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Profitable “Free Range” Milk & False Claims In The Guardian

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A tidal wave of “free range” milk seems to be upon us in the UK. The media would have you believe that this new onslaught of baby calf fluid is in response to a growing demand for higher welfare animal products. The reality is that producers have merely identified the concept of “free range” as a rather profitable one given the steady decline in milk prices over the last few years. Being able to market your produce as better in terms of quality, taste and the ideal of a “patchwork-quilt England” is a surefire way of enticing consumers to spend a marginally greater amount on “free range” milk. After all, nothing stirs the hearts of most Brits more than an appeal to a patriotic, flag-waving, fanfare marching Britain. Producers, of course, are really only interested in bumping up the price of milk in order to regain the healthier profit margins of the past.

The Guardian errs in maintaining that this new “free range” initiative is in any way for the benefit of the cows. The Pasture Promise label – heralded as the only label consumers can trust when it comes to milk as it’s certified by the NSF – “guarantees” that the cows have been grazing outdoors for at least 180 days of the year. It is said that they spend an hour in the “yard” before and after milking, and that they must be grazed within 400 metres of water. On the Pasture Promise website, they claim that they only require grazing for half the year because the cows are “better off” inside for the other 6 months. It’s rather bizarre how they claim to value a “fundamental expression of natural behaviour for dairy cows” when the institution of animal exploitation can not be identified as “natural” in any meaningful sense. In the case of dairy cows, that means artificial insemination and the assumption that the cow is a milk machine, with the only escape from a life of denied inherent value being the slaughterhouse.  As with all “free range” type labels, there are umpteen different ways for producers to get around any imposed limitations with reasons as vague as the weather. At the end of the day, the “free range” initiative is here for one purpose – increasing the price of milk in the UK and generating healthier profit margins. The fact that the cows may get a little bit of grass and sunlight here and there is just a convenient marketing gimmick.

Rather extraordinarily, the Guardian seems to think that milk bearing the Pasture Promise label comes from farms that don’t send the male calves to slaughter. They claim the label “guarantees” that “no male calves have been euthanised.” Seems a rather spurious claim to make, don’t you think? So spurious in fact that I decided to contact the Pasture Promise label myself. What I found out was rather interesting – not even they claim that the lives of male calves are spared.

I received an email from Neil Darwent, co-founder of Free Range Dairy and the Pasture Promise label, stating the following:

Dear Ben

Free Range dairy farmers must rear calves for beef on the farm or sell them to be reared on another farm. Farmers are not permitted to shoot calves at birth. But ultimately they will be slaughtered for beef.

Kind regards,

Neil Darwent

Director, Free Range Dairy Network CIC www.freerangedairy.org

Twitter: @freerangedairy

For the sake of clarity, I feel it’s important to say that whether or not male calves are slaughtered in the process of dairy production is ultimately irrelevant when considering the immorality of animal use as an institution. Even if they were not slaughtered, it would still be morally wrong to use animals as commodities and treat them as our property. In the case of the new Pasture Promise label, however, it is clear that the standard practice of raising male calves for veal or beef is as routine as it has ever been and ever will be. It is unclear what the Guardian’s motives are for spreading such misinformation. Regardless of intention, they are certainly lending a helping hand in their article to an industry that profits from public deception and false marketing.

At the end of the day, animals remain property and male calves are worthless to the milk industry, regardless of whatever pleasant sounding label is slapped on the cartons of milk meant for a mother’s child.

Photo from Plant Based News

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