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You Get the Animal Welfare you Pay For

Posted by Julia Smith on

Charges of animal abuse at one of Canada's largest dairy farms are all over the news this week. Twenty counts of animal cruelty have been laid against Chiliwack Cattle Sales and seven of its employees. You may remember these allegations that surfaced last June when a video was released by Mercy for Animals Canada showing the cows being lashed with canes and chains and punched and kicked.

The usual surge of public outrage ensued with calls for more regulation and better oversight in the industry. But I'd be really curious to know if there was a corresponding surge in the sale of alternative dairy products. 

Everyone says they care about animal welfare but the real question is "how MUCH do you care about animal welfare?" Do you care about it enough to spend more money on products raised by farmers practicing higher welfare standards? Can't afford it? Do you care enough to cut back your dairy consumption so you can?

The SPCA is calling for the government to create an independent body to police animal welfare on BC dairy farms. They believe that more provincial oversight is what's needed to prevent these types of animal abuses from taking place. But there is a way to improve animal welfare that doesn't require yet another costly branch of government and another level of bureaucracy. What could be more powerful and effective than government auditing? Consumer dollars. 

Like I said in a 2014 blog on a sadly related subject, it all comes down to consumer demand for cheap animal protein. For what most consumers are willing to pay, animals simply can't be raised in a manner that respects their unique physiological and emotional needs. We need to take a serious look at the part we play in this broken system. If you are buying conventional dairy products, you're contributing to the kind of abuse exposed in these videos and the larger portion of abuse that goes unseen. 

Sadly, we can't buy milk from our local farmers directly (but that's another story for a much longer blog post) but we can choose to buy organic milk which is produced on farms held to much higher animal welfare standards than conventional dairies. With dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, we have more options. You can purchase from small-scale farms with grass-fed herds like:

Or try goat a dairy:

Nothing would light a fire under the conventional dairy industry like a big drop in market share. So next time you're at the grocery store, please reach for the organic milk. Then hit the farmers market to pick up your butter and cheese from a reputable small-scale farm who will not only tell you about their animal husbandry practices, they'll welcome you to their farm to show you and thank you for caring. Don't forget about all the dairy you consume in processed foods, at the local coffee shop and when you eat out at restaurants.... that counts too! It will certainly be inconvenient but I can promise you that you won't die if you miss your morning latte. #OccupyYourFoodSystem and together we can build a better one.

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