My love for National Geographic started when I was young. I could stare in awe for hours, without pause, at the footage captured by the National Geographic team: beautiful antelopes gracefully leaping through the grass, large cats prowling through the night, and fish effortlessly gliding through the ocean. I was always a little sad when one animal was shown attacking and eating the other, but came to accept this as the “circle of life.” But even at a young age I knew that the way humans exploited, killed, and disregarded nonhuman animals as mere trash was not natural and was nothing like big cats hunting on the screen.
Now, being older and more educated on what happens to nonhuman animals in a human-dominated world, I am appalled by how brainwashed our society is when it comes to the treatment of animals. One aspect of animal agriculture particularly enrages me: dairy farming.
Although dairy farming is widely accepted and normalized in our society as something that is “necessary” and even “wholesome,” there is no such thing as “humane milk” or “sustainable” animal-based milk, unless it is produced in a lab. Due to the vast amount of land required to farm animals, dairy and meat production are the number one cause of deforestation globally. Farmed animals, including those exploited for dairy, consume large amounts of water and crops that would be better put to use by being fed directly to humans.
With that in mind, I was saddened but not surprised to see National Geographic Wild promoting and shining a positive light on dairy farming. They state that they are a “network all about animals & nature from National Geographic” and their Instagram is full of gorgeous images of wild animals alongside heart-breaking captions on the troubles so many species are facing, all caused by humans.
Our taste for the flesh and secretions of farmed animals, including their breastmilk, leads us to clearing land, displacing wildlife, decimating populations of multiple species, and speeding up climate change. As writer Ashley Capps notes on our website, “A result of clearing all this land for cattle, sheep, and other farmed animals is that ‘livestock’ production is now the single greatest driver of habitat loss and destruction globally (Science of the Total Environment, 2015).” It is also the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, and water pollution. Indeed, scientists now agree that a mass extinction of species is rapidly underway; they are calling it the Sixth Great Mass Extinction of Species on Earth, with up to 200 species going extinct every day. And it’s being caused by us.”
So why has National Geographic Wild decided to promote dairy farming? Maybe they thought that the Hatcher Dairy Farm was better than other dairies because their “products” come from “grass-fed” cows. They must not have done their research. Surge reports: “Grass-fed cows have also been found to have a greater environmental impact compared to grain-fed due to increased resource use, as well as emissions from the farming process and animals themselves. As pointed out by Dr Garnett, grass-fed cows use significantly more land than their grain-fed counterparts, and they also produce more greenhouse gases.” It has also been reported that “A single dairy cow can drink as much as 150 liters of water per day. In 2018, there were approximately 9.4 million dairy cows in the US alone.”
In a nutshell, raising cows on grass is not more sustainable than the standard dairy CAFO. If everyone started drinking breast milk from only “free-range” and “grass-fed” cows, we would be in trouble. We would run out of land to pillage.
The Hatcher Dairy Farm states on their website “The health of our cows is of utmost importance to us – they are part of our family.” I’ve always been genuinely confused when dairy farmers say such a thing. If you know anything about the dairy industry, you know that female cows must be pregnant to lactate. That means that dairy farmers are forcing female cows to become pregnant, year after year, so that they are continually producing milk. The Hatcher Dairy farm confirmed in an email that they do practice A.I. (artificial insemination) to force their female cows to become pregnant. This is stressful for the mother cow for numerous reasons. First, she becomes pregnant at a much higher rate than she would if given a choice. And that leaves me to my second point… she is given no choice. Third, once her baby is born, “virtually all dairy calves are stolen from their mothers within hours of birth in order to maximize profit. 97% of newborn dairy calves are forcibly removed from their mothers within the first 24 hours.” If her baby is female, she will most likely be sentenced to the same life as her mother, devoid of bodily autonomy. If her baby is male, he will most likely be sold and slaughtered for veal or cheap beef.
I don’t believe that any dairy farmer treats their human family as they do their cows. If they do, we should all be worried, considering that the basis of dairy farming is exploitation of the female reproductive system.
Take action! Please reach out to National Geographic with the button below to let them know that there is nothing “humane” or “sustainable” about dairy farming, even when we take breast milk from “grass-fed” cows. Ask them to align their message with their commitment to wild animals and the environment by telling the truth about the dairy industry’s impact on wildlife.
A study by the University of Oxford in 2018 claimed that going vegan could be the ‘single biggest way’ that a person can reduce their environmental impact on Earth, and removing meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce your carbon footprint by 73 per cent.Surge