Monday, September 23, 2013

The Problem with "Milk Not Jails"

As dairies in rural New York declined, more and more communities became reliant on the prisons for income.  So, in order to cut back on prisons, advocates are pushing to switch out prisons with more dairies--and this entails a lot of community outreach to increase dairy consumption.  Supposedly, this is a good thing for both local farmers, poor persons, and people of color who are disproportionately imprisoned.

There are several glaring flaws with this campaign, however.  First, dairy production (and any Nonhuman Animal production for that matter) is not sustainable.  Even local "farms" create massive amounts of waste and pollution and consume massive amounts of water and grain.  Not surprisingly, Nonhuman Animal agricultural operations are usually located in areas of poverty, that is, they disproportionately impact poor whites and people of color who do not have the political power to fight off these stinky, polluting, dangerous facilities.

Second, diets based in Nonhuman Animal products are a project of colonization.  The traditional diets of many colonized people are actually plant-based.  It was not until white colonization of these cultures that many switched to heavy reliance on Nonhuman Animal products.  Dairy is especially suspect, as most people of color are lactose intolerant.  Biologically, people of European descent have higher instances of the genetic glitch that allows them to consume the breast milk of another species far past the age of weaning.  It is not surprising that dairy, consumable by most whites and not consumable by most people of color,  is considered "normal" and "natural."

Third, the consumption of dairy (and other Nonhuman Animal products) is directly linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, gout, obesity, and a litany of other serious, life-threatening illnesses.  Diet related diseases already disproportionately impact poor persons and communities of color.  It seems nothing short of unethical to promote a system of oppression (deadly diets) to combat another system of oppression (the prison system).

Fourth, dairies are themselves prisons.  "Milk Not Jails" is misleading:  this is really "Jails for Jails."  Cows are raped on "rape racks," made pregnant over and over to produce milk, and their babies are taken away usually in the first 24 hours, causing intense grief and anxiety.  About 1 in 4 dairy cows will get mastitis, which is an infection of her utter.  This is due to the constant pregnancy, but also due to breeding which makes cows produce as much as ten times what they naturally would.  Though cows naturally live over 20 years, their bodies become so worn out from dairy production that they are usually "spent" and sent to slaughter between 4-6 years.  Many of them are too sick and lame to walk to their death, they are termed "downers" and are often pushed to slaughter with forklifts.  Their girl calves are doomed to the same fate as their mothers, while boy calves are jailed in veal crates.  In veal crates, they are kept in isolation and darkness, tied up to their stalls to prevent them from moving and building muscle.  They are completely deprived of their mother's milk, and are fed an iron-deficient gruel instead.  Many go blind, mad, and die before slaughter.  Those who live to see slaughter are so weak they can barely walk.

See the work of Bryant Terry and Breeze Harper for more information on the relationship between racial inequality and food systems.