VEGA News Item

Soya Benefits All Animals - 11/12/2006
Soya milk sales in grocery multiples are now totalling just on 80 million litres a year, with an average increase over the last five years of about 10% year on year
1. Soya milk sales in grocery multiples are now totalling just on 80 million litres a year, according to data from AC Nielson / So Good PE: 09/09/2006, with an average increase over the last five years of about 10% year on year. The modern typical dairy cow is reaching annual outputs of about 7500l (7.5 tonnes)*. A back-of-envelope calculation indicates that a like-for-like replacement in the human diet would release 15,000 dairy cows a year and an equivalent number of their calves from the dairy and meat herds and the conditions they suffer. In Australia soya accounts for about 7.5% of dairy milk sales. In the UK soya's share currently runs at 2.5% (with household penetration at 13% compared to 21% in Australia). In 1998, the total yearly market in sales of soya milk was only 8m litres. Fewer cows means reduced emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

See our report on the Chillingham herd for comparison between modern dairy cows and (almost) wild cattle.

* Our typical cow in the dairy / beef / veal system would hold to first service (by artificial insemination) and would complete 3 lactations and give birth to 4 calves, then being about 6 years old and culled from the herd to be slaughtered and butchered for manufacturing beef, offals, and fifth quarter products (such as hides and fertilizer), as well as contributing to undesirable slaughterhouse effluents. Our calculations assume no reduction in yeld owing to mastitis, lameness, milk fever and other reproductive disorders, and to intoxications and injuries on the farm, dietary irregularities, bacterial and viral diseases, and environmental hazards (eg due to litter, such as old farm equipment, accumulators, tire wire, and plastic); these factors may determine the cow's early despatch "down the road".
2. Some adjustments might have to made because consumers avoiding dairy products for various reasons of health, but now availing themselves of the new products in the chillers and in UHT forms, would reduce the replacement by, say, a half; this would still relieve 7500 cows and their calves a year - and rising - from the thrall perpetuated on the animals. These figures are probably underestimates and omit other salient features, such as:

2.1. Yogurts and other dairy derivatives and their like; as well as fifth quarter products, such as offals, blood, pet food, and leather.

2.2. Dairy cows yield "full" milk suitable for their calves but not for today's human consumers of liquid milk: the excess fat skimmed off has to be dumped into products such as butter, cheese, bakery products, and ice creams and confectionery. Fortification of soya milks and their basic properties raise their nutritional and health benefits to surpass those of traditional dairy products.

2.3. Soya-derived "dairy products" can avoid reservations over organic and non-GM designations, which bother organic and Soil Association producers dealing with customers abjuring commodities associated with such reservations. While the health issues are being rigorously promoted, the benefits accruing in animal welfare and environmental matters have so far been inadequately recognized and exploited.

2.4. The soya products can claim officially-credited health benefits. Notwithstanding hefty grants from the EU, eg for advertising, the traditional dairy industry has suffered difficulties in vaunting substantial nutritional claims for the "white stuff" in various forms.

2.5. Grants and subsidies have obscured the toll of food-borne zoonotic diseases, notably BSE and its continuing corollaries (eg in blood products and surgery, as well as long term consequences in cattle, sheep, and goats), that dairy-free milks avoid. The manufacturers of So Good milks advise the trade that "market dynamics, specifically the continuing rapid growth of chilled soya milk" lead to a forecast of a "potential market for chilled to 10 times greater than today. This will happen within the next 5 years." The manufacturers also remind retailers cogently of the profits in prospect "because soya milk offers significantly better margins over dairy milk." We have noted increased introduction of own-brand products and have sighted Tesco and Sainsbury versions in the chillers.

3. The dairy-free industry and the main grocery chains have become major contributors to the animal welfarists' quest for the milk of human kindness and thus merit awards for the endeavors and innovations from organizations who bestow approbations on less worthy and compromised marketing. Free-range definitions for eggs deserve scant praise (especially when they are pronounced by bodies ignoring free-range and zero-grazing in their approvals and acceptances of dairy products): they are a part of a general recovery from about 6 years ago after a steady decline over a decade or more in the consumption of eggs. The extent of this reversal is accentuated by the increased importation of eggs, notably in prepared foods, as ingredients of unknown provenance. Organic and free range flocks are under as much a threat as any from zoonotic disasters and cruelty, such as avian flu.

D-Day. Dejection, Despond, Despair... And They've Snatched My Calf Away

4. Now is the time for organizations purporting animal welfare to welcome the advances in the dairy-free market and the powerful allies that should be enlisted. Such alliances can accrue further reinforcement from the publicity and services extended by commercial interests in the Portfolio of Healthy Eating Lifestyles, which are another of the causes that have engaged VEGA for some time, especially in developments set forth in our Manifesto for a New Kinder Farming, for which we are soliciting endorsements.

5. A welcome surprise from DEFRA takes up another of our longstanding recommendations: labelling and warnings to complement health advice with welfare evaluations. In the last week or so DEFRA has pronounced its support for welfare gradings. The food industry has reacted angrily, but DEFRA has anticipated objections on definitions by proposing bronze-silver-gold categories (it appears that the bronze award would amount to no more than the provisions of the Red Tractor Scheme). We recognize the challenges in definitions, weighting, and grading, but maintain that scoring in the style of the MHS's Hygiene Assessments should be doable.

6. We have to confess a failure again to gain any support for our campaign from the many organizations vaunting some concern and competence in farm animal welfare; however, we descried hope in a squabble that had arisen among British and Danish

7. Pig producers and traders in which claims based on animal welfare were made and disputed. We suspect that these arguments prevailed more than ours with DEFRA, but at least the issue is now up for debate and we hope the animal welfare groups will awaken to the challenge and support us and DEFRA.

8. A forthright denial by the Food Standards Agency's vet that farm animal welfare and the environment were none of the FSA's business has been an unwelcome rebuff. We have to admit that much of the Agency's time and endeavour entail delving into the sordid entrails of the meat and dairy industries. They also occupy the FSA's collaborators and contractors, such as the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS). A recent scandal over free range eggs and documentation we have collected from FSA deliberations (as well as its Euro equivalent's) implicate the Agency in definitions and control over the birds' hygiene and welfare; and the MHS is specifically committed to the welfare of livestock prior to the final stages of killing for food (DEFRA has the appalling task of arranging mass culling and killing as a means of disease control). We maintain our view that welfare of the animals of all species and the environment count as standards in food production and therefore are a prime concern for labeling and the FSA ("all species" includes humans).

9. In further imminent developments the MHS looks likely to be privatized, on the basis that the controls and bookwork entailed by the BSE restrictions were being reduced and that the industry could manage its own affairs. The Government seems to be firm in its determination to leave the industry to indemnify itself against the consequences of diseases such as E coli, listeria, salmonella, BSE, foot-and-mouth, flu etc. These changes are strained by recent events in the dairy (eg Bowland Farm) and meat industries (e.g. failure of BSE controls and corollaries in surgery and blood donations). Blood from longstanding veggies (who have received no suspect transfusions) will be a sought-after commodity (especially if they've received no attention from careless dentists).

10. Privatization of the MHS may deny access to or discontinue records of rejections of carcases or offals from the food chain, the reasons being of use in assessments of pre-slaughter handling and welfare. This would be a sad loss of research material.  

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