When the Fair Oaks dairy scandal hit the news in the summer of 2019, people were shocked. Well, most people, that is. Some of us were relieved that finally, the gen pop would see the videos many vegans and animal rights’ supporters have been watching for years; videos of the gut-wrenching torture (there’s no other word for it) that dairy cows and their offspring suffer. In other words: the truth.
The Indianapolis, IN protest itself was peaceful–notwithstanding the handful of drivers by who flipped us off and scorned our protest with their scrunched-up faces and grimacing teeth that had clearly never been at risk for getting spinach stuck in them. No. Most folks honked in support. We got news coverage from the local station Wish T.V. We went home optimistic that with this new information about the horrors of dairy farming, folks would start conceptualizing diary in a new way, even going so far as to (gasp!) reduce or eliminate their dairy consumption in favor of delicious (and plentiful) dairy-free options.
Or, at least, that’s how I felt. Then I remembered that we humans love us some cognitive dissonance, and we’ll do just about anything to protect ourselves from seeing truths that feel too ugly to be real, to be absorbed into our psyches, to do anything about. More than anything else, we damn well don’t want to give up something that brings us pleasure (even if that pleasure is accompanied by cholesterol, saturated fat, and unimagined ingredients such as pus, blood, and fecal matter). If we like it, that’s all the justification we need in our own minds to keep doing it, its sources and consequences be damned.
Still, cautiously optimistic, I offered to show the ecumenical documentary “A Prayer For Compassion” and host a vegan party at a local church, just so folks could be reassured that moving away from dairy didn’t have to mean abandoning their favorite dairy-rich foods. It’s a new dawn, a new day, and non-dairy foods are tastin’ GOOD.
Besides, I’d known the church leader’s daughter for years. We’d recently worked together on supporting a mutual loved-one after her young husband died unexpectedly. I’ve always known her to be a kind, salt-of-the-earth kind of gal. She and her husband provide shelter, jobs, and education for underserved folks in and outside our community. Surely they wouldn’t object to offering the congregation a free film and food, right?
You already know the answer.
After realizing that she and her husband had simply stopped responding to my inquiries and offer, I heard a trusted person in her circle say she said she believed that the Fair Oaks scandal was representative of Fair Oaks alone–and in particular was solely the symptom of 3-4 men who’d already been fired. (Of course, I had no way of verifying this as she and her husband weren’t speaking with me.)
It made me want to scream: IT’S NOT JUST FAIR OAKS! THIS IS ALL DAIRY! THIS IS STANDARD PRACTICE! The Fair Oaks scandal is not just a Fair Oaks problem. It’s a dairy problem and it’s been well-documented for decades at this point. (If you doubt that, I challenge you to read Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz. Good luck getting through it.)
As disappointed as I was that the fallout from the Fair Oaks scandal was, like most everything else in our news cycle, quickly forgotten about with little to no repercussions, I will say this. It’s getting harder and harder for people to be able to logically and reasonably defend their choice to consume dairy. Good luck finding a person who could watch a ‘dairy’ video and then defend eating/drinking dairy with anything other than a vague reference to that ‘being the way God intended it,’ even when you can see on their face they know what they’ve just seen is wrong in every sense.
Arresting a few men who are seen as bad apples (who are really impoverished migrant workers who work at slaughterhouses because it’s the only job they can get) isn’t doing anything to humanely serve the maternal, gentle, and deeply-loving animals we call cows. I dare say it’s no way to serve God, especially if you claim that God is your jam.
Here’s the truth about what’s involved in bringing cheese, ice-cream, yogurt, milk and all other forms of dairy to we consumers:
- Ripping newborn calves away from their mothers immediately after birth
- Momma cows who’ve just given birth bellowing a haunting cry in search of their babies
- Newborn calves’ tender bodies, still slick with afterbirth and unable to handle their delicate, wobbly little legs, thrown brutally into wheelbarrows and ‘hutches’ where they are separated from their mother’s loving licks and all other calves and cows until they themselves are artificially inseminated on what the industry calls a ‘rape rack,’ or–if they’re male–sent to become veal.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And every time we buy any form of dairy, we are saying to dairy producers: “I approve of what you’re doing to bring me this product, so here is my order for more.”
Is that what you would want your children to say if they witnessed emotional and physical bullying at school? Would you teach them to say some version of “Yeah! Kick her ass! She didn’t do anything to deserve it, but I love watching fights so keep doing this!”?
You already know the answer.
Note: only two of these six pictures were taken at Fair Oaks. What your’e looking at are pictures of common dairy industry practices.