VEGA News Item

Checking Out DIY for Animal Welfare and the Environment - 29/07/2004
Assert Consumer Power as Dairy-free Without being cowed into Complicity with the Milk Industry and Ruthless farming.

“The deaths of 10 of a group of 20 calves born since Christmas prompted the submission of a number of carcasses to Preston for postmortem examination. Severe candidiasis of the esophagus, rumen, reticulum, and omasum was a consistent finding in all cases and was thought to be the result of stress, intercurrent disease, poor colostral transfer, and prolonged antibiotic usage. Further investigation identified rotoviral and cryptosporidial enteritis as the initial problem; subsequent protracted treatment with antibiotic boluses, poor stomach tube hygiene and hypogammaglobulinaemia were also identified as predisposing factors. Advice on the control of neonatal enteritis, calf management and feeding was given. Overall, welfare standards on the farm were high, but it was thought that the recent purchase of stock and the current feeding regime using nurse cows plus a build up of infection within the environment had resulted in the clinical picture on this unit.

So that’s all right then. This damning excerpt from the disease surveillance report for England and Wales for February issued by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency nicely – but sadly – confirms the relentless cruelty in the dairy/beef/veal job that VEGA in its relentless way seeks to expose and oust. (For human sufferers from irritable bowel syndrome candidiasis is an infection due to the yeast Candida. Hypogammaglobulinaemia is an indication of colostrum deficiency due to premature separation of the calf from its mother). Following excerpts from the VLA’s report tell of a postmortem on an adult dairy cow with a history of weight loss and milk drop, who was found to be suffering from “displaced abomasum and hepatic abcessation: the largest of the liver abscesses measured approximately 6.5cm in diameter” and “severe fibrosis was seen surrounding the majority of the abscesses and several lesions contained inspissated pus” and “the gastrohepatic lymph nodes were markedly enlarged”. A diagnosis of “left displacement of the abomasum and chronic suppurative hepatitis was made”. And her failing milk yield might have been tainted more than with a liverish off-flavour. (The abomasum is the last of the cow’s four stomachs).

Reports from another of the VLA’s laboratories refer to “a number of unusual serotypes of Salmonella causing disease in February” (but some of these serotypes may not be so unusual in other systems of food production from animals). S. anatum was found to be the cause of “sporadic scouring in 7-day-old calves with a single case of post-calving dysentery, the affected cow was reported to be bright and it made an uneventful recovery” (We note the vets’ use of the pronoun for a very feminine animal in a very feminine predicament). An infection present “for some months” was attributed to S. Kedougou, which was “the cause of diarrhoea with occasional deaths in all ages of cattle in a large Gloucestershire dairy-herd.” In another investigation in the month an outbreak of abortions, milk drop, and dysentery in a 120-cow milking herd was associated with S. Newport: “6 cows were affected over a 2-week period and one cow died, although the exact cause was not determined.” The isolate showed no evidence of multiple drug resistance.

Topical instances of the ruthless exploitation of the dairy-cow and her calf shame our society continually. We have paraded these objectively- analysed incidences. Official assessments record the persistent underlying problems: 1 or more of 5 dairy-cows in the British herd are lame; 1 in 3 are mastitic. The aftermath of the dreadful BSE epidemic lingers in the toll of dairy-cows culled in the agonies of clinical BSE and in the workings of the continuing over-30-month scheme.

Milk Fever
All this shameful evidence and the indifference to the complicity in this rapine of self-styled animal welfarists reaching for the milk to put in their tea at breaks in apparently well-meaning conferences on animal welfare! The shame hangs especially over the veterinary profession and its betrayal of its vows.

It is now the guzzlers of the cow’s mammary secretions, perpetuating a highly unnatural demand in cross-suckling and lifetime wet nursing, who should signing in with their special dietary requirements rather than attendees at conferences who seek in vain for the obvious available solution.

Science and commerce- much more than the inefficacy of vets, animal welfarists (and rightists) and other “funny people” – are those who have thrust the alternatives into a widely available market. Even if an Anita Roddick has not arisen to do for milk what she did for “cruelty-free” cosmetics- indeed, the purveyors of the dairy alternatives mute the appeal of the “the milk of human kindness” in favour of promotion of the health-effects to the hard-nosed consumer – VEGA’s Trustees can confirm that the desirable products have broken out of the health-food and specialist niches to UHT and fresh choices in supermarkets and metro-stores, even with own-brand versions, and into corner shops and cost-cutters in the humble purlieus.

DIY solutions
VEGA has for some time been raising its challenge with the RSPCA, Farm Animal Welfare Council, The Food Standards Agency and Sustain. The RSPCA has commissioned independent research that reported defects in the animals’ welfare on farms monitored for its Freedom Foods Scheme about as reprehensible as those in the national herd. This persistent and avoidable cruelty needs much more urgent action than chronicling “the need for further research”. Responses such as “well, I quite like (or don’t mind) the taste, actually “are lacklustre: the consumers’ sacrifice now required is less than giving up sugar in tea and much less than in giving up smoking. This small flexing of the muscles of self-discipline must be seen in the context of the relief for the cow and her calf. The heavily-subsidized dairy/beef/veal industry has plenty of other troubles. It is already noticing and protesting at the advance of the alternatives. Now it is time for a challenge from consumers to act without everlasting recitations of the problems and petitions to the government but to demonstrate and exemplify by their personal demands and purchase the will to extricate complicity in the white dishonour that associates with the bloody shame of this exploitation.

Special responsibility devolves on vets: theirs must be more than compiling lists of abuses with no evidence that they are not moved individually by the very evidence they produce. The public cannot trust professionals who flout their own testimony. Would a doctor command respect who counselled a patient on the dangers of smoking while being a smoker himself? Even without the claimed benefits to health of the dairy alternatives Britain now has the means to prove to the world and set an example as a scientifically informed nation with a mettle surpassing a reputation as cowed milksops.

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