It’s Spring break, and we have now time to do things we usually don’t prioritize like renting a car to go plant shopping and on the way back home visit a dairy farm to buy some fresh milk for my very first attempt to make milk kefir.
I was especially excited about the dairy farm. It has a small self-service shop where they have a fridge with milk and other dairy products and they trust people to grab and pay for their products without the need of an expeditor. In the same little shop, there is a big window where one can take a peek into the cows’ stall barn. I don’t know what I expected to see, but what I saw made me sad. Don’t misunderstand me, this farm is known for being clean and taking “good care” of their animals, and I guess that compared to many other farms, this one holds a very good standard for the cows, but still. The place is gray, with little sunlight and not much space for every single cow. I read on their website that they have robotized machines that milk the cows, and we did see some cows standing in line, so I guess they go to the machine when they feel the need. From what I know, some farms have the opportunity to let their cows be outdoors during the summer, but the rest of the year, especially when it is very cold outside, they stay in the stall barn. One would then argue that this is good for the cows since they would otherwise freeze to death, but this also means that these animals do not belong to this climate in the first place.
What made me most sad is to think that these cows spend all their time in this gray space without going out for a long part of the year. That their life’s purpose is to produce milk for us human beings. Imagine, being born to be used pretty much as an object! And I know very well how the cows keep producing milk, what it means for them and their calves.
Two things have been flying in my mind since then:
- What gives us the right to decide over the lives of other living beings just because we can?
- Is it wrong to make another living being’s life purpose into what we want?
I keep thinking about the concept of ‘swadharma’ or one’s purpose in life. Can we say that the purpose of a dairy cow is to produce milk and be content with that idea? Or can we challenge it because it is something we have created for our own benefit?
We humans like to believe that we get to choose what kind of life we want to live, but do we really? I sometimes believe we are equally slaves to the systems we have created as the poor dairy cows. No matter how freely we try to live, society dictates many aspects of our way of living. Many people are stuck in gray structures without seeing much sunlight either. Is that their “purpose” also?
Maybe there is no purpose to any living being per se and it is us who create this idea of purpose, but at any rate, I would argue that applying the principle of no-harm or ahimsa can never fail, and I see how the food industry has pushed us into often unknowingly be part of a system that does not respect life.
My husband took the huge step of becoming vegan this year, I try to follow most of the time, but I think it is ‘too complicated’ not to eat dairy products or eggs… I might have to rethink this statement in the near future.