch a hole in the son of a b …

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly