Milk is healthy and good for you. Milk strengthens the bones and is even supposed to make you smart, as the NÖM advertising suggests. We’ve been told this old wives‘ tale since the 1960s and we believe it. This is accompanied by scenarios of happy cows in the pasture, calves happily jumping around and the whole rural idyll that advertising likes to suggest to us. If the animals are doing so well anyway and this wonderful white drink is so good for us, why should we not? Milk might still work, but cheese is so terribly good. Some people can never do without it, as they think.
I too believed it for a long time. No other voices were allowed to come up either. The lobby that peddled the milk was and is too strong. But one day I was visiting my aunt in the middle of idyllic Styria. On a sunny afternoon I decided to go for a walk, out of the village, through fields and small groves. Also, past a farm. The barn was closed so I couldn’t see what animals were inside. But suddenly there was a piercing mooing, the stable door opened, and something was brought out on a wheelbarrow. I followed the path until the something was dumped in a small shed at the back of the stable. Then I finally realized it was a calf, a newborn little calf. I couldn’t help but wonder why it was being stored back there, all by itself – in the truest sense of the word. „Always these townsfolk who have no idea,“ the farmer asked me, „What do you mean, what does the beast do, it drinks all the milk from us. Besides, it’s a bull calf, it’s no use anyway.” So, he said and disappeared, and I stood there, taken aback. Nothing with idyll, mother with child, nothing with pasture, instead tethering. And they cried out one after the other, mother and child, heartrending, but the farmer didn’t care.
I was sad and angry. It’s sad that something like this happened without anyone seeming to care. Angry because we are being kept from all these events and we believe what we are led to believe. But also, because I felt so helpless. I stood by and watched as sentient, loving beings were tormented. There was no idyll, only suffering and misery. But at least the rest was right, with the healthy milk? Even that wasn’t true. Yes, milk is healthy for the baby – the baby of the species whose milk it drinks. Simply put, human breast milk is for human babies, dog breast milk is for dog babies, elephant breast milk is for baby elephants, and cow breast milk is for baby cows. The ingredients are precisely tailored so that the baby, the right one, gets exactly the nutrients it needs. In humans, especially in an adult, the growth hormones in the milk lead to proliferating cells, also called cancer, and the animal calcium is bad for the bones. And for the fact that we eat something that is not good for us, cows are forced to get pregnant every year in order to take the baby away from them after birth, exploit it too or dispose of it as waste because it is male and does not produce milk, to exploit them through unnatural milk production until they are so broken at the age of a few years that they are only good for the slaughterhouse. In the end, there are almost always losers, but the advertising machine keeps turning, while people prefer to believe the lies, they’ve known since childhood to the truth that’s diametrically opposed. You have to believe in lies – you can convince yourself of the truth if you want to.
And I can’t stop thinking about this little baby cow that’s about to be deported as soon as it’s born. It’s a life that wanted nothing more than to be with its mom. Instead, it stands alone outside, abandoned, sad and exposed to all kinds of weather. And nobody seems to care. How far has humanity sunk that such events are accepted without a word, even negated? They are to be measured by their deeds, it is said, especially by those that affect the weakest and most helpless, like a mother and her baby.