Floof Friday

In case you didn’t know this already about rabbits, rabbits LOVE banana. If anyone in our house so much as picks up a banana there is a mad scramble behind us as Lola attempts to get a little taste.

And her begging always works. Because we are softies.

Lola however, is not a softie when it comes to banana…

She practically climbed us to get a bit of that sweet, sweet banana goodness. But this little picture makes me giggle everytime so I thought it would also make you guys giggle.

T xxx

Cats Protection: Stop the Big Kitten Con

I believe there are many different ways to promote activism and to be an activist for a cause you care about. As such, I do my best to sign as many petitions as I can, in the hope that our government will actually pay attention to the issue at hand and begin making changes to solve it. I am therefore going to share some of those on here in the hopes that more lovely people will sign and raise awareness for these important issues.

My most recent one this week has been the Cats Protection Stop the Big Kitten Con campaign and petition that is currently ongoing. The petition can be found here.

The petition and the campaign is calling for better regulation of cat breeders within the United Kingdom. As it stands, there are none. Scotland has a set of protections but it is the only UK country to do so and obviously that needs to change.

Their CATS 2021 report concluded that 68% of cats purchased in the last year were found online. The online sales of cats and kittens can have heart-breaking consequences, with kittens being separated from their mothers too soon which impacts on their behaviour, health and sometimes even their survival. Mother cats are also at risk of neglect, poor treatment and over-breeding and as there are no regulations in place to stop this behaviour, it is near impossible to know just how many cats and kittens are being affected by the cruel kitten trade.

For more information, please head to the Cats Protection website or check out their YouTube video for more information on the kitten trade.

T xxx

Are pets vegan friendly?

I was on the internet late at night and came across a vegan discussion thread where someone had commented that you cannot call yourself a vegan if you have a pet. Their whole argument was that vegans should not do anything that exploits or causes an animal to be exploited, and by having a pet you were exploiting an animal for your own personal gain – you have a pet because you want one, not because the animal wishes to be a pet.

This whole line of thought just baffled me really. Now I can understand why someone would not buy a pet from a breeder because there could be a degree of exploitation involved, but is rescuing an animal from a shelter really exploitation? By this logic, are rescue centres and animal shelters also exploitative because they rely on animals in need to stay in business?

I can understand why some vegans (myself included for the most part) do not agree with horse riding, dog racing or Crufts. I do not however believe that owning a pet means that you are exploiting an animal. Now I know I am not alone here when I say that my pets have always enjoyed the best life that I am able to give them: They have unconditional love (even when they have chewed through the third set of internet cables), a warm place to sleep, as many cuddles as they will allow me to give them, and a loving family that literally plan their whole lives around them. My partner and I make sure we stick to our routines to ensure that our bunny stays happy and calm, and I would literally cancel plans if it meant my cat was going to be home alone during the night. My pets (and any animal for that matter) have me at their beckon call and I would not have it any other way.

I have also seen arguments that emotional support animals or service animals such as guide dogs are not vegan friendly. I am sure we have all seen the recent news of an animal activist yelling at a blind man because he had a guide dog with him. Now sure it could be argued that there may be a degree of exploitation involved when it comes to training guide animals but you can not convince me otherwise that these animals – guide dogs, hearing dogs, emotional support animals – are not the most loved, adored and cherished of pets in the whole world. I have been working to educate myself more on what life is like for those who have crippling social anxiety – who can’t even go into a shop without suffering a panic attack – or for those who are blind or deaf and I have seen how much trust and love they have in their support animals. I see people who have regained some of their independence thanks to their service animals and I can see the gratitude on their faces that their service animal is willing to help them.

The entire argument as well that all animals should be free and wild is pointless at this point. The reality is, most pets would not last long out in the wild: We as a species have bred these animals to be companion animals – they are bred to have the majority of their wild instincts removed from them a little bit more with every generation. We made these animals domesticated and as such it is now our job to look after them and to protect them in ways they no longer can.

As with most things in the world it is not a simple black and white matter. It really bothers me that there are some people out there who call themselves ‘vegan’ while spouting such nonsense. There is no such thing as a perfect vegan, and in today’s society there is absolutely no way you can live your life without exploiting something along the way. But what you can do is be as kind, empathetic and considerate as you can be to every living being you come into contact with. If a newbie vegan does ask about a certain topic, encourage them to do their own research and sign post them to different opinions, while still reminding them to do what they believe to be the right thing.

What do you guys all think? Do you think owning pets is a ‘vegan’ thing to do? I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this matter because it could be such an interesting debate.

T xxx

Should pugs be banned?

You will no doubt have seen the headlines this week regarding the Blue Cross’ latest campaign to tackle the ‘vicious cycle of over-breeding’ that is currently seen in pugs, bulldogs and other breeds of flat faced dogs. The increase in use of photos of such flat-faced dogs has led to a spike in popularity and thus more puppies are being bred to meet this new demand. However, aside from the normal health issues that come with any kind of unethical breeding, flat faced breeds are naturally more prone to a number of health issues.

The Blue Cross is asking and campaigning for marketing companies to stop using flat faced breeds in their own marketing campaigns as part of the #EndTheTrend campaign. Blue Cross are asking marketing firms to use a wider range of dogs in their marketing, hoping to showcase more underappreciated breeds and promote more diversity among dog populations. While the Blue Cross hasn’t actually said this, I personally would also like to see more use of rescue dogs, or dogs that are not ‘pedigree’.

The campaign is mostly centred around dogs, however the Blue Cross have also said that the health concerns of flat faced breeds of pet can also be seen in Persian cats and lionhead rabbits. My little bunny is herself part lionhead, so I am all for bringing more awareness to any breed of animal that may suffer niche health problems compared to their non-flat faced peers.

The health issues that come with flat faced breeds (the scientific term for this is brachycephalic, or brachy for short) include spinal problems, eye issues, heart issues and the main one, breathing issues. Due to the nature of their flat faces, the nasal cavities are either too short or non-existent which makes breathing very difficult for the breed. That ‘wheezing’ noise that pugs make is not cute – they literally cannot breathe properly.

Despite what the headlines suggest there is no call to ban the breeds from being owned in the UK, but there are calls to put heavier regulations onto breeders to ensure that their litters and dogs are correctly monitored and the correct health checks are carried out. I personally will never support breeders – it is one thing to adopt a pet who is already pregnant or you get an accidental litter in early days of ownership, but to actively make animals breed purely so you can make a profit just doesn’t sit right with me.

The current legislation

At the moment in England and Wales, a person who breeds 3 or more litters of puppies in one 12 month period must have a licence to do so under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (LAIA for ease). A person must also have a license if they breed dogs and advertise as a business of selling dogs. There is current guidance released which states that an activity can be defined as a business if the operator makes or carries out the activity in order to make a profit, or if they earn any commission or fee for the activity. In theory therefore, if a person has an accidental litter and gives the puppies away for free, then this would not require a licence.

How this is all regulated however it is hard to tell. Licenses are issued by local authorities, and so it is up to the local authorities to regulate and monitor each licence holder to ensure that they are meeting the correct standards. The Kennel Club also runs a scheme of Accredited Breeders and currently runs the largest database of pedigree dogs and a separate register for crossbreed dogs. However this Accredited Scheme appears to be done through a general application and requires any prospective breeder to pay a fee before they can be accepted. The Kennel Club website does state that they have qualified assessors who carry out checks on the breeder, their premises and their litters and dogs, but it does not explicitly state how often these checks are. I would have assumed annually, but I can’t say for certain.

Enforcement

As mentioned above it is hard to tell just how regularly breeders are checked and how enforcement is dealt with. The Kennel Club seems to have their own process, whereby any breeder who is deemed in need of improvement will be reassessed within a set period of time. However they then do not say what happens if these improvements are not made. It seems to suggest that all the breeder stands to lose is membership to the accredited scheme, but nothing more. At least, not from what I have been able to see.

Illegal trading

One of the big things to come from the COVID lockdowns was the increase in people who bought puppies. Spending the majority of their time inside meant it was the perfect time for people to buy a puppy as they now had ample free time to socialise, train and bond with their puppy, as well as providing many people a good excuse to leave the house for more than an hour a day to provide walkies. However this demand meant that many people were buying puppies – whether knowingly or not – from overseas and in many cases the puppies were not given the correct vaccinations or were taken from their mother too early and unfortunately would not survive for longer than a few months once in the UK. You may recall stories such as this one doing the rounds during 2020, with many families suffering heartbreak.

In 2020 a new action plan was published by the UK government with the help of RSPCA that will seek to limit the amount of puppies that can be imported from other countries. It will also seek to stop the importing of pregnant dogs or those who have had their ears cropped. The RSPCA are currently asking for signatures to support this bill, which will also apply to farm animals and primates once in force. You can find the link here.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think should happen?

Do you think banning a breed would be beneficial or do more harm than good?

What do you think the best solution would be?

I would love to hear what everyone thinks about this topic! Please do leave a comment below or feel free to contact me privately if you have any thoughts on the matter or if you find any other interesting resources related to this.

T xxx

What is the difference between plant based and vegan?

I do get asked this a lot. When people find out that I follow a vegan lifestyle, they almost always ask ‘oh, so you must be plant based then”. Which then brings the discussion regarding what the difference is between ‘plant based’ and vegan’. So I thought it would be fun to open up the discussion here!

The main difference

After some research online, the general consensus seems to be that ‘plant based’ is a diet, whereas ‘vegan’ is a lifestyle choice. They are not exclusive though, as many people who follow a vegan lifestyle will also follow a largely plant based diet, but there are many vegans out there (and for the most part I would include myself in this) who do not follow a fully plant based diet, just as there are many who do eat a plant based diet who do not also follow a vegan lifestyle.

What does ‘vegan’ really mean?

The Vegan Society’s formal definition is: “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

I also want to highlight that the Vegan Society definition is that veganism is a lifestyle – it is not just about what you eat. A plant based diet however is just that, a diet. While some lifestyle changes may be needed to always ensure you are eating a plant based meal, this diet only extends to one aspect of your life – what you eat.

Lifestyle vs diet

I for one will always say that I follow a vegan lifestyle, and not just the ‘vegan diet’ part of it all. I do not eat meat, eggs, dairy, honey or any other product that comes from an animal. I also do not wear leather, silk or fur and do my utmost to ensure that I do not buy any product at all that contains any sort of animal products – this can be anything from the type of glue I use in crafting projects to the type of laundry detergent I use.

A diet on the other hand, is purely the food. Now if you have read even the smallest part of my blog, you know full well that I am as far from p’plant based’ as one could possibly get. Now while this is something that I am working to change for my own health reasons, I do not follow a vegan diet purely for the health benefits that come with it. Quite frankly it has only been very recently that I actually started to take my own health seriously (which can be a discussion for another day). But from what I have been able to see online, those who do follow a purely plant based diet do it largely for their health. While animal welfare may be a concern of theirs, it is not the deciding factor. You will no doubt have seen the stories in the news of athletes and celebrities who follow a plant based diet who make a point of saying that this is purely for the health benefits that come with it. As mentioned above, you can be plant based but not vegan.

I always like to take the opportunity to highlight the part that says ‘as far as is possible and practicable’ because I think that this is very important to remember. There is no such thing as a perfect vegan. It is a myth and a very damaging standard to try to achieve. If you need medication in order to simply get through the day, then take this even if it is tested on animals. If the only thing that gets you through hay-fever season is local honey or bee pollen, then take this. The way I like to think of veganism is that everyone should be doing their best, and this will look very different to everyone involved. At the end of the day, you have to be well enough in yourself in order to promote veganism in the way you want to, so if you don’t look after yourself for fear of being deemed an ‘imperfect vegan’ then you would never achieve anything.

Conclusion

It seems quite obvious that being ‘plant based’ and being ‘vegan’ are not exclusive, and there is of course a large degree of overlap between the two. But I also think that they need to be considered individually when you are first getting started on your own vegan or plant based journey, because the two terms can be used interchangeably and has even confused me a few times!

What do you guys all think? Please do leave a comment or even email me privately if you wish to add any comments or have any other questions you would like discussed.

T xx

Barry M gelly nail polish – Goji Berry

As much as I love getting my nails done, since becoming vegan my nails grow so quickly that it’s only about a week before my nail polish will need to removed or redone due to the amount of growing nail visible. I am therefore always on the hunt for some decent nail polishes that I can use myself at home for times when I want to have my nails done but don’t necessarily want to spend my money on a full manicure just for it to need redoing in a week.

Now I do not wear nail polish all the time. In fact I am almost always without anything on my nails: As I say they grow so quickly it would take up so much of my already limited time to constantly be touching them up. But on my slower days and weeks, I do count painting my nails as a form of self-care. When I first went vegan there were also zero nail polish options out there that were cruelty free, let alone vegan friendly, and so I sort of resigned myself to using the same 2 colours of nail polish I had for about 10 years. But I have really noticed this year that the vegan nail polish options have skyrocketed, and there are actually a LOT of colours to chose from.

BarryM was always a non-vegan favourite of mine, and now that I am vegan they are probably one of my main go-to brands for make up and beauty products. BarryM really cornered the market (especially on the high street) as they are definitely the most colourful of the make up brands out there. Their eye shadows, lipsticks and nail polish selection is a whole spectrum of colour choices and all of them are easily wearable too. For a while their nail polish was mostly non-vegan, aside from maybe a basic french manicure set, but this past year they really seemed to have focused a lot on their nail polish colours and making sure their products are all vegan friendly and cruelty free.

I tend to stick with quite muted colours – nothing too bold or too bright – purely so that it is all work appropriate, so I decided to try the Goji Berry colour. In the bottle it looks like a dark red, but on my nails it was almost a burgundy colour. Which works perfectly for me because that is usually my go-to colour for most things as it is colourful without being too bold or ‘in your face’. Now the product does say to use a base coat first, but I didn’t check the directions before buying it so was already at home by the time I actually checked this. Therefore I did not use any sort of base coat.

I am actually very impressed by how well this lasted. I do a LOT of typing for work and have to deal with a lot of paper as a result, so my hands are pretty beaten throughout the day. I did my nails on the Sunday afternoon, and the polish didn’t actually start to chip until around Friday midday and even then it was only around the very tips of my nails where I am clearly hitting my keyboard keys a little bit aggressively. This was even with me working out, cooking, showering and having quite a busy week. I normally only expect my nail polish to last about 3-4 days so I was very impressed – especially as that was without even a base-coat or top coat on the polish. I imagine with both added on the polish would have survived quite a long time.

cheeky shot of the engagement ring too…

Each polish was £2.99, although you could also get the higher gloss/matt options for £3.99. Either way, since this nail polish will easily last me a year (if not longer) that is an absolute bargain in my books. While it is definitely not the highest quality of nail polish out there, it is a very strong contender for a reliable, robust and easily affordable product for day to day use.

The downside was that it is a lot thicker than other nail polishes I have used. I do not know if that is because of the vegan formula, but it definitely felt thicker on the brush and I also felt I needed a generous amount in order to coat my nails evenly. Another downside (although unavoidable) is that it is a very strong smelling polish – you would not want to paint your nails in any sort of crowded space or enclosed area as it will give a contact high to everyone in the room if you’re not careful. But that being said I don’t think any nail polish has ever smelt good – they all have a very chemical smell to them and I think that is purely because of the product itself and is readily unavoidable.

Overall: 8/10. A very reliable option that you couldn’t really go wrong with. Good quality for a very good price.

T xxx

Are cat cafes vegan?

As a quick disclaimer, I will not be discussing pet cafes as a whole, only cat cafes. I simply do not agree that all pets can be used for pet cafes Rabbit cafes for example are terrible ideas simply due to the very delicate nature of rabbits, and I imagine a dog cafe could get very out of control very quickly because of how excited dogs can get. This little article will only look at cat cafes, although I may look at other types of pet cafes in the future.

What is a cat cafe?

Exactly what it sounds like. It is a coffee shop, where you can enjoy numerous hot beverages and tasty pastries and cakes, while also cuddling the cats that live in the cafe. Many cat cafes also work closely with re-homing centres (or act as a re-homing centre themselves) so that the cats you see in the cafe with you can be adopted out into the community.

Now anyone who loves cats would obviously want to attend one because is there anything better in this world than a hot mug of coffee and a purring cat asleep on your lap? Absolutely not. However I have seen a lot of conflicting articles and comments about whether or not a cat cafe is humane, ethical and by default, vegan. Are the cats being exploited so the owner can sell more coffee? Is the welfare of the cats really the paramount importance?

My experience

I grew up with cats. I have photos of me as a two year old literally climbing into the cat bed so I could snuggle with my childhood tabby and black cat, Mog and Dale. When they both crossed the rainbow bridge, we then got Jinx. In fact the only time I lived in a home without a cat was when I moved into my own property – and even then we filled our home with the gerbils and our bunnies. Having spent at least 25 years of my life living with cats, I feel an overwhelming sense of comfort when I am around cats – they really are like home to me – so naturally cat cafes are absolutely my cup of tea!

I have been to a few cat cafes, and in my experience they have always been very cat centred. Each place has had very strict rules about how you act while in the cafe, to make sure that the cats are never disturbed or scared by the people around them. All of them also had rules about how many people were allowed in the shop at any one time, and as well as limiting how many can come in per group and not allowing any children under the age of 12 into them. The cafes that do allow younger children in though also make it a strict rule that the children should be supervised at all times and should not be allowed to approach the cats without adult supervision with them.

That being said I have also looked at other cat cafes which I didn’t feel were cat focused: I have looked into the window of them and seen young children running around the cafe floor, barely any hidey holes for the cats to shelter in and even from the outside could tell it was far too noisy inside. You also know it probably isn’t cat focused when you can’t even see the cats when you look inside.

As to whether or not the cafe itself is ‘vegan friendly’ regarding the food, every place I went to had a decent selection of vegan foods and drinks. So in that sense I think you’d be hard pushed to find a cat cafe that doesn’t cater towards vegans: if it doesn’t have even one plant based milk to offer or even a basic vegan cookie, then it’s probably just a bad coffee shop anyway.

The pros of a cat cafe

It is common knowledge now that spending time with animals is good for us: It lowers our blood pressure, slows our breathing and decreases our feelings of loneliness. As with most medical treatments though,animal therapy is very rarely something that can be offered to everyone and if you live in rented property or a house share or in a busy city, you may not even be able to have pets of your own. Places like cat cafes allow people to come and go as they please and spend as much time as they wish with their kitty companions.

I also believe that cat cafes are frequented by people who already love cats, so will already be doing their utmost to make sure that cats in the cafe are happy. They are people who won’t care about getting cat fur all over their trousers, or mind having a cat sit next to them while they eat and drink. Therefore while each cat cafe will have it’s own set of rules, I imagine the majority (if not all) of the patrons would adhere to the rules even if they weren’t told to.

I also believe that this method of re-homing is far more beneficial for the cats than being in a shelter. While shelters do amazing work (and I will always advocate and support my local shelters) they can be very sad places. I’m sure we have all seen the videos of cats in small little bunkers as they watch person after person walk past their window and not even stop to say hello. It’s heartbreaking to see and I can’t even think what must be going through the cats’ mind when this is all they see everyday until someone decides to take them home. But with the cat cafes, the cats have far more freedom to wander around the people and to actually show off their personalities. They can run and play and sleep wherever and however they like, and are also socialised to be used to being around people: they become used to the noise and the bustle of people coming and going and getting multiple cuddles a day in the process. Now I for one, would injure myself in a rescue shelter – I would take a look at the very first cat and I would end up trying to take the entire shelter home with me. At least in a cat cafe I know that the cats have a warm and safe home until their forever family comes along. Not that I wouldn’t take them all home with me if I had half the chance….

I have always found the staff in these cafes to be amazing: They are always professional and attentive, and you can tell immediately that they love each and every one of their kitty cohorts. They have always been very knowledgeable about the cats and about their needs and personalities. I have also seen the staff politely showing guests how to correctly play with the cats, from which toys work best with which cat and the best way to use the toy to bring out their natural hunter instincts. For example, if you have a rug or a blanket, use a stick underneath it to play with your cat – something about it being ‘underground’ drives cats wild and they absolutely love trying to catch it. The thinner the stick too the more likely it is to slip through their little toe beans, which just makes them even more determined to catch this evil stick!

The cons of cat cafes

It is common knowledge that cats are very territorial creatures and are also very high maintenance. If they are not happy with something, they will definitely tell you about it!

One of the main issues with cat cafes is the concern that large numbers of cats should not b e kept together. Both Cats Protection and the RSPCA have stated that cat cafes are not the most suitable environment for cats to live in, especially when they have to deal with multiple groups of people coming and going contunously throughout the day. They also have to deal with a lot of petting and playing, and since cats mostly sleep for between 12-16 hours a day they are not the most social of creatures.

The RSPCA also raised concerns around the stability of the cats’ environment. As with most animals, routine is key. They can be sensitive to smells and temperature changes which may be an issue in a cafe. Cat cafes are very popular and see a lot of traffic so I can see why having too much change could potential cause stress to the cats who live in the cafe. Cats also require a lot of space and opportunity to exercise and climb, which is why many charities recommend having at least some sort of garden available if you wish to adopt a cat. Naturally though this is very unlikely in cat cafes, as most are in very built up and urban areas, with no more than a small concrete foyer around the back and a busy main high street out front.

Despite how cats may appear, they can be scared very easily by loud noises. As such it is also recommended to have lots of hidey-holes for cats so that they can get away and hide from any situation which they deem to be scary. This could range from fireworks outside, to children to simply too many people in a room.

There is also the issue of cat personalities. Every single cat is different and not every cat is suited to life in a cat cafe. Territorial, overly skittish or short tempered cats are more likely to get easily stressed in a busy and changing environment, and when cats are scared, annoyed or threatened that is when the claws come out. Which would be terrible for all involved: As someone who has been around cats my whole life, I know that if my cat takes a swipe at my hand it’s because I have annoyed them in some way, however if you have never spent time with cats or you’re a young child, you may think this is a mean kitty and get very upset. To combat this, I have seen some cat cafes who have a ‘revolving door’ system with their cats, where the cat can come and go from the main floor as much as they please to a completely private area that is shut off from guests. Most cafes also seem to make a point of only hosting cats that do meet the personality requirements to ensure that they can live with other cats and also won’t find the constant traffic stressful or annoying.

The other concern I see raised most often is the issue of regulation. Yes cat cafes are held to the same health and safety and food standards of other cafes, but the issue is that cat cafes are not like regular cafes. The cats welfare is largely left up to the cafe owners and with so much going on at any one time during a busy day, it is no doubt hard for the staff to ensure every single customer is adhering to the rules when it comes to interacting with the cats. There are talks that stricter policies and standards will be needed as the popularity of cat cafes grows, but again this itself is a slow process.

Final thoughts?

In short ALWAYS do your research. I personally would be very hesitant to visit a cat cafe if they allowed large groups or young children to visit them. I also always check their house rules, and if I cannot find them easily on their website I am even less inclined to visit them. I also like to look at the interior of the cafe to see how many climbing shelves there are, how many hidey-holes I can see, how many sleeping spots are available and to see what other enrichment they have for the cats. I believe there is one in London which has a giant cat wheel where the cats can run (like a hamster wheel, but cat sized) as well as lots of interconnecting tunnels around the cafe so that the cats can move about freely without needing to interact with people if they do not wish to.

Have you guys been to cat cafes? What are your thoughts on them?

T xxx

The reality of the dairy industry

Earlier this month BBC Panorama released an expose into the diary industry. The programme contained undercover footage of a dairy farm in Wales and showed very graphic footage of abuse and violence towards the cows, the calves that were of no use being piled into skips and just the overall low conditions of the farm itself. Obviously it received quite a bit of backlash, with many farmers claiming that this was not an accurate depiction of what happens within a dairy farm: Some farmers were claiming that they loved their cows and treated them with the highest degree of animal welfare, and that this farm in Wales was an outlier that did not do the dairy industry any justices. Which made me start to question what the conditions of a dairy farm should be and while the vegan in me knows that there is no way to have exploitation free dairy farming, the academic in me wanted to look into whether there could be such a a thing as humane dairy farming.

Now of course when researching this matter there are so many different resources to use and I have tried to keep things as balanced as possible. I will link all of the articles I have found throughout this little essay, but I am not going to go too in detail about the legitimacy of each source (i.e who funded the research, who wrote the article, the political platforms on which I found them, the degree of neutrality of them all etc) and that alone could be an entire essay subject all of it’s own. As with all things, make sure you check sources and to always take everything you read online with a pinch of salt: I am trying to remain as unbiased as possible in order to open the avenue for discussion, but as this is a subject I am very passionate about I am sorry if some of the bias comes through!

How is milk actually made?

According to Dairy UK there are roughly 1.9 million dairy cows currently being used in the UK. According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) they predict a total of 12.52 billion litres for 2021/22. This may seem like a lot of milk, however this is 1.2% lower than the 2020/21 year. They also state that there have been dips in milk production over the past two years due to changes in calving seasons, which leads me onto the next point.

A cow is a mammal, and as such only produces milk when they have a baby. According to Diary UK a cow can produce milk for around 10 months after giving birth to a calf. One of the biggest arguments against dairy farming is how it treats the calves: Female cows are raised to become dairy cows like their mothers and the male calves are either destroyed, used for breeding programmes or sold to veal farms. AHDB even have a whole section on how to raise the female calves quickly to ensure that the farmers make a profit on them by the time they have had their second lactation.

But once you have a pregnant cow, they will be pregnant for around 9 months. During this 9 months they will begin to produce milk and can be milked during their pregnancy. Milking then stops when the cow gets to around 60 days before she is due to give birth, which is known as the ‘dry period’ where farmers are to let the cows’ udders heal prior to their calf’s birth. One reason for this is because, as with all births, cow births can be very traumatic, and if you have a cow that is too stressed out or unsettled leading up to birth then the farmer runs the risk of complications during the birth, injuries to both the cow and the calf, and in some worst situations stillbirths or unhealthy cows and calves that cannot be used the next year. After giving birth a cow can then be re-inseminated after 28-30 days.

Baby calves are then separated from the mothers immediately and put onto a food called colostrum, which is a milk-like fluid made my mammals who have just given birth. Over a period of time the calf is then weaned off of the colostrum and put on a different type of feed until they are ready to be used for dairy production. And the cycle repeats itself for the female calves until they stop producing milk and are then sent to slaughter for beef production.

Which clearly shows how a dairy cow spends the majority of a twelve month period pregnant. I will admit when trying to find information on all of this, the actual official websites were very sparing on the details and their websites are not at all user friendly. It seems the majority of the information is contained in their publications and of course these publications are only available if you purchase them or subscribe to them through some sort of union. I did find one though from the AHDB which was a very intensive guide on how to promote calving seasons and how to ensure a healthy calving season every year and to maximise profits.

Which is what really gets to me: the cows used in dairy are seen as nothing but means of production. Their sole purpose to to make a product that their farmers can profit from, and once they stop making a profit for the farmer then they are sent to the beef industry. But where does this language come from?

The laws for dairy farming

Under UK law all domestic animals are considered chattel i.e they are property. Your cat, dog, rabbit, cow, sheep, llama. They are nothing more than property in the eyes of the law, so whatever they do you as their human owner are responsible for. There are numerous law cases surrounding personal injury claims where a dog has bitten someone and the human owner has been held negligent for the behaviours of their animal. This is governed by the Animal Act 1971 where strict liability applies if your animal causes harm to another person or property. However the Animal Welfare Act 2006 sets out that anyone who is in charge of an animal (be it as a pet, livestock, boarding situation etc) must not cause any ‘unnecessary suffering’ to that animal. If they do cause unnecessary suffering then they will be guilty of an offence and face criminal charges under this act.

Now there is no definition as to what counts as ‘unnecessary suffering’ stated within the act, so case law needs to be very heavily relied upon. I will not go into the details of this here (as again it is a LOT and would require a LOT of reading, re-reading and cross referencing and again will most likely need to be a whole separate essay on its own to really get into) but as a basic that is the standard that animal welfare standards are measured against. For those who may not know, and as a real side note, I am currently a trainee solicitor and during my law degree we spent many a module on ‘the reasonable man’ as a standard for measuring why certain actions were done. Again, it is a whole issue that is up for debate and is a whole other essay on it’s own. But I digress…

In England The Farm Animal Welfare Council provide opinions to the relevant government bodies (Mostly DEFRA) on how welfare is and/or is not being met within farming industries. One of the main issues that constantly arises in their opinions is that as the demand for milk has fallen over the years, in an attempt to improve profitability and to keep their farms running, farmers are allowing welfare standards to fall. According to Compassion in World Farming, most dairy cows have a life expectancy of around 3-5 years as dairy cows are highly prone to lameness and mastitis.

Now despite extensive online searches I cannot find anywhere government related that states the exact space that a cow needs to live in in order for their welfare needs to be met. I found another publication from AHDB and one from the RSPCA that state that the environment must be ‘adequate’ for the cow’s welfare. Which states nothing really, because again it is very open to interpretation and can change from farm to farm. There is no consistency in how welfare is managed and (at least from my research) enforcement of those welfare standards seem to be very subjective. You have a number of bodies (DEFRA, RSPCA and farming unions) who appear to be working together to increase welfare standards but a lot of this seems to be on the mutual understanding that farmers will simply ‘just do them’. I have not been able to find any real reports on who inspects the animal welfare, how often these are carried out or what happens if you are not meeting these standards.

This yet again beings me back to the main issue with dairy farming (aside from the animals themselves) is that the law does not adequately define what is and is not allowed. The same could be argued for all animal welfare standards across the world as the laws have so much room for interpretation and therefore it is up to the courts to decide whether welfare needs have been met. But again the court can only make decision on a matter if there is a question on whether welfare needs have been met by a specific farm/farmer/individual. Many of the articles I have found state that mastitis (a condition in dairy cows where their udders become inflamed either due to infection or trauma that can be fatal) and lameness (where cows can no longer walk and have lesions on their hooves and legs that cause intense pain) are serious concerns within the dairy industry and many steps are being taken to try and eradicate these problems to improve the profitability of dairy farming.

Mastitis and lameness though are also both conditions that are directly impacted by the environment in which a cow lives. Lameness is brought on where a cow is made to stand for too long, not able to move around properly or is made to stand on uneven/unsuitable flooring for long periods of time. Mastitis is thought to be caused by over milking, where the instruments used to milk a cow are not cleaned properly or are not applied correctly or comfortably and as a result cause infections and trauma to the udders. Both issues clearly highlight though that the welfare positions in place are clearly not enough to solve these very common and clearly very prolific problems within the dairy industry.

Exploitation?

Now there is also the debate to be had over whether factory farming versus family farms. If I had a cow, that lost her calf at birth, would it still be exploitative for me to milk her? What right do I have to milk her? According to Alberta Milk, cows need to be milked to avoid their udders becoming engorged and uncomfortable for the cow. But again this is on an industrial level milking farm, where you want to make a profit from the milk that your cows are producing. I have been able to find very little information on the benefits of milking a cow: There are numerous articles on how milking a cow is beneficial for us (for health, money, productivity on the farm) but I have not been to find any that actually deal with it from the cows point of view. I would imagine that yes, at first the cows udders may get very engorged and uncomfortable, the same way that a woman’s breasts do when they have just given birth. But after a while milk production would slow down, less milk will need to be expelled, until eventually no milk is made at all. Again this is just my assumption, but surely that is standard biology?

Now when you look at how the dairy industry functions, how can it not be exploitative? Cows are kept constantly pregnant, their babies are taken from them, their milk is farmed, treated and then sold on mass for a high profit, and as soon as the cow is no longer producing milk she is then sold to slaughter. How is there any other way to look at this? All of the publications I read from farming unions and pro-dairy organisations referred to the cows and the calves as a production machine – cows exist so that we can milk them and once they stop making milk they are destroyed because they no longer serve a purpose to us. The articles (if you do want to read them) talk about the cows as though they are machines and that it is the role of a farmer to learn how to completely control their cows, from when they go into heat to when they calf to when they can be destroyed.

And I know that there will be some people who will argue that if we stopped drinking dairy overnight what would happen to the cows. But the reality is that dairy cows only exist because we have selectively bread them to produce more milk than is needed. Plus, it is a stupid argument because the reality is that the world will not give dairy up overnight. It will be a gradual process, whereby less cows are bred to be dairy cows and so the number of cows left at the end of it will be a fractional amount of the current 1.9 million currently out there.

Conclusion

I always find that the reality speaks for itself. Dairy is not concerned with animal welfare and is only interested in making a profit for itself. Cows are no more than machines and it again highlights the capitalist ideology that as soon as something no longer provides you with a profit, you throw it away.

And there is a part of me that recognises that dairy farming is a huge and lucrative business (although that is on the decline currently) and they do produce a lot of jobs for the surrounding neighbourhoods. However, is that not the nature of industry? Is that not why competition exists? With the rise in plant-based milks why are dairy farmers not cutting their losses and investing money in to plant based alternatives? If they know that their cows are producing less milk and their profits are down,instead of investing 20% of their income to raising and rearing new dairy cows, why not use that money to invest in growing oats?

While dairy farming may have been a lucrative part of society, I feel that the world is changing at such a rapid rate that the farmers need to adapt or die. As does every single other industry out there at the moment. Even from a business perspective, surely this is the only thing that can be done?

If any of you want to discuss the issue, p[lease do leave me a comment or send me a message. Also if you have any other useful articles or resources for me to check please do pass them along!

T xxx

Short break!

Hi all! I am actually on annual leave this week and have a lot of day trips planned. Therefore no usual posts this week, although I do have a big Reality Of post on Wednesday for your mid-week reading.

So for now enjoy this picture of Lola, who deems the hay outside of her litter tray is a million times better than the hay inside it.

T xxx