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A meeting with a dairy farmer


I met Hank at Melbourne’s Southern Cross railway station. It was apparent that we were both Dutch born and emigrants to Australia. However, our similarities quickly evaporated when I learned that he was a dairy farmer, and he of my concern for animal welfare, ethics, rights, and that nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. He was visibly shocked to hear that milk is an unhealthy product and reacted by an angry outburst that included a technical description of the composition of milk.

I was astounded by the difference in our world views, use of language, meaning and definitional differences, and so forth. He spoke of animal welfare as driven and informed by consumer demand, and that efficiency and productivity were linked to sound animal husbandry. However, farming practices are determined solely by the pressure to increase profit margins; the scale of industrial farming is so vast that it is hard to comprehend, and the suffering it entails is wholly routine. The practices employed are not just cruel – they are unsustainable. The reality that the rearing of animals for slaughter is an inefficient use of scarce resources and distorts and negatively affects global distribution of food stuffs to the developed world, and variously harms nature.

I argued that ‘processing’ animals denied the reality that the production of meat involves killing the animals that are eaten. Eating animal corpses is unnecessary, and unwarranted. Animals shouldn’t be mistreated or killed anymore than you or I shouldn’t be mistreated or killed. The evolved man does not treat other life-forms cruelly or consider them for his/her consumption. Develop personal disgust at the sheer nastiness of the meat industry!

We should include all sentient beings in our mind-set as equals on our planet, and not as something to put on our dinner plates. What we forget about animals, we begin to forget about ourselves – by pretending we are distinct from all other animals, we deny important parts of our humanity by our indifference to animal suffering;

I made the following point as we passed through the rural landscape. Farmers and such like clear-felled and burnt much of the Australian continent resulting in vast ecological disturbance, loss of habitat and the decimation of indigenous flora and fauna, and the displacement of the original owners. That’s on-going, unfortunately.

There are compelling reasons to stop eating animal products. (It is interesting that the reasons are analogous with those put forward to end slavery and the trade in slaves, although there remains some way to go.) It’s high time that people become motivated by moral considerations and view a vegetarian diet aligned with values that are concerned with: animal welfare, the potential health benefits that accrue,  egalitarian food stuffs distribution and environmental benefits, and world peace and harmony.


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