Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I have nipples, Greg, could you milk me?

Hopefully you understand the reference to Meet the Parents. Greg is discussing how he milked his cat, and although strange and a lie, he tells the story as if he treated the cat with care. I thought it was great that we had a chance to share in Kate’s daily task of milking Annie, her goat. What comes to mind when you think of milk? I picture rows of cows with machines hooked up to their utters. They have one purpose: to produce milk. The cows aren't cows. They are milk.

What quality of life is that?

 The little knowledge I have of industrial milking (as I think of it) greatly differs from my experience with Annie. Just as Greg oddly talked about gently milking the cat for the runt of the litter, I think we treated Annie with kindness and care. Kate talked to Annie and led her to the wooden platform she is milked from every morning. Annie ate her feed and then had special treats of apples and alfalfa cubes. There was a reassuring conversation between Annie and Kate, and Annie and the students. I think Annie felt comfortable and cared for. I’m sure her feelings did not include fear, confusion, or pain as animals milked strictly for the product probably do. (Yes, I am saying animals have feelings or emotional responses that could be similar to those of humans.)

How would you feel if you were a cow or goat? We take animals’ milk strictly for our own purposes. Should they not be shown respect or proper care when what we want from them could be said is technically only for the animals’ own offspring? I think the vast majority of people in our world are not only unconscious but also completely distance themselves from thinking about the ‘lives’ of our food. Compassion. I believe the animals deserve this. I believe our world lacks this greatly. Letting the goat live up to its ‘goatness’ or cow live up to its ‘cowness’ shows compassion and care for not just care about the animals. Annie gives Kate part of her everyday. It seems like the least Kate can do is treat Annie with the respect and care that she does and we saw firsthand. 


  1. What drives me absolutely crazy is the fact that the average american does not the difference between industrial vs non-industrial milking. He doesn't know how how the animal is treated. Would animals be treated differently if people knew? I think so. Just something to think about.

  2. The processes by which we treat animals in captivity are sometimes difficult to discuss. It is true that we do not always treat animals with the utmost care, but an argument is often made that in nature animals have a very limited lifespan and die a horrible and painful death. Animals give birth to or spawn many more offspring than is reasonable. This is because most of these offspring will die before or shortly after birth. Those who do live will most likely die a painful death. What I do think is important is that we do not make the mistake of thinking that just because we give an animal a life separated from natural predators that we are giving it a "better" life. It is important (if we are going to have domesticated animals) that we treat animals with enough respect as to allow them to live a life similar to what is natural to them. Yes we are protecting them (somewhat)from the hardships of nature, but we cannot (or rather should not) use this as an excuse to treat them any way we please once in captivity.