The tang, the ooey-gooeynees, the stretch, the stinkyness, from charcuterie boards to pizza to a basic sandwich, cheese is everywhere. Cheese is far and wide the thing people note as the one food they "could never give up" when I talk to them about veganism. In fact, I don't even need to be having a conversation about veganism, if someone notices what I'm eating or someone else mentions that I'm "the vegan" someone will tell me, "oh good for you, I could never give up cheese though." Occasionally, someone will ask me how I did it, because it boggles their mind so much, but, for the most part, people are so in love with cheese that they don't even want to know how/why I stopped eating it.
So, that's what this blog is about, cheese, well, really, it's about the beings behind the cheese. The unwilling victims.
I've included a photo below that might surprise you, but is not graphic in nature. As many of you know, that's not my process. I believe in sharing truths through my words, there are plenty of places to find footage and photos of the horrors of the animal agriculture industry, should one choose to. I have also included a link to the article that sparked this blog.
I didn't know that today is National Cheese Lovers Day until I saw this article from Farm Sanctuary posted on LinkedIn this morning. The article walks through the "life cycle" of cows in the dairy industry as well as male calves "raised" for veal, it is a difficult but necessary read. Please note, this article is not just written from an animal rights activist point of view, it includes quotes from those who used to or still work in the industry.
From the article linked above, on the separation of mother and baby upon the calves birth:
“The farmer himself acknowledged that it’s really sad, and that they remove them right away because if they don’t, it only gets worse. He really had some empathy for that trauma and acknowledged that it’s clear,” she says. “It’s not exaggerated by animal rights activists.”
Some stats about cows/bulls:
the natural lifespan of a cow is 20-25 years, most factory farmed dairy cows are "spent" by age 5
cows follow a similar reproduction cycle of a human, there is potential for pregnancy every 21 days and are pregnant for 40 weeks
cows, like humans, must be pregnant in order to produce milk
they are social animals, they have friends, and love to play
“I think a lot about commodification and what it means to buy and sell a life,” says Gillespie, “which is really the framework for thinking about the way we use, exchange, and eat farmed animals. They’re fundamentally commodities as living beings, and then when they are slaughtered, or milked, or have their eggs taken, those are other kinds of food commodities. And the auction is a very clear place to see that, and to see the consequences of that.”
One might be tempted to share that they know of farms that don't separate calves from their mothers upon birth, that they are even allowed to nurse for a while (do note that any animal destined for slaughter, no matter how "nice" their living conditions seem still wind up in the same slaughter houses and are still killed). Sure, that can be true on some very small farms, however, at some point, the farms will begin losing money as the milk they would typically be taking for human consumption is still going to the calf. Here's where the weening process comes in. A quick google search for anti-suckling devices pulled up tons of options, some, like the one below are super cheap and easily found on Amazon! I invite you for a moment to put yourself in the calf's place, imagine this in your nose and every time you attempt to suckle you're met with an adverse reaction from your mother and no milk. Suddenly, you not only are unable to eat, it seems like your mother is actively rejecting you. Now, from the mother's point of view, suddenly every time your baby tries to suckle you are met with a sharp pain, you don't know why, but now, feeding your baby is incredibly painful. We know that cows bond as friends, as mother and baby, there is both physical and emotional duress here.
So, what to do now? First, watch the below video of 2 calves who found Sanctuary not just in where they live, but in each other. Then, start to explore recipes for vegan cheese (there are some pretty simple ones out there), maybe try a few vegan cheeses at your local grocery store. Listen to my latest podcast episode with Founder and CEO of vegan cheese company Treeline Cheese and check out this blog which includes a nacho cheese recipe (sooo good!). If you love a good novel (or series of novels) check out The Liberation Trilogy by M.C. Ronen. These books provide considerable insight into the dairy industry from an unexpected perspective. They're fast-paced and gripping, you won't want to put them down!
So, on this National Cheese Lovers Day, let's love those who have endured unthinkable things in the production of cheese and move to a kinder choice. Have a favorite vegan cheese brand or recipe or one you want to try? Link it in the comments below!