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Life Arts

Dairy I Might Eat?

By       Message Suzana Megles     Permalink

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Dairy I might eat?  This vegan is sounding like she's
becoming a turn coat.   Well, let me explain.  This morning
my older sister Anna dropped off a Martha Stewart "Living"
magazine. Well, I thought when she left - I'll make short
shrift of this magazine.  I am not a Martha Stewart fan. 
 
Sure enough the pages were flipping quickly until near the
end of the magazine when I came to a page showing the head
of a large beautiful  cow.  Most women are entranced with the
picture of a handsome man in a clearly masculine pose.  And
of course, men oogle the lovely models found in many magazines,
but here am I- entranced with the picture of a cow!  And the
accompaning page showed  an open barn with the sun streaming
in gloriously and falling on a woman carrying a huge milk
container.  And then I was really blown away with the title
of the article - "SACRED COWS." 
 
Are you getting the picture?  This is no ordinary horrible
CAFO dairy where the cows are kept in a close, airless factory
farm type of setting.  In these places cows exist only to
produce dairy products with nary a thought to their happiness
or welfare. On the contrary - I truly believe that their
suffering means absolutely nothing to the owners.  
 
Try to imagine being such a cow.  You are tethered for most
of your existence to a milking machine.  You never go out
to pasture and breathe in the fresh air or enjoy the rays
of the sun beating down on you.  You never are able to mix
with your kind, and you are even deprived of sex as you are
artifically inseminated.  And then the most terrible experience
of all.  When you give birth to a calf - he or she is almost
immediately taken away from you.  Mother cows have known to
cry when this happens, and who couldn't blame her?  And the
male calves are either killed or put in horrible calf crates
until ready to be slaughtered for veal.  The female calves
will only live to join their mothers in a milking line when
they are old enough.
 
I don't know how many times those of us who care about cow
suffering have written something like this, and find that
most people just simply do not care.  I really do not understand
how this can be.  Are we just plain heartless?  If we cared,
we would be doing something - like writing our legislators to
get rid of these places of hell and return our animals to small
farms again.  Yes, we would pay more for our products, but
wouldn't it be worth it to free our farm animals from such
barbaric treatment?   
 
I knew I would love reading this article after reading the
intro:  "Vermont dairy farmer Diane St. Clair treats her herd
of Jerseys with unusual respect- and what she gets in return
is butter that's truly the cream of the crop."  
 
I have never really grown up as is evident when I turned the 
page and immediately looked at the pictures on the opposite of
the reading material.  Yes, I still love pictures. 
 
There were 9 small pictures of St. Clair, her husband, their
dog and some of their herd.  Especially beautiful was St. Clair
holding close to her chest the head of Ravioli, one of her
cows.  And then seeing two beautiful calves in another picture - 
so lucky that they can be truly calves- free from the horrors
of the dairy cafo practices.
 
St. Clair is truly a loving compassionate woman. It was noted that
on the gray February day she was being interviewed, she let her
cows out for the last time. The ominous winter sky was forecasting
a possible  blizzard.  Other farmers had already brought in their
animals to their barns.  But not St. Clair.  Why hadn't she? Her
explanation -  "I wanted to give them a last chance to stretch their
legs."  How thoughtful she is. She knows that the winter months
will keep them holed up inside, and so this little kindness was a
gift to them. 
 
Ten fawn-colored Jerseys and one heifer comprise the heart of
Animal Farm, her tiny family-run dairy in the foothills of the
Green Mountains. After living in New York before moving to
Vermont, she would learn her craft with a single Jersey cow named
Petra who provided the family with milk. When she found that there
was more milk than her family could use -she began making butter. 
 
This started her on the road of devoting herself full time to
dairy farming.  She remembers that "I was a horse person when I
started.  I thought cows were horses with udders."  But now she
had truly learned the difference between a horse and a cow. 
 
Per chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Per Se, she has
now become a one-woman show.  And he notes that she is deeply
attached to her cows- calling them by name and fussing over each one
of them. Her passion for her cows and for the butter and buttermilk
can be found in the photographs in her new book, "The Animal Farm
Buttermilk Cookbook" (Andrews McMeel,June) 
 
She also unselfishly shares her butter and buttermilk making from
heavy cream in this profiling.  In her book she says that making
your own butter straight from the churn or food processor is something
to experince and adds "The freshness makes all the difference."
 
At the beginning of my post, I said that I, as a vegan, might be tempted
to try her dairy products.  Of course, she lives in Vermont and I
in Ohio, so the reality of this happening just isn't there.  Are there
other farmers like her?  I believe so -though certainly those of her
compassionate ilk I would believe to be rare.
 
And then even if I was her neighbor in Vermont, I would have to ask
her a question that is important to any ethical vegan.  What happens
to your cows who can no longer produce milk?  Are they sent to
slaughter or are they retired to live happily the rest of their
days on your farm?  Obviously, I think I'd better stick with my
original vegan plan - no animal products for me.  I have lived
without them for 30 plus years.  I can live without them until
I die.   
 
Thanx Martha Stewart for this article.  I was surprised to find it
in your magazine. 
 
   

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I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the (more...)
 

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