Posts Tagged ‘cows’

Sabbath rest, 600 lb. gorillas, and absent referents

October 9th, 2010 No comments

So there’s a new NAS paper out about climate change, greenhouse gasses, and animal agriculture, here.  The claims of that particular paper are not what this post is about though.  I’ll need you to check out this short (less than 2 min.) video, based on that paper.  Notice the tag line at the end?  “Your heart and the earth will love you for it.”  That’s what this is about.

The idea of not just being the recipient of gratitude and affection, but earning gratitude and affection, is appealing and motivating to people. Generally speaking, it’s part of who we are as social creatures.  But that’s where this focus lies.  Neither the earth nor an internal organ can be said to actually ‘love’ you for anything.   I know it’s metaphor but  it’s the use of metaphor in this situation that I want you to take a closer look at.

Someone might say that we can surely speak of  things going better or worse for the earth and for our internal organs.  They can be subjects of sentences but they’re not actually subjects; they don’t, they can’t actually love you.  They can be effected, or merely changed, but not affectively changed by our behavior.  The only way in which we can say that is purely self-referential.  If things go better or worse for our environment or for our biological organs it is going better or worse, existentially, for ourselves.  What we really seem to mean when we say ‘the earth will love you’ or your ‘heart will love you’ is simply that it is in our own self-interest to do these things.  Saying the earth or your heart will love you is synonymous with saying your own behavior towards them isn’t somehow, in the end, detrimental to yourself.  It’s simply saying *you* will love you for it.   So to say something can go better or worse for the earth or for bits of our biology is to deal strictly in self-reflective metaphor.

To say those same things about the cow, a sentient being, is to speak literally and truthfully.

But we don’t speak of the real cow that could really suffer.  She is completely  erased.  Cows are subjects of their own lives and could actually appreciate differences in our behavior toward them.  But we don’t speak about them.  We talk around them.  I find that telling. We don’t speak of the only other part of the equation that could literally appreciate something going better or worse for itself.

By analogy, imagine overhearing Fred and Linda talking about whether or not it’s ok to burn children with hot irons.  Imagine if the conversation went like this …

Linda:  You know, scorched flesh really mucks up the soleplate.  And then, with the steam, yuck – that awful smell.

Fred:  I know.  Sometimes it can damage the iron so much that you have to get a new one, and that’s what $50?  By not burning your child with your iron you could use that $50 for something else.

Linda:  Right. That settles it.  Stop burning your children with hot irons because the iron, and your pocket book will love you for it.

That’s what we’re doing when we frame our behavior towards animals strictly in terms of ourselves.   Cows are not humans but neither are they “earth” or “mere biology.”

There’s a difference.  That difference matters.

How long God?

November 3rd, 2009 No comments

Dairy requires pregnancy.  Pregnancy results in calves.  Veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry.  For what it’s worth.

HSUS releases new undercover  investigation.  or   here.

“The righteous know the needs of their animals,

but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” (Prov 12:10)

However men may differ as to speculative points of Religion, JUSTICE is a rule of universal extent and invariable obligation. We acknowledge this important truth in all matters in which MAN is concerned, but then we limit it to our own species only.…To rectify this mistaken notion is the design of this treatise, in which I have endeavored to prove, that as the Love and Mercy of God are over all of his works, from the highest rational to the lowest sensitive, our Love and Mercy are not to be confined within the circle of our own friends, acquaintance, and neighbours; nor limited to the more enlarged sphere of human nature, to creatures of our own rank, shape, and capacity; but are to be extended to every object of the Love and Mercy of GOD the universal Parent; who, as he is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works, will undoubtedly require of Man, superior Man, a strict account of his conduct to every creature entrusted to his care, or coming in his way; and who will avenge every instance of wanton cruelty and oppression, in the day in which he will judge the world in RIGHTEOUSNESS.  ~  Humphrey Primatt, 1776

You say penal substitution, I say tomato

March 12th, 2009 No comments

I’m thinking a lot these days about what the sacrificial system was actually about, not just the Israelite tradition but ritual blood sacrifice in general.  Here’s one of the texts I’m reading if you’re interested.  The ‘right’ traditional church answer (at least for the past couple of hundred years)  is probably something about how it pre-figured the death of Jesus.  That doesn’t really say anything though about what actual psychological work was supposedly being done when a sinner took an animal to have its throat slit and its blood spilled all over the place.

Read more…

Of Milk and Men

September 15th, 2008 No comments

Cow’s milk is ubiquitous in our culture.  As with any cultural tradition the very fact of its pervasiveness gives it a certain immunity from critique.  I’d like to share a little milk perspective with the hope that it will enable us to begin to reassess our relationship to the mammary gland secretions of non-human mothers.  

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen“, by Harold McGee is referred to as the most complete book on food to date.  It’s a monumental work of food science and history.     The idea that cow’s milk should perhaps not be so pervasive in the human diet isn’t just being discussed in animal rights circles by any means.  The following are selected excerpts from the section of McGee’s book on milk and dairy products.

(Milk) gives newborn (mammals) the advantage of ideally formulated food from the mother even after birth, and therefore the opportunity to continue their physical development outside the womb.  The human species has taken full advantage of this opportunity: we are completely helpless for months after birth, while our brains finish growing to a size that would be difficult to accomade in the womb and birth canal.  In this sense, milk helped make possible the evolution of our large brain, and so helped make us the unusual animals we are.  p.8

Milk has long been synonymous with wholesome, fundamental nutrition, and for good reason: unlike most of our foods, it is actually designed to be a food.  As the sole sustaining food of the calf at the beginning of its life, it’s a rich source of many essential body-building nutrients… Over the last few decades, however, the idealized portrait of milk has become more shaded.  We’ve learned that the balance of nutrients in cow’s milk doesn’t meet the needs of human infants, that most adult humans on the planet can’t digest the milk sugar called lactose, that the best route to calcium balance may not be massive milk intake.  These complications help remind us that milk was designed to be a food for the young and rapidly growing calf, not for the young or mature human.  p.12-13 (emphasis mine)

One of the most interesting and perhaps troubling findings in current research is around casein, the major protein in milk.  We learn from McGee that we’re now beginning to recognize that casein “appears to be a complex, subtle orchestrator of the infant’s metabolism”.   When casein is digested it is broken down into peptides, which affect the body in hormone like ways.  For example some casein peptides reduce heart and breathing rates, trigger insulin release, and stimulate the scavenging activity of white blood cells. p. 16  Keep in mind that those activities are directed, in cows milk, toward the healthy development of a baby cow who would naturally grow from 65 lbs to 1000 lbs.  before it switches to solid food.  The effect of the dairy protein casein on human biology is also a major focus of T. Collin Campbell’s work “The China Study” which is a highly recommended read for anyone who regularly consumes dairy products.  

Why is it so difficult to think objectively about this particular mammalian mammary gland secretion?   We’ve been indoctrinated into a food system driven by producers.  It’s important that we never question our place as cow’s milk consumers because we might otherwise not be … well, dairy consumers.  The relationship between the industries based on animal exploitation and the development of the USDA food guidelines (the pyramid, the four food groups, etc.) is fascinating and one worth a little reading for the educated consumer.  I suggest “Food Politics” by Marion Nestle, and “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins and I’ll end this post with some factoids from the latter (which is meticulously footnoted for cross-referencing).    

Average American’s estimate when asked what percentage of adults worldwide do not drink milk: 1%

Actual number of adults worldwide who do not drink milk: 65% 


Countries with the highest consumption of dairy products: Finland, Sweden, United States, England

Countries with the hightest rates of osteoporosis: Finland, Sweden, United States, England


Calcium intake in rural China: 1/2 that of people in the United States

Bone fracture rate in rural China: 1/5 that of people in the United States 


Foods that when eaten produce calcium loss though urinary excretion: animal protein, salt, and coffee

Amount of calcium lost in the urine of a woman after eating a hamburger: 28 milligrams

Amount of calcium lost in the urine of a woman after drinking a cup of coffee: 2 milligrams 


Antibiotics allowed in U.S. cow’s milk: 80

Antibiotics found in soy milk: None


Children with chronic constipation so intractible that it can’t be treated successfully by laxatives, who are cured by switching from cow’s milk to soy milk: 44%


Where most Americans get their information about foods: Advertising

Amount of money spent annually by McDonald’s advertising their products: 800 million

Amount of money spent annually by the dairy industry promoting milk mustache ads: 190 million

Amount spent annually by the National Cancer Institute promoting fruits and vegetables: 1 million

Ahhh … the power of cheese

September 1st, 2008 No comments

The next time you’re interested in a good read, check out the “USDA Report To Congress On The Dairy Promotion Programs for 2003.”  If you really want to read it, it’s here.  Otherwise, just follow along with some excerpts.

First a little about DMI …

In March 1994, the Dairy Board approved the creation of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI). DMI is a joint undertaking between the Dairy Board and the UDIA … DMI merged the staffs of the Dairy Board and UDIA to manage the Dairy Board programs as well as those of the American Dairy Association ® and National Dairy Council ® throughout the contiguous 48 States. DMI is a merger of the two separate program and administrative staff’s into a single staff that serves both boards and is structured into four support groups. The domestic marketing group supports advertising, school marketing, nutrition and product research, product publicity, and retail promotion activities. The industry relations/communications group provides outlets for news about dairy topics through its media contacts as well as communication regarding the dairy checkoff program to producers and the rest of the dairy industry. The research, planning, and evaluation group provides analysis of domestic and foreign marketplaces, program effectiveness, consumption patterns, and consumer perceptions for effective program planning, implementation, and measurement. The export group serves as a resource for U.S. dairy processors to improve export capabilities of the U.S. dairy industry.

Since January l, 1995, the Dairy Board and UDIA have developed their marketing plans and programs through DMI. DMI facilitates the integration of producer promotion funds through a joint process of planning and program implementation so that the programs on the national, regional, State, and local level work together. The goals of DMI are to reduce administrative costs, to have a larger impact on the consumer, and to drive demand, thereby helping to increase human consumption of fluid milk and dairy products.

(emphasis mine)

Some of their work …


The DMI umbrella cheese campaign “Ahh, the power of Cheese TM ” continued to promote cheese directly toward “Cheese Lovers,” with an emphasis on cheese “Cravers” and cheese “Enhancers.” Cheese “Cravers” eat cheese primarily “as is,” directly out of the package or off the block, and consume cheese as an important component of their food consumption routine. Cheese “Enhancers” have equally positive attitudes toward cheese but their consumption primarily takes the form of cheese as an ingredient in meal preparation. As in previous years, the DMI cheese television advertising campaign was recognized for creative excellence, winning numerous awards.

As in previous years, the cheese marketing effort included major retail co-marketing programs implemented in supermarkets representing more than 60 percent of U.S. retail grocery sales volume. These accounts included large national accounts like Kroger, Wal-Mart Supercenters, Safeway, and Albertsons. In these efforts, DMI provides retailer-customized media (television, radio, or direct mail) and in-store sampling, which are combined with the retailer’s own advertising and merchandising support to drive cheese sales. Research has consistently shown that these co-marketing programs contribute to increased cheese category volume in participating stores. In foodservice, DMI continued to implement trade advertising and public relations campaigns to keep cheese top-of-mind with restaurant operators. The trade print advertising is listed in Table 1-1. In July 2002, DMI announced its second annual Cheese Advisory Panel (CAP), comprised of six up-and-coming chefs from around the country, to spotlight American cow’s milk cheeses. CAP members participated in a series of activities aimed at increasing awareness of high-quality American cheese and cheesemakers.

DMI also worked closely with top national restaurant chains, including Taco Bell ®, Pizza Hut ®, and Wendy’s ®, to drive cheese volume and ensure that cheese was prominently featured in menu items. For example, DMI staff assisted Taco Bell ® with consumer research and trend data to demonstrate the value and appeal that three cheeses would deliver to Quesadilla consumers. As a result, Taco Bell ® developed and launched a new Steak Quesadilla item, which featured a blend of Cheddar, Pepper Jack, and Mozzarella cheeses. The item used an average of eight times more cheese than other items on their menu. Taco Bell ® used television, print, the Internet, and in-store advertising to support the promotion. Also, DMI worked with Pizza Hut ®, who declared summer 2002 the Summer of Cheese. The promotion, which ran for 12 weeks, featured the reintroduction of Stuffed Crust and Insider pizzas. The Summer of Cheese culminated with Pizza Hut’s cheese usage increasing +4 percent during the promotion period and by 102 million pounds of cheese during the entire summer. And, for the fourth straight year, Wendy’s ® restaurant re- introduced its popular Cheddar Lovers’ Bacon Cheeseburger sandwich. During the 4-week promotion period, Wendy’s ® sold more than 12 million sandwiches, each featuring two slices of Cheddar cheese and a Cheddar sauce. The promotion used nearly 1.5 million pounds of cheese, and the chain’s cheese use grew by 15 percent, compared to the same time period a year ago. DMI assisted Wendy’s ® with the development of this cheese-friendly sandwich in 1999.

When you’re done reading that, click on over to the Nutrition.Gov and see how many of these products fit into the recommendations for a healthy diet. (While you’re there check out the section on vegetarian diets.)

Taco Bell Steak Quesadilla – nutrition info here

Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza – nutrition info here

Cheddar Lovers’ Bacon Cheeseburger – (nutrition information no longer available)

In case you don’t see how that works out … dairy producers, through the USDA, teamed up with  private corporations to push more cheese on the public through the promotion of products that don’t fit into the governments own recommendations for a healthy diet.  This is, of course, the point where someone will start saying that people are responsible for what they eat, not the government, all things are fine in moderation, etc.  That would be a fine position if the government weren’t working to induce cheese cravings in people.  If it’s not the governments business then the government should stay out of the business of manipulating consumer appetites.

… postscript … This seems like pushing cigarettes because there are people who are invested in growing tobacco while at the same time warning people not to smoke.  What kind of sense does that make?

Resources for further reading:

Breaking the Food Seduction” , Neal Barnard, Md. 2004

Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health“, Marion Nestle 2007