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There’s no such thing as ‘ethical’ dairy ice cream

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I don’t consider myself a word police, but a glaringly obvious misuse of the word ‘ethical’ in a headline alongside ‘dairy ice cream’ has left me no choice.

In this piece posted by The Globe and Mail, Vancouver-based Betterwith Ice Cream is celebrated as being a superior frozen option thanks to sourcing milk that uses “cow-friendly” technology and it’s resulting traceability. Look out – it’s a 2017 buzzword and it’s come to lay in bed with farm-to-fork. That traceability is paraded in their branding, with the Lavender Farm in Abbotsford B.C being painted up as the idyllic dairy farm operation people assume all cows wish they could land an internship with. But it’s not just the rolling pastures and photo-ops of gentle cow-petting that make this the place people think cows feel privileged to work, it’s the futuristic technology they hope will fool consumers into thinking they care more about animals.

Simply put, it’s a robot that milks the cows. Premium feed is used to train shaved and collared cows to enter a feeding box they’ve adorably nicknamed a cow cubicle. Although most of us wouldn’t consider a cubicle “relaxing,” this one is supposed to be an improvement on the touch of a farmer. The Lely Astronaut milking system (which boasts “more milk – less effort”) is basically just Pavlov’s theory in action, with a slight resemblance to the hug boxes slaughterhouses pretend make getting murdered sweeter.

We’re assured the cows “voluntarily” get milked, again a product of them instinctually herding each other towards the good food. But I’ve yet to see a machine where the cows are voluntarily inseminated or voluntarily have their calves taken away. Heck, where’s the one where they’re voluntarily bred to be a milk cow at all? Surely, some aspire to grow up to be different products of gluttonous human consumption. And with all their talk about being “real” ice cream and not the lousy imitation stuff (hey, coconut confection, I still love you), have they designed a system so chicks can line up for slaughter to help make sure the custard base is more “happy” too?

Of course there’s absolutely no mention as to what happens when a cow doesn’t feel like a milking today, or those who have dried up. Those trendy collars offer monitoring that send big-brother style text messages to farmers, so it’s not like early retirement is an option. With a goal of $40 million in sales, and distributors already asking for more than the brand can produce, it’s a pipe dream to pretend these farms would house, feed, or care for a single cow that wasn’t making quota. There’s no nice way to describe how their positions (aka lives) are terminated.

Look, the entire operation is really no different than that which occurs on dairy farms making a variety of milk based products worldwide, save for the bells and whistles of shiny new instruments of exploitation. The real problem I have stems back to the claim that this way is good for cows, better than other methods, and is somehow “honest.” Lori Joyce, former reality TV star and founder of this deceitful dessert told the Globe and Mail that “everyone keeps saying to me, ‘Thank you for caring about the cows.’” She also humbly bragged “My packaging says 100-per-cent honest for a reason.” To Joyce, her co-conspirators, and all those tucking into a pint of Betterwith Ice Cream, I call bullshit. There’s only one way to care for animals and truly be honest about it; veganism. All this feels like is an attempt to leverage off of the success of fooling people into thinking humane meat exists; why not “humane” ice cream too?

Denying fundamental justice of a living being cannot be done compassionately. “Caring” for an animal that is a commodity should not be regurgitated as love, protection, or a solution for the less “efficient” ways others in the industry decide to produce their products. As always, it’s not whether or not we treat an animal well when we use him or her, it’s that they are not ours to use at all.

While it may not relieve the guilt of choosing to have dessert, a vegan option is the only way to indulge without sacrificing the life of another to do so. If you’re interested in living ethically, please learn about how to go vegan. 

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