Archive for the ‘domestic animals’ Category

I spent a few weekends last month traveling remote country roads. These are potholed ribbons of blacktop that meander along densely forested ridges and through little pastures that look as though they had just been hewn out of the forest primeval. The truth is the forest is the newcomer. Fifty years before, the land was virtually nothing but a vast expanse of rocky pastureland.

The depopulation of West Virginia is a story that is little known, but as the agrarian economy fell apart in the early decades of the twentieth century,  the children of the mountains ran off to find industry in places like Cleveland and Detroit. Later generations would race off to life in the Carolina and Georgia Sunbelts.

But few stayed to farm.

For those of you a bit confused by the term, no one in West Virginia “ranches.”  A person who raises cattle is a farmer. The word “ranch” connotes the vast openness of the West, whereas the land here is snug and tight and more than a bit obscured.

I came across several of these little beef operations. Beef prices are high now, so the farmers are taking what advantage of the market they can.

Most beef producers in West Virginia keep “black Angus,” the vaunted black cow from Scotland with its very well marketed marbled beef. In most of the rest of the world, the breed is called an Aberdeen-Angus, and it includes both a black and a liver-colored variety. The liver-colored ones are called “red Angus” and are marketed as something other than true “black Angus.”

I’ve always thought these black cattle were rather homely. They are lardy little brutes, but when the mud and feces cling to their shedding winter coats, they don’t really have that much appeal.

But within the past few years, there has been a bit of renaissance among the Hereford cattle. These are the stately English beef cattle that once made up the backbone of the American beef industry. They are named for the English of Hereford, which is pronounced “Hair-a-ferd,” but in America, for some unknown reason, we call them “Hurfurds.”   (I think the British pronunciation sounds more fitting for one of these animals.)

They always look very English to me. They remind me very much of bovine equivalent of an eighteenth century English gentleman, decked out in a red coat and wearing a powdered wig.

In May, the West Virginia’s little hill pastures take on a semblance of a George Stubbs painting:  well-bred livestock and horses standing out in the greenest pastures.

And Hereford cattle certainly add to the delusion.

When I was a child, I learned the big herds of bison that the first European settlers encountered when they crossed into the Trans-Allegheny West. They were but a foretaste of the great throng of bison that they would encounter as they crossed in the Midwest and deep into the Great Plains.

The bison tore up fences, and their hides were valuable. So they fell to the gun.

They were replaced by rougher bred British cattle, the kind bred for milk and beef and oxen for the yoke.

The first “improved” breeds to come to this part of West Virginia were “Durhams,” more normally called “shorthorns.”  These animals came late in the nineteenth century. They, too, were bred to be generalist cattle, but later on, it became customary for people to keep Jerseys and Jersey crosses for milk, then Holsteins. And when the beef market began to take off, Hereford cattle became common, too.

My grandfather often told the story of “whitewashing” his neighbor’s black Jersey cross dairy cow. He took white paint, and just painted her all over.  People started talking about the new white cow that the neighbor had in his pasture.

“I don’t have a white one; she’s black!”

Boy, was he in for a shocker when he got home!

We used to live very intimately with cattle and horses.  Cattle produced milk and meat, and horses were as essential as motor vehicles are now.

We’ve lost that knowledge.  Too few Americans have even touched a cow or horse. They are remote creatures. They might as well be mythical or exotic.

But in every Hamburger or steak we eat,  we consume the flesh of the bovine.

What we don’t often think about is that we’re actually eating the flesh of an animal that is now extinct in the wild.

Just as the Eastern bison are now gone from West Virginia’s hills, the wild ancestor of domestic cattle is now lost to the ages.

It was called the aurochs, and the last of these giant wild cattle was killed in Poland in the seventeenth century. The genes of the great wild cow now exist solely the 1.3 billion domestic cattle that are spread across the continent. There were two domestications:  one in the  Middle East that produced things like the Hereford and the Holstein and another in the Indus Valley, which produced the zebu or “Indicus” cattle, which are famous for their sacred status in Hinduism and for their dewlaps and shoulder humps. The Indian aurochs went extinct shortly after the domestication.

The species now exists solely in a domestic form.

If the whole world were to go vegan and then demanded that no draft animals be used,  it really would be the end for the aurochs.

The children of the aurochs have become the most successful large ungulate species on the planet. They graze through the Americas and deep in Siberia. Their hoof-beats can be heard on “stations” in the Australian Outback, and the Maasai people still kill lions that menace their herds in Kenya and Tanzania.

The gentle Herefords grazing along these country lanes are not the aurochs of old.  Just as the eighteenth century English gentleman was nothing like the wild Anglo-Saxons or Anglo-Normans or Brythonic Celts in his pedigree, the Hereford is utterly domesticated. Almost all Herefords in West Virginia are polled– born without horns– and when cows calve in remote pastures, they often have a hard time defending their young against the depredations of coyotes and dogs.

But though thoroughly domesticated, they still exist remotely. There will never be huge demand for pet cattle.

They will still be aurochsen, though modified and refined for our pleasure.








Read Full Post »

old spot

The following text comes from William Youatt’s The Pig: a Treatise on the Breeds, Management, Feeding, and Medical Treatment of Swine; with Directions for salting Pork and curing Bacon and Hams (1847 and 1860):

Every cottager with a family should purchase in the spring or summer a bacon pig, to cost about a sovereign (as old a pig as he can get for the money, of good breed), to be fed up to about four-and-twenty score at Christmas. The hams he can sell to buy another pig, and the rest will remain for his own consumption, without seeming to have cost anything. There is no savings bank for the labourer like a pig. Every week a shilling should be spent on meal, and this with a pig of a good sort, will make him grow and keep fresh, and require very little to finish off with at last. I heartily agree with the Dorsetshire squire Sturt’s speech, at an agricultural dinner, in 1857: “The grunting of a hog in a cottager’s sty, sounds sweeter than the song of a nightingale, and sides of bacon are the very best ornaments of the cottage walls.” If landlords and farmers would take the trouble to secure to the labourer in every rural parish, a comfortable, convenient cottage, with pigsty and garden, and a well-bred boar for parish use, they would have less reason to complain of the want of labour. There is too much talk about putting down beer-houses without putting up something in their stead, for the comfort and amusement of a class who have neither the mental nor the physical resources of their employers.

There can scarcely be conceived a greater contrast than between the system of prizes given for cottagers’ pigs and gardens in Yorkshire, and the system of giving a pound and coat for thirty years’ long service, practised in the south. It seems that it is quite as good a thing to win a fourth prize for a fat hog in Yorkshire as to live thirty years in one service without parish relief in Bucks and Berkshire; and I am not at all sure that the fat hog is not a better evidence of industry, sobriety, intelligence, and the main qualities that go to make a respectable man, than the certificates on which the pound and the coat are often awarded to the worn-out smock-frock man.

It is true that, in 1842, Mr. Edwin Chadwick, C.B., in his first sanitary report, said that “pig-keeping and cowkeeping were injurious to the condition of the labourer; that the labouring man pays more dearly for his bacon than he would if he purchased it ready made; that the possession of a pig created a temptation to steal; that a labourer had best depend on his wages alone,”—that is to say, have neither the amusement of a garden, nor the benefit of a live savings bank. But fortunately, since 1842 a reaction, almost an insurrection, has put an end to Mr. Ohadwick’s authority as paid commissioner and professional philanthropist, and stopped the circulation of social and sham-scientific fallacies at public expense. Most landowners and farmers, and every country parson who knows his duty, stirred up by S. G-. O., stimulated by the Rev. Charles Kingsley, and by the speeches of Tory squires, like Mr. Sturt, like to see a hog growing into money in a labourer’s sty, even although it does not exactly exhale a spice-island perfume, and may invite a little “mendicancy,” to use a hard word for slops and wash, amongst the junior chaw-bacons. But the Trapbois* class of philanthropists, anxious “for a consideration” to arrange the boarding, lodging, clothing, lighting, watering, and educating of the whole community on parallelogram plans, under the inspection of Boards, have very little sympathy with the rude and simple pleasures of the poor.

What a pleasant picture for Squire Sturt, or Parson Kingsley, or S. G. O.**, the Argus-eyed sharp-penned friend of the oppressed, wherever found, is the hard-working labourer, who, by denying himself many a pint of beer and many a pipe, by extra hours, and close economy on the part of the missus, has saved and bought a porker (one of the squire’s or the parson’s own sort, on the side of the boar), who has built a sty with his own hands, and set the whole family to work to feed the grunting stranger, from the eldest lad who wheels the barrow laden with a tub of wash, down to the petticoated infants who toddle forth hand in hand to collect sow-thistles or acorns. Artists of renown might do worse than take for a subject the Sunday evening round the sty,—when, surrounded by his hard-fed young ones, daddy in his shirt-sleeves, smoking the “Sunday pipe,” discusses with missus in her best gown and cap—the last baby in her arms—the manifold good qualities, the form, the skin, the ears, the hair, the pork-making propensities of his one specimen of farm live-stock; calculates the weight of the sides of fat bacon, to be eaten with home-grown cabbage, into which piggy is sure to grow; and while pleasantly scratching his head, makes the children’s mouths water with the promise of a feast of black pudding, fry, or even roast pork, with brown potatoes in the pan—to be enjoyed about Christmas time.

Then, again, in a pig-feeding village, there are all the delights and extravagances of the lending system, by which, practically, every pig-owner has a share in his neighbour’s pig, each lending the other lights, or chitterlings, or even a spare-rib, repaid as each kills his own pig. These make up to the villager the bank, the stock exchange, and the theatre, the concert-rooms of Canterbury Hall and the Britannia, which town-folk monopolize. As for the tragedy of the pig-killing, that is one of the great events, a perfect Victoria drama to the boys of our village (pg 89-91).

These words may not sound like it, but for their time, they are pretty progressive.

In post-Enclosure movement England, there were large numbers of tenant farmers who were forced to live in cottages, where they worked lands they would never own. These cottiers or cottagers were at the bottom rung of the rural working class in England, and their lives were far from roseate. They could be expelled at virtually any time, and they had to pay rents in the form of either a percentage of their crops or in money.

These were conditions in which many nineteenth century reformers railed against the landowners.

In the text, Youatt is actually offering to landowners a solution that he thinks will improve the lot of these rural cottager.

Cottagers were allotted only a small bit of land, which meant they didn’t have a lot of resources to raise animals. Youatt thinks that allowing them to keep pigs, which are (of course) improved through the use of a highly-bred boar belonging to the landowner, will give them a source of income and civic pride, as well as a past time that will keep them away from the beer halls.

Pigs can be fattened on refuse, and they don’t need large areas to roam.

They are a cheaply maintained source of protein and fat, which are often harder for working class people to obtain.

So in this rather weird way, Youatt is encouraging landowners to encourage their cottagers to keep hogs.

Pork has always been the meat of the poor. Without access to pasture lands to graze cattle, hogs have been a relatively cheap source for meat.

It is somewhat strange to see that pig-keeping would be suggested as way of making lives better in Victorian rural cottages, but at the time, it actually did make some sense.


* A reference to a fictional usurer.

**Sidney Godolphin Osborne, a noted social reformer and clergyman, who was most famous for his accounts of the Irish famine.

Read Full Post »

neoteny and anti-semtism lorenz

Lorenz was a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in 1939 when he drew this sketch to show the “degenerative” effects of domestication.

His “wild type” of human has exaggerated “Semitic” features.  He was a firm believer in Nazi “racial hygiene” policies, and although I’ve not found anything he ever wrote about Jews, this sketch speaks volumes about his views on that subject.

I don’t think I’m ever going to look at one of these diagrams showing pedomorphosis in domestic animals the same way again.

I find Lorenz’s later writings on dogs very insightful.

But he was a person of his time and culture.


I should note here that pugs are not “degenerated” because they are domesticated.

They are degenerated because they have been selectively bred by human caprice and vanity.

Read Full Post »

In Amman, Jordan, there is a conformation show for Damascene goats.

It is called “The Most Beautiful Goat Contest,” and although I’m having a difficult time finding the “breed standard” by which these goats are judged, the goal is to breed a snub-nosed goat with an undershot jaw.

A Google Images search of similar Damascene goats shows that many of these goats have really strange profiles.

My guess is this type of conformation is a hindrance for the goats when they forage. Goats are browsers that need to be able to put their heads in narrow places to pull leaves off branches.

And I’m sure that a large number of Western goat owners don’t approve of the practice.

However, you won’t find as much complaints when the same conformation type when it’s applied to dogs.

What breed is snub-nosed with an undershot jaw?

Well, there is the bulldog.

English Bulldog Looking Up

Damascene goats are primarily kept for dairy purposes, so they actually do have a function.

The Kennel Club bastardized bulldog has no purpose. It’s just an artifact that people can distort and twist with no regard to actual health or welfare.

These goat shows are becoming more and more popular in the Middle East, especially among wealthy Arabs.

Just as the bulldog is derived from the hardy catch and baiting dogs of Medieval England, these show goats are derived from hardy Nubian-type stock that have been the staple of goatherds throughout the region for thousands of years.

When England became industrialized and the British Empire rose, there was a class of people who could afford to breed animals with distorted and quite dysfunctional conformation.

It is that society that produced the bulldog as we know it today.

In the Middle East, great fortunes have been made in recent decades with the rise of petroleum prices.

There are lots of young Arab gentlemen who want to have objects of what Thorstein Veblen would call objects of conspicuous consumption. These are objects that have no utility other than what they symbolize about the status of the person who owns them.

Bulldogs were perhaps the first dog ever destroyed by the concept. They were already in quite poor shape within two decades of the rise of the modern dog fancy, and they have been messed up for so long that people don’t even recognize the very real problems they have.

This Middle Eastern goat fancy is fairly new, and it has not yet had time to reach the pathology of the dog fancy in the West.

But it very well might.

One feature I noticed on the prize winner at the Damascus show is that her ears were cropped:

Damacene goat cropped ears

The cropped ears add even more to the grotesque appearance.

I find these photos quite disconcerting.

Goats aren’t supposed to look this way.

But then I realize something even more disconcerting:  Bulldogs aren’t supposed to either.

But they’ve looked that way for so long and their appearance is so enshrined in our cultural understanding of what a bulldog is that we don’t see it as equally grotesque.

In fact, it is even more so, for I have not heard of any serious health problems that have resulted from breeding Damascene goats.

But bulldog health problems are legion.  They are almost impossible to reproduce without AI or “hand matings,” and virtually all of the ones born in North America have been delivered via a planned C-section.

So we can judge the “brown people” over there for their deformed goats, but the truth is we ought to be looking at the dogs we are producing over here.

We have no room to make such pronouncements.

We are even more guilty than they are.

Read Full Post »

He can’t get it into the cheek pouch!

hamster vs  spaghetti noodle

Golden hamsters are not particularly bright animals.

They are one of the few truly solitary species we’ve been able to domesticate (somewhat).

When I was a child, it was almost impossible to find one that didn’t bite. I never owned one that didn’t try, no matter how tame it was normally.

Not only are they solitary, they are also nocturnal, so your entire way of being is utterly incompatible with its way of being.

They’ve bred some strains of golden hamster that are not as likely to bite, and they have also been selected for a cuter, more teddy bear-like appearance.

This is also the most inbred of all domestic animals. All of the ones available on the pet market are derived from a single female and her litter that were captured near Aleppo in the 1930’s.

A dog is an animal that is pretty close to a person.  They make you part of their world, and they definitely consider you to be a social partner.

A golden hamster merely comes to tolerate you.

I comes to tolerate being taken out of its cage at night and handled.

But they never come to love you.

They are a different being, existing in an entirely different universe of senses and emotions.

A dog comes to be “almost human.”

A hamster stays a hamster.

No matter if you name him Twinkles or Buttermilk and feed him high-priced hamster treats.




Read Full Post »

It’s not just dogs

Watch the Persian cat change:


Read Full Post »

Domestication was long-thought to have universally dulled the intelligence of animals.

Wolves were thought to be significantly more intelligent than domestic dogs.

Usually, someone will start talking about an experiment where a researcher found that wolves easily learned to open a gate and malamutes never figured it out. This experiment is essential cannon in the wolf literature.

It’s actually not an experiment.

It actually comes from a claim by the wolf research Harry Frank, who had a malamute that never figured out how to open a particular door. However, a wolfdog he was working with did figure out how to do it, and that a wolf that was being raised with the hybrid figured it out after watching the hybrid do it once.

I’ve always doubted that this claim is indicative of the superiority of lupine intelligence for a very simple reason. When I first read of that account, I had two golden retrievers that were adept at opening door. They had learned how to do this through observation, just as the wolf had. Further, Miley also figured out how to do this behavior and had to be trained not to.

So are golden retrievers smarter than malamutes?

Anecdote really doesn’t help us in this endeavor.

Some researchers have tried to use brain size as evidence that domestic animals are less intelligent than their wild ancestors. Playing around with brain size in this matter is little more than glorified phrenology, and as I have written about on this blog, the claims about brain size and domestic dogs are actually somewhat misleading.

One of the problems with trying to examine these issues is that there is an implied romanticism in a lot of ethology. This implied romanticism sees domestication as distorted and debasing the wild stock from which domestic animals are derived. Bits of this sort of thinking can be found in Konrad Lorenz’s work. Lorenz was a Nazi scientist, and the Nazis– and, really, a large number of other German nationalist groups– saw modern civilization as something quite destructive to the German people. They longed for a time in which  their people could return to nature and thus return to their prior greatness.

Even though Nazi science has been discarded and researchers from a lot of national background have examined these issues, the tincture of the Nazi and Germanic nationalist origins in the foundations of a lot of this research has prevented an open examination of what domestication actually has meant.

We can think of domestication as outright enslavement.

But this is a childish view.

The truth is when the ancestors of modern dogs hooked up with humans, they became infinitely more successful than wolves would ever be.

And it’s only been in the past ten years or so that we’ve actually started to make comparisons of domestic and wild animal cognitive abilities.

What we’ve found is the notion that domestication means universal dulling is quite simplistic.  At Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, there have been many studies that have compared the cognitive skills of wolves that have been raised by people and domestic dogs.  They have found that domestic dogs have certain cognitive abilities that even hand-reared wolves lack. They respond to human gestures in ways that wolves simply do not. Further, more research out of the Max Planck Institute Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig found that dogs were better at responding to gestures than even great apes.

These same findings have been discovered in the Belyaev tame foxes.

And similar cognitive skills been discovered in cats, domestic goats, and horses.

But none have done as well as dogs.

Until now.

Some researchers at Eotvos Lorand University compared the abilities of domestic ferrets, domestic dogs, and hybrids between wild mustelids and ferrets.  Domestic ferrets can hybridize with European polecats (their likely wild ancestor), the steppe polecat (another possible ancestors), the European mink (which is not a close relative of the American mink), and the Siberian weasel (which is actually found over a broad swathe of Asia, not just Siberia).   The researchers used specimens from all of these hybrids to represent a group of wild mustelids in the same way that wolves were used in the dog experiment. Like the wolves, these wild hybrids were socialized to people and were “tame.”

The researchers found that ferrets sought out and tolerated human contact in much the same way dogs did, and they were able to correctly go to the bowl of food containing the food through following human gestures.

And they could do as well as domestic dogs.

Now, this might make some sense.

Ferrets are the only other animal that has been domesticated to help humans hunt.

Ferreting is very similar to hunting with a flushing dog or a terrier.

The ferret goes where the quarry is and then it drives it out into a net or toward the gun.

And although people have tried to ferret with other species of mustelid, none has been as successful as the domestic ferret.

However, unlike dogs, ferrets were derived from solitary ancestors, not cooperative hunters.

But as they were domesticated to control rabbit and rat numbers, ferrets evolved some cognitive abilities that were similar to those of domestic dogs.  These abilities may have arisen solely from selection for tameness, as is implied through the abilities of the Belyaev foxes.

Or they could have origins in selection for a greater cooperative nature through domestication for those purposes.

We really don’t understand how dogs or other animals have evolved these cognitive skills.

Some people like to rush for the neoteny explanation at this point, but virtually everything written about neoteny and social cognition of domestic animals, great apes, and humans is unusually speculative and may actually be incapable of being falsified.

But the discovery that ferrets might be able to respond to human gestures as well as domestic dogs is really remarkable find.

It also shows us that ferrets are fully domesticated animals.

They shouldn’t be treated as exotics or invasive species.

The North American mainland has exactly zero (0) populations of feral domestic ferrets running about, even though ferrets have been here since colonial times.

We can’t say the same about feral cats, which are definitely destructive to native species.

So our understanding of domestication and its effect upon intelligence is much more complex than it once was.

And it’s not just dogs who have these abilities.

Ferrets may have them, too.



Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »


John Mionczynski is the Adolph Murie of bighorn sheep. His studies of radio-collared bighorns have been ground-breaking, and he was among the first to document that selenium deficiencies– caused by the abundance of certain plants in the sheep’s habitat– were causing population decreases.

He also pioneered the use of pack goats to carry camping supplies in rugged terrain.

Very interesting fellow.

Read Full Post »

One of the most bizarre things I’ve seen animal rights activists throw fits about are dairy cattle.

Now, one can make the case that dairy cattle are meant to be on pastures, and maybe they shouldn’t have docked tails. And maybe the nutritional value of dairy is something we ought to question.

However, one thing that the animal rights people worry about is that dairy cattle never get to mother their own calves.

This is supposedly the absolute worst thing that can happen.

It is a major feature of this piece by a vegan activist writing on a “farm sanctuary” ( read: food hoaders’) tumblr. The piece is an ode to a dairy cow that has recently, which in my part of the world would not be something that anyone would read or write without bursting out in riotous laughter.

Anyway, here goes:

I hope you will honor Sadie’s memory. She is a former dairy cow. She never nursed her own calves. Her only value? Her milk, meant for her growing calf.

Animal Place gave her an amazing seven years of life. She lived it with dignity. I am beyond honored to have been included in her circle.

She never deserved the hand dealt her.

You can help. Drink almond milk. Try coconut ice cream. Slap some soy cheese on your sandwich. Transition to a vegan diet and embrace compassion and kindness.

Never mind that monocultures of soy have a disastrous ecological effects and can destroy small farmers in the developing world.

And never mind that intelligent cattle rearing could be a solution to soil conservation and to climate change crises.

The real issue is that dairy cattle have been selected to be terrible mothers.

If you know anyone who has raised any kind of beef cattle, the cows are super protective of their calves.

When they are first born, it can be dangerous to approach a mother cow and her calf. It’s almost always dangerous for even familiar dogs to approach the pair.

That’s because she has very good mothering instincts, and there have been no selection pressures to produce cattle with weaker mothering instincts.

They are still very much like their wild aurochs ancestors.

Dairy cattle are quite the opposite.

When normal cattle are separated from their calves, they get quite stressed and start bawling for hours and hours.

This always happens when beef cattle are weaned. The mother cows don’t like to be away from their babies, so they try to call them back.

However, if a dairy cow got that upset and stressed when she became separated from her calf, she would be a terrible milk producer.

And because dairy cattle almost always have their calves taken from them, there has been an inadvertent selection pressure for a cow that has terrible mother instincts.  If she doesn’t have a strong instinct to bond with her calves, she’s not going to be stressed when she’s producing milk.

Temple Grandin, a livestock expert, writes that a lot of this selection may have come from the desire to produce the most calm dairy cattle possible:

There is a need to select cattle and other animals to have a calm temperament. However over selection for any single physical or behavioral trait can cause problems (Grandin, 1998). It is probably a bad idea to select for the absolute most calm animals. Doing this might cause problems. For example, the Holstein dairy cow is very calm but she is a poor mother. Over selection for the calmest might cause a loss of other beneficial traits such as mothering ability or motivation to forage long distances on a pasture.

Now, I don’t think dairy is necessarily best use of cattle. I don’t consume much dairy in my diet. I get most of my calcium from almonds and broccoli.

I generally avoid milk because it’s too high in carbs. And regular carb consumption makes my ass jiggle. It also takes away all my energy. I don’t think as clearly. I’m also much more prone to moodiness when I’m eating lots of starchy foods.

But I do eat a lot of beef, and if we’re smart about our cattle rearing, we can actually mitigate so many ecological problems.

This is yet another example of where the animal rights movement is in conflict with possible solutions to real ecological issues, and the way that the animal rights fanatics frame it, ecology always loses when it comes up to emotionalist appeals about the “sanctity” of an individual animal’s life.

Holstein, Holstein-Frisian, and British Frisian cattle are truly specialized animals.

They would not exist without human intervention.

If they were left to be wild, they would hardly ever raise calves to maturity, especially if predators are around. My guess is these cattle would regularly tear their pendulous, over-sized udders and teats if left in a more natural situation.  They are certainly more prone edemas of the udder.

In breeding super milk producing cattle, we have produced something like a bovine equivalent of a bulldog.

Like the bulldog, these animals would be next to impossible to produce without lots of human intervention.

I use very little dairy in my diet for my own health reasons.

Humans have only recently evolved the ability to digest lactose. Lactose tolerance in Europeans is at its highest in the region of Europe that was home to the Funnel Beaker region, which is about where my ancestors came from. The Funnel Beaker culture of north-central Europe was the first area where dairying became established in Europe nearly 6,000 years ago.

We’ve done pretty well without consuming dairy, even if a lot people can now digest lactose as adults.

So yes, there are problems with dairy cattle.

But one of them isn’t that the cows go into hysterical fits when their calves are removed from them.

And I am entirely fine with the problem of dairy being solved through consumer choice.

If you find that you can do well without dairy in your diet, there is no need to buy it.

I am not in all in favor shutting down dairies. The cows are generally well-treated and not stressed. If they were truly stressed through general operations, they wouldn’t produce milk. And yes, there are bad actors out there, just as there are in any industry.

But excessive moralizing about how much dairy cattle mothers suffer when their calves are removed isn’t at all helpful.

It makes someone look silly.

It certainly doesn’t make a person look like someone we should take seriously about issues relating to the environment and animal welfare.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: