Towering high above me in the field at six foot three (I’m a little shorter than the young woman in the photo below), Theodore has come very close to getting into the Guinness Book of World Records! The ten year old steer is about an inch taller than the previous record holder for tallest cow but one inch shorter than current contender, Danniel, in California. This gentle giant already enjoys recognition, however, as the unlikely champion he has become.
Theodore’s once tiny body was found on top of a manure pile where he had been discarded shortly after birth on a B.C. dairy farm. His very survival defied the odds, along with the fate that normally awaits the vast majority of males born into an industry that prioritizes for profit. Only a very small number of male offspring are retained for breeding purposes with the remaining majority raised for veal. Veterinary care for a sickly baby is a financial liability. Theodore is simply ‘not supposed to exist’ and yet today he is a beloved ambassador, writ large, at R.A.S.T.A. (Rescue and Sanctuary for Threatened Animals) on Vancouver Island.
On scheduled tour days, R.A.S.T.A.’s founder Lucie Cerny provides visitors to the Chemainus property a thought-provoking overview of the realities of factory farming. Included in her visuals are photos of the cramped stalls where so many calves torn away from their mothers are destined to spend their short lives. In some cases (as revealed by undercover investigations conducted by Mercy for Animals here in Canada), infants chained by the neck have been documented not even able to lie down, let alone turn around. Restricted movement intentionally prevents their tender white flesh from developing muscle.The fact that behind every glass of milk or slice of cheese there are babies denied not only the maternal comforts all crave, but also normal mobility, is perhaps especially horrifying to learn for vegetarians who believe they have eschewed animal suffering and slaughter. However, milk production requires keeping mother cows almost perpetually pregnant. Since approximately half of all calves born are males who would otherwise serve ‘no purpose’ to the dairy farmer, the meat industry has always been inextricably linked to the availability of yoghurt, ice cream, butter, etc. Shifting societal values concerning the treatment of farmed animals suggest that it is in the best interests of the dairy industry to distract consumers from the ruthless reality of veal production. One particularly bold attempt at green-washing (also being called ‘pink-washing’) back-fired big time just this past week. Given that October is recognized as ‘cancer awareness month,’ a manufacturer of plastic hutches designed for confining dairy and veal calves came up with a short-lived idea for partnering with the US-based National Breast Cancer Foundation. The aim of “Hutches for Hope” was to offer a limited edition of pink-colored housing units for a nominal fee (with the ‘hope’ of garnering social license, no doubt.) In the promo material, a wee calf was displayed standing freely outside of one of these pink plastic prison cells – ironically flanked by a smiling human child embraced by protective parents. Activists made hay on social media pointing out the hypocrisy of attempting to fundraise towards finding a cure for breast cancer this way when conflicting studies concerning the relationship between animal product consumption and the disease are at best inconclusive. Not to mention the fact that the cruel separation of bovine babies from their mothers in order that we may steal their milk for absolutely unnecessary human consumption, along with other indignities inflicted upon cows exploited for their reproductive capacity, are profoundly anti-female. The campaign was swiftly dropped, and nearly all references between the company (Agri-Plastics) and the Breast Cancer Foundation now appear to have been scrubbed from the internet!
1 in 9 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and we sure don’t need animal agribusiness in bed with our healthcare system. Approximately 65% of the human population (over 90% in some communities) are lactose intolerant. We also know that dark leafy greens of all kinds, broccoli, dried beans, figs, almonds, calcium-fortified juices, soy milk and other non-dairy milks are all excellent sources of calcium that contain other cancer-fighting nutrients that dairy products lack.
Nonetheless, proposed changes to Canada’s decade-old Food Guide (coming in 2018) are being challenged by dairy industry lobbyists who have been accustomed to far greater influence over Canadian food choices in the past. The new guidelines are expected to reflect up-to-date nutritional science that emphasizes “vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein-rich food – especially plant-based sources of protein” – for optimal health. Meat and dairy will no longer be centre stage.
Also long overdue, environmental sustainability is playing a key consideration. Health Canada’s guiding principles state: “In general diets higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods are associated with a lesser environmental impact, when compared to current diets high in sodium, sugars and saturated fat.”
In fact, a new study just published by researchers in the Journal ‘Carbon Balance and Management’ has revealed that earlier estimates of methane emissions (far more potent than CO2 emissions) were based on out-of-date data. These scientists warn that methane emissions “from livestock are larger than previously thought, posing an additional challenge in the fight to curb global warming.” It’s a good thing that those of us with the privilege of choice can respond pro-actively with responsible adjustments to our meal planning. Surely we owe that much to animals like Theodore – and to future generations of all species.
For the sake of brevity here this month, try this quick and easy cheese substitute to sprinkle on pasta, pizza, salads, etc. Bon appetit!
VEGAN PARMEZAN (thanks to www.milkhurts.org)
In a blender, mix: 1 cup organic walnuts
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp. sea salt (more to taste)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder