Most vegan people I know, including myself, have been vegetarian before they became vegan. (OK, Marieke Hardy went cold-tofurkey from meat eater to vegan, which is pretty damned incredible) , but most of us begin by giving up eating flesh and continuing to consume milk and cheese and eggs, smug in the ‘knowledge’ that no animal has had to die for our meals. Ha!
We’re not supposed to know
I’m not sure what it is that blinds us to what is happening to the calves and chicks and mother animals, because it should be obvious. Of course, as Lyn White from Animals Australia has said, we don’t realise because we aren’t supposed to. Our society hides it from us, so we don’t realise what’s really going on.
I remember, many years ago, my sister telling me about hearing the distressing sounds of cows bellowing as their calves were removed from them. So why did I keep eating dairy products? It just never registered with me that the calves were being PERMANENTLY removed from their mothers so we could TAKE THEIR MILK FOR OURSELVES – and I certainly hadn’t figured out that they would either be killed for veal or become dairy cows themselves, only to endure the same hell that their mothers had. So, I continued my smug consumption of dairy products.
Cheese tastes good, but not THAT good
Then, for several years, I was seduced by the delights of the deli hall at the Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne), where large blocks of butter are sliced up, globes of buffalo mozzarella are scooped from containers, blocks of organic parmesan and wheels of ash blue and brie and soft ricotta fooled me into thinking that I was eating wholesome, sustainable, ‘kind’ food – when, in fact, I was supporting the despised veal industry!
The life-changing calf video
I’ve mentioned before that it wasn’t until I unsuspectingly clicked ‘play’ on an Animals Australia video of the cruel treatment of veal calves in an abattoir that it suddenly hit me—just by drinking milk and eating cheese, I was demanding the cruel slaughter of calves who had just been traumatically torn away from their mothers. It was hard to take—I felt angry and stupid and guilty and helpless all at once.
Of course, like many new vegans before me, I believed that once I alerted everyone to what was going on, they’d be outraged and immediately give up dairy foods. And like many new vegans before me, I was totally dismayed to find that many good, kind, nice people shrugged and said that, of course they knew, or held up their hand to say they didn’t want to know about it.
A lot of people say they couldn’t be vegan because they love cheese too much—but believe me, if I can do it, anyone can. I LOVE the taste of cheese! My family used to tell a story of when I was small and chose cheese over chocolate (which we all found hard to believe as I got older and became completely chocolate obsessed).
Anyway, I won’t eat (dairy) cheese again because of those mothers and babies. Tonight I was reminded of them when I was listening to an archived podcast from Food for Thought. This is the BEST episode of a fantastic podcast, with some really heart-wrenching stories.
Listen to the episode ‘Motherhood and maternal instincts’
Sing along to the ‘cheese’ song
Coincidentally, tonight we found this new song by Vegan Smythe—’Couldn’t give up my cheese’. It’s pretty catchy—don’t listen to it if you’re on a crowded bus with headphones, because you’ll just start singing and look like a crazy person. (We saw Vegan Smythe performing at the Ban Live Export rally last Saturday…but that’ another blog post).