The Irony of Veal Stigmas & Milk Production

I had dinner last night with a dairy farmer at a breathtaking vineyard in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. I’m here primarily to learn about our new grass-fed beef, but there’s always unexpected lessons. In this case, I gained unexpected clarity from facts I already knew. #LessonsFromNewZealand


Veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry.

In order to produce milk continuously, the dairy cow needs to be impregnated annually. Most dairy cows are Holsteins or Jersey cows because those breeds produce the highest volumes of milk. But those breeds are not suitable for beef production. The result is that every dairy cow on the planet births one calf per year.

So the farmer has a choice of killing the calves upon birth or raising them for veal. Depending on economic factors exclusively, the dairy farmer makes that choice. Since the main objection to veal over the past few decades has been on grounds of animal rights and humanity, the question is: What is more humane? When it comes to “milk-fed” veal, that is a good question and I don’t know the answer. I do think that rose veal production in general is more humane than immediate slaughter. And, it is certainly a better use of agricultural and environmental resources given all the inputs required to gestate that calf.

The bottom line is that there literally would be no veal if it were not for the dairy industry. I am marinating in irony as I think about this.

I have this picture in my head of conscious consumers discussing the animal welfare implications of veal, while sitting down for a spread of cheese and crackers. I am imagining the caricature of an animal rights advocate: an urban liberal pontificating over an elegant spread of something hard, something soft and something blue.

I can’t help but think that all of the animal rights advocates have missed the point. The symptom is veal husbandry. But the real cause of the problem is our demand for milk and milk products.

I am also imagining pro-lifers voraciously consuming milk and not even knowing that a consequence of their milk production is that some of gods creations are being unceremoniously slaughtered and buried after birth. I presume that they value human life over animal life, but how is it not a contradiction to argue against aborting a human fetus while supporting an industry that routinely terminates live creatures.

There’s just too much irony.

My wife is a naturopath and she often reminds me that we are literally the only species on the planet that not only consumes milk as adults, but that drinks the milk of another species.

How is it that our species has come to drink so much milk? My guess is that the milk industry’s success is one of marketing’s great triumphs. But, maybe it also sells itself. After all, who can’t resist a great cheese plate or indulgent dairylicious dessert.

Post Written by Justin Marx

3 Replies to “The Irony of Veal Stigmas & Milk Production”

  1. Panda’s are the only species that eat bamboo, does that mean tat it’s weird for them to do?

    The adaptation of various human populations to drink milk as adults is clearly etched into out genes, but admittedly only the genes of certain populations.

    As to prolifers I would assume that most of them feel that animals lack a soul completely and as such there is no moral consequence to destroying them at any time, though doing so inhumanely may carry moral consequences for reasons that aren’t readily apparent to me at this point in time. They have a different moral framework than you do, and it’s not really fair to cast their decisions and positions on to your framework and carry it out to the natural conclusion of hypocrisy because it would be hypocritical for someone with your moral framework to be pro-life and proveal, not for someone with their moral framework, a moral framework which from a relativistic standpoint is probably just as valid as your own.

  2. Hey Emerson — Thanks. Yes, pandas are weird for eating bamboo … Haven’t you seen how tough that stuff is! 😉 Just kidding, of course. Plenty of species have unique diets and one of ours is that we drink the milk of another species. Is that weird? Probably … Add it to the long list of weird shit that us humans do.

    As for your moral framework part of the comment, irony builds on irony when you suggest that it is not fair to view pro-lifers through another moral framework … it is ironic since it is hard to imagine there even being an abortion issue in the first place if it were not for pro-lifers trying to impose their own moral framework on others. Know what I mean? PS: Abortion is not an issue that I care about so I especially don’t want to go down that rabbit hole. But since this was a post about irony, I couldn’t resist.

    To be clear, I am pointing out that there might be a contradiction in being pro-life and pro-milk. But, I know so very little about religious beliefs, so I am not stating the contradiction as fact, but merely suggesting the possibility.

    On another note, I have never heard anyone suggest that sentient animals don’t have souls? Do you think that is really true?

  3. Hi Justin:
    We’re the only species that consumes milk as adults because we can go out and buy it. If your cat had a credit card she’d be going to Whole Foods and stocking up. Further, my dog would be running up a tab on cheese. Any cheese. When I open the refrigerator door she makes a bee-line to the cheese drawer.

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