VEGA News Item

Cheesytarianism - Unnatural, Whey Out and Naff - 10/12/2003
Letter to the editor of Natural Products magazine
Dear Sir,

Milk from the cow is a natural food for baby calves and not even for grown-up cattle, let alone for us at any stage of our lives. Prevalence of lactose intolerance and sundry allergies emphasises the anomaly and the farce in which we exploit the cow and her maternal instincts into an iconic wet-nurse for all the unweaned ages of man and woman while denying the udder to the calf, who has to fend on replacements. BSE originated in the dairy-herd, from which beef and veal (as well as leather and manufacturing fats) are unsavoury by-products.

Unnaturalness might be condoned, were it not for the intensified cruelty entailed in this perverted industry, as attested by authoritative veterinary litanies of prevalent woes such as lameness, mastitis and reproductive and metabolic disorders, all of which count as indicators of bad husbandry. All systems – including organic, vegetarian and Freedom Food - are indicted. Most of the cows will be artificially inseminated and be the result of bizarre tricks to adjust for the market play in beefiness or milkiness traits (as the exotic names for the breed bear witness). Their feed, even organic, could well contain GM soya and maize. Acceptable milks (and thus "dairy" products) are being manufactured as alternatives from organic, non-GM crops converted in gleaming, stainless steel vats rather than by stuffing concentrates into miserable, mucky and mastitic cows. Comparable objections apply to production of sheep- and goat-dairy foods, which can be replaced likewise.

Awards, approbations, "ethical" implications and sponsorships, as well as sales of symbols and leasing of logos on products derived from animal milks, betray the welfarists’ and environmentalists’ efforts and besmirch veggie organisations implicated in these misleading practices or conniving at them.

Vegetarian, vegan and some other descriptions are becoming confused and discredited. Manufacturers and retailers are responding to the developing consumer trend in meat-reduction and diary-frees by commendable resort to unequivocal descriptions of commodities as meat-free, dairy-free, GM-free, wheat-free, etc., leaving customers to their own informed interpretations.

Sustained and rising demand for eggs in shell or in manufactured goods is also lamentable. Claims for enhanced or enlarged cages or for free-range must be dismissed as specious on animal welfare (e.g. Five Freedoms) terms. Free-range is a fatuous term describing environments actually hostile for the birds, denying them their "natural" means of concealment, nest-building, brooding and escape from predators (e.g. foxes and other birds, spreading disease and terror) and requiring frequent resort to mutilation, e.g. beak-trimming. A recent major international conference of vets, animal welfarists, farmers, government officials, representatives of the government-appointed Farm Animal Welfare Council and academics, voiced no dissent over our demand that all commercial eggs and their derivatives should bear a government welfare warning: "Production of these eggs entails cruelty to the birds".

Finally, words such as natural and sustainable need analysis; they have become wonderland descriptions with little more than you-know-what-I-mean clarity. In this post-Ice Age spell of, say, 500 generations of our own species and the rampant developments ensuing upon settlement, domestication and farming, we have evolved into survivors of climatic vicissitudes, adversities, awesome Acts of God, pestilences, famines, persecutions and migrations. We carry into areas of high latitudes and altitudes genomes developed in the regions of the Mediterranean and the Fertile Crescent, to which we yearn to repair for holidays and retirement and in the Babylonian Garden of Eden, now a long-standing zone of strife.

The dog was among the first animal species we developed and domesticated. The manifold varieties now are a far yelp from their progenitor, the extinct – at least in our habitat – wolf. Introduced species such as some deer now range widely and proliferate because their once-natural predators have vanished. Latterly, goats, sheep, cattle and horses have entered the farming bestiary, with milch-animals coming latest – and long after consumption based on meats and fish obtained over eons of our hunting and scavenging. The ewes left to give birth during the bleak, wintry conditions on the fells in our aptly-named less favoured areas sacrifice their organic all to meet the natural requirements for "traditional" (another of those words) lamb and mutton and wool and skins; their predicament contrasts starkly and cruelly with the delusions created in the roundelays of the 23rd Psalm.

In evolutionary measures, the wholemeal loaf, the potato and the soyabean are late accessions to our dietary staples and they entail processing devices such as cooking and fermentation; are pasteurisation and irradiation any more unnatural? A living human generation can recall the absence in their youth of fresh eggs in winter-time because the hens are naturally seasonal breeders. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution ensuing upon the Agricultural Revolution, the butcher can sell "lamb" all the year, albeit at the expenditure of many fuel-costly food-miles. The nutritionists’ current five-plus-a-day zeal for fruit and veg is supplied almost entirely – even when organic stipulations are met – by expenditure of more fuel-guzzling miles to meet the demand for bananas, oranges, apples and tomatoes. The elderly can remember their early days when such "natural" fresh produce came only in tins or seasonally.

A gracious diet of history and choice counts for more in the value of food without the price of silly delusions.

Good wishes

Dr. Alan Long
Hon Research Adviser  

Registered Charity No. 1045293
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