{A-Z:Veganism} D is for Dairy Industry

D is for…

Dairy industry.

Recently, I wrote about bobby calves. Today, I want to examine the messages that the Australian dairy industry disseminates to children, specifically primary school students.

What is the dairy industry telling school students about cows’ milk, and the lives of dairy cows and bobby calves?

To answer this question, I visited Dairy Australia’s website, Discover Dairy. Visitors to the site can explore sections aimed at students, teachers, and canteen staff. Apparently, Dairy Australia developed the section for teachers, in order to:

‘engage and educate teachers and students about the Australian dairy industry and the nutritious products it provides’.

Teachers and students are introduced to 3 ‘learning’ modules – Unbeatable Bones, Fuel for Life and Farm to Plate. Teachers are encouraged to ‘Discover Dairy with [their] students today!’.

The site includes lesson ideas and student activity sheets for primary school children covering subjects such as art, mathematics, English, and science & technology.

Fresian Cow

(source)

What is the industry telling children about the lives of cows and calves on dairy farms?

In the section aimed at students, I navigated to Games and Interactives. I imagine this is the most popular section for students. Lets face it, any self-respecting 8 year old would head straight there!

I viewed two ‘interactives’:

The Milk from Farm to Plate – What’s it all About? interactive has this to say about the ‘milk cycle’: ‘Milk is created inside the udders of dairy cows on the farm’. It then describes the pumps that ‘gently suck milk from the cow’. There is no mention of her calf.

This interactive provides the illusion that cows naturally or automatically lactate, that they need to be milked by humans. It fails to mention that cows lactate as a consequence of giving birth.

The second interactive is titled: How do Dairy Cows Make Milk?  It begins: ‘ How dairy cows make milk is really cool’. It then describes the four stomachs that cows possess – it is interesting. No doubt about that. But, I was left thinking: hang on! We (humans) are drinking the milk of a species with four stomachs?! It is truly absurd!

The interactive states: ‘Milk is stored in the udder until the cow is milked’ – as though the milk  is just waiting there in a vessel, for humans. For our convenience. It does not mention that the milk is produced for her baby. Children are not told that the cow’s baby would suckle many times throughout the day. There is definitely no mention of the fact that a cow’s udder can become painful and engorged, and that cows can suffer from mastitis. No, the milk is just filling up her udder, ready to be ‘gently’ sucked out by a machine.

Clearly, the ‘interactives’ only tell part of the story.

What about the 3 ‘learning’ modules?

I discovered a reference to calves in the module From Farm to Plate. In a section called Hand-Feeding Calves, it states:

‘After only 12 to 24 hours, calves are weaned off their mothers but are still given milk to drink. The first milk they are given comes straight from their mother and is called colostrum…The colostrum is milked into a bucket which is then transferred to a bottle with a very large teat on the end and fed to the calf’

This paragraph glosses over the severing of the maternal-calf  bond. The industry wants children to believe that life is good for a calf:

The calves soon learn to eat grass and often get to eat the best pasture on the farm to help them grow strong’.

Calves are denied a relationship with their mothers. They are fed from an artificial teat. They are only a day (or less) old. But, apparently, children should not be concerned, because the calves are compensated for this loss by having access to ‘the best pasture’.

There is no mention of male calves, shipped to specialist calf-rearing properties or slaughterhouses. The information gives the impression that calves have an idyllic life in a lush green paddock. Rather, a female calf will ‘grow up’ to be a dairy cow herself, and endure repeated pregnancies and loss of offspring.

peek a moo

(source)

In another location, I read this:

‘Male calves become bulls and are often sold’. 

The key phrase is ‘often sold’. Sold to whom? For what purpose? The use of ‘often sold’ implies that some are not sold. What happens to them? Dairy Australia asserts that bobby calves are the foundation of their industry, so why aren’t they telling children the truth about them?

In reality, bobby calves are not given high priority by the industry. A bobby calf’s only ‘use’ is his ability to initiate his mother’s lactation.

At 5 days old, calves can be transported, and the industry standard permits the withholding of milk from calves for up to 30 hours before they are slaughtered. They certainly aren’t sharing that information with children.

The module From Farm to Plate includes a section titled ‘How cows make milk’. Here, calves are mentioned in connection with milk production:

A cow only starts to produce milk once her first calf is born.’

The module states that:   

‘Most cows give about 25 litres of milk a day.’

The use of the term ‘give’ implies that cows are willing participants in their enslavement. Obviously, the milk is ‘taken’ or ‘stolen’. This misuse of language disguises the reality of dairy cows’ lives.

Under the heading ‘Milking Time‘, I was disturbed to read the following :

‘Milking time is an enjoyable experience for the cows for many reasons. Sometimes the farmer plays soothing music in the background to relax the cows. It is important that cows are kept happy because they need to be relaxed to produce their milk’ .

A ‘happy’ cow. (Source: Discover Dairy)

I wonder what style of music ‘keeps’ cows happy, and compensates for the loss of a baby? Mozart? Moby? Muse? Despite the assertion that there are ‘many reasons’ that milking time is ‘enjoyable’, no further information of this nature is provided. Perhaps they’ll start telling children that the gentle sucking of the machines is quite relaxing, and preferable to the constant suckling of a baby.

What is the industry telling children about dairy products?

Children are told that dairy is ‘fuel for life‘, and that they require 3 serves a day.

(Fuel for life? That is actually true. A cow’s milk is fuel for her calf; nourishment that is biologically designed to promote bovine life).

Children are encouraged to:

‘speak to [their] teacher or principal about adopting a healthy canteen policy that includes plenty of milk, cheese and yogurt on the menu’. 

Children are directed to ‘lead by example’ so that their friends will be:

‘slurping yogurt, slicing cheese, and sipping milk right along with you before you know it…Keep up the yummy fun!’

‘Yummy fun’ (Source: Discover Dairy)

I was surprised to read the following in a curriculum guide for the Picasso Cows program:

‘New research has found milk is a more effective drink than water to rehydrate active kids’.

A footnote is provided in the curriculum guide.* I imagine that this finding would be regarded as a boon to the industry. Time constraints prevent me from following up on the ‘new research’ at this stage. However, I find it difficult to believe that the lactation fluids of a mammal with 4 stomachs can provide ‘more effective’ rehydration of ‘active’ human children than water. Water is fuel for life!

So, why am I concerned about the information that the Discover Dairy web site promotes to teachers and students? 

Firstly, lets examine the stated role of Dairy Australia:

‘Our role is to help farmers adapt to a changing operating environment, and achieve a profitable, sustainable dairy industry’.

Secondly, lets look at the language that the industry uses about primary schools and school children.

In a curriculum guide for a national project called The Great Wall of Dairy, it states:

‘Primary schools provide an ideal channel to reach a large number of children aged 5–12 years’.

A captive audience!

 ‘Children are also developing their long term food consumption behaviours at this age so it is important to build healthy, positive eating habits while they are young’.

And who better to ‘educate’ them about positive eating habits than Dairy Australia?!

And this:

‘Educating children about nutrition and where their food comes from is important to establish positive attitudes and perceptions about the industry and the products it produces which they can carry into adulthood’. 

Clearly, children in classrooms are fair game for an industry seeking to advertise its products and ensnare lifelong consumers of dairy products.  Naturally, the establishment of ‘positive attitudes and perceptions about the industry’ would be hindered if young children were provided with factual information about bobby calves, rather than misinformation. A young child who has been unwittingly separated from her parents (such as losing sight of them in a shopping centre) would be able to identify with the fear and panic of a calf who has been separated from his mother.

I am opposed to school teachers being used as conduits to promote dairy products to students in their classrooms. I would not be impressed if my children were learning about calcium and nutrition from Dairy Australia.

Source: Discover Dairy

As mentioned above, Dairy Australia’s stated role is to achieve a ‘profitable’ industry. They do not develop learning modules, free classroom resources and national curriculum programs because they care about the health of Australia’s children. The industry is not interested in educating children about nutrition. The industry is interested in ‘educating’ children about dairy products. They are interested in maximising their profits. These programs, modules and resources are part of a marketing strategy.

Nutrition education in schools should not be driven by industries with vested interests.

Dairy: ‘A unique combination of bone-building nutrients’. (Source: Discover Dairy)

It’s unlikely that parents would give consent for their children to view television advertisements (during class time) that are designed solely to establish positive ‘perceptions about [an] industry and the products it produces which [their children] can carry into adulthood’.

So, why should we tolerate this covert form of advertising being conducted under the guise of ‘education’?

Notes:

*Footnote cited by Dairy Australia – Volterman K et al. Children and Exercise XXVII: The Proceedings of the XXVIIth International Symposium of the
European Group of Paediatric Work Physiology 2011; Chapter 13: 101–105

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

Ally

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About Ally
Mamma. Vegan. I blog at Made of Stars.

15 Responses to {A-Z:Veganism} D is for Dairy Industry

  1. liveblissful says:

    Amazing post Ally! I can’t believe they can get away with telling lies to children at such at an impressionable age. I was told the same thing as a kid and was shocked to find out the truth as an adult.

    • Ally says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I was told the lies too. It breaks my heart. The dairy industry is responsible for so much misery.
      The industry has been so effective at promoting its products. Most people believe that their bone health is dependent on the consumption of cows’ milk products.

      • susykat says:

        It’s quite unbelievable how pervasive the dairy industry’s propaganda is. The fact that many people think that cows just produce milk at will, and believe the milk meant for the growing baby of another species is necessary to human health, is absolutely disturbing. It saddens me that the dairy industry targets impressionable children, to the point of encouraging them to pester their school to provide more dairy-based products! As you highlight, the industry’s main objective is profit – they couldn’t care less about the cows under their care, nor the fact that their nutrition claims are absolute lies. Thanks for this post, it is very informative!

  2. Ally says:

    Thanks Su, I’m glad you found it informative. It could have been twice as long. I had to stop somewhere! I will address nutrition issues in another post.
    I’m so relieved my kids attend a school that wouldn’t consider using these materials.

  3. Xiomara says:

    I’m a teacher and always find myself pulling out children’s books from the classroom library that downplay– no, neglect the sentiency of nonhuman animals. And it always makes me so angry when milk is the staplestaple snack time drink taxpayers are paying for. Indoctrination…

  4. uberdish says:

    Love, love, love this!! The same is going in our Canadian schools. It’s mind boggling!! I just don’t get it. Unfortunately, we are making a nation of very unhealthy citizens.

    • Ally says:

      Have your daughter’s had direct exposure to this type of thing? I would be livid, I think.
      Fortunately, my children go to a school that would not support industry influence in the classroom.
      It’s everywhere though. I agree that it is promoting unhealthy lifestyles.
      In Australia, we have a week called Healthy Weight Week. It is promoted by our national Dietetics Association. Guess who sponsors it?
      Meat and Livestock Australia, and the egg corporation!

      • uberdish says:

        Oh boy….this angers me! I am a teacher myself, so I know exactly what goes on in my kids’ nutrition classes and it’s crazy. The food pyramid and food guide is drilled into them from day one. We even have been exposed to this in my kids’ sports activities (figure skating, dance & soccer – Gatorade given to kids at hockey games!!). Overall we are happy with our kids’ school, but when my daughter once offered vegan choices for the milk product food group she was told “no” and she was quite embarrassed. I could go on here…… her lunch was once criticized for containing no meat and cheese. Grrrr!

      • Ally says:

        Oh Angela, that would anger and distress me too. I feel for your daughter, how embarrassing and demoralizing that must have been for her to be spoken to in that way.
        Thankfully my kids’ sports don’t discuss diet. We have avoided Little Athletics because it is sponsored by McDonalds.

      • uberdish says:

        It’s so nice to meet someone who feels the same! Like you lots, Ally! 🙂

      • Ally says:

        I agree! 🙂 You rock, Angela. We’d have lots to talk about.

  5. smiles00 says:

    Hi Ally – I have dropped off the WP for a while re-orging myself on a few levels and climbing out of winter .. are you on FB I would love to add you in .. looks like life’s good for you .. high five 🙂 let me know .. cheers Suzanne

    Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2012 09:40:10 +0000 To: smiles00@live.com

    • Ally says:

      Hi Suzanne!
      I’ve missed you! I went looking for an email address on your blog a couple of months ago, so I could contact you. I was hoping you were ok.
      Yes, I’m on FB.
      Maybe you could email me your FB details- madeofstars1@rocketmail.com
      Is that the best way to do it?
      Yes, we are all well here. 🙂
      I’m really happy to hear from you.

  6. Pingback: The Littlest Kitten Drinks Cows’ Milk | Made of Stars

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