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Selected articles from Arkangel No.7
The Compassionate Vegetarian
by David Lane
I can accept that someone might decide to become a
lacto-vegetarian solely for reasons of health. Numerous
studies and a great wealth of statistical evidence exists to
back-up such a position. I can also sympathise with someone
who, by degrees, becomes vegetarian for compassionate reasons.
People who take this position regard their abstention from
eating flesh as a step in the right direction, and by
implication as something less than completely freeing
themselves from being a direct cause of animal suffering.
What I cannot accept though, is that someone who claims to
be a lacto-vegetarian for compassionate reasons, can be
content to remain so. I do not see that it is possible to have
knowledge about the dairy and egg industries, and then to
think about the issues involved, then to come to the
conclusion that to support either is consistent with a
compassionate lifestyle. But I will not rely on rhetoric to
make my case. Using only basic facts and simple logic I will
show that compassionate lacto-vegetarianism is a contradiction
First some facts about dairy farming. It is a constant
source of amazement to me how many people believe that a cow
naturally produces an endless stream of milk, and that it is
actually a kindness to relieve her of it - otherwise her udder
would explode! And of course it would be a shame to waste this
almost miraculously nourishing food! But it is for someone
else to discuss the value of milk as a food, I want to deal
with the process of producing it.
A Dairy cow has a natural life expectancy of about twenty
years. Those who are not used for veal and who make it to the
dairy herd are killed at between four and six years, when poor
health or declining yield make her no longer profitable as a
food production unit. In order that she produces milk during
her short life, she will be inseminated several times and
produce probably four or five calves. She will be pregnant for
most of her life. It is a myth that cows have one calf and
continue to produce milk indefinitely.
Time for some logic. One cow produces say, four calves.
Males are largely unnecessary and in any case only one calf is
required to maintain the dairy herd's size. Three or four
calves are killed at a few weeks for veal, or after several
months for beef. There is no escape, no pushing the unpleasant
facts aside. If you want milk, then someone will eat
Let's take the compassionate lacto-vegetarian's aim to its
logical conclusion - a Britain where no-one eats meat, but
where dairy foods are in demand. We have to export all our
unwanted calves to countries where...? Silly, isn't it? And I
haven't even mentioned selective breeding and drug treatment
which produces cows with udders so huge they can barely walk.
Compassion? I don't think so.
And it's no good talking about the solution being humane
slaughter, banning live exports, or generally trying to get
people to be nicer to cows! The compassionate lacto-vegetarian
has already rejected killing animals in order to satisfy