Times Literary Supplement Magazine 6035 : 30Nov18 : Our Problem with Cows -

Times Literary Supplement Magazine 6035 : 30Nov18 : Our Problem with Cows

Yayınevi: Central Dergi

Yayın tarihi: 11/2018

İngilizce |

Tür: Dergi

Veganism is in the air at the moment. A survey last month suggested that a third of all Britons were eliminating or reducing meat from their diet, spurred by a combination of moral, environmental and health concerns. And there is a sense that our problematic relationship with animals farmed for our benefit is pressing ever nearer the surface of our collective consciousness.

Our awareness of the dairy industry is a case in point. At one level, as Siobhan Magee notes, it “seems to be a different proposition from meat”. The animal is a provider, not a consumed product. And what it provides is seen as symbolically wholesome and healthy, the superfluous outpourings of maternal cows that provide nourishment to us all. Magee notes the pervasive and “distinct cosiness of its iconography”, and its mendacity.

Caroline Eden this week reviews a book, jauntily entitled Milk!, which is testimony to the central role of dairy in our cultural history: its subtitle is “A 10,000-year food fracas”. There is fun to be had over milky moments from the past: the Spartans with their cheese-stealing rite of passage; Roman women with their baths of donkey’s milk. I didn’t know the importance of milk to Christian ritual, but apparently “in some settings the chalice did not contain wine but rather milk, believed to be the white blood of Christ”. Christian thought did speed the advance of almond milk from as early as the fifteenth century, too, which was as presumably undrinkable then as it is now.

In America, milk led to ice cream, which became its own cultural icon. We learn that the US produced 100 million gallons of it in 1919, and by the Second World War it was seen as “an essential and ambrosial means of boosting morale”. Washington and Jefferson were ice cream aficionados; Nixon, we learn, had different inclinations: “I eat cottage cheese till it runs out of my ears”. Another thing to hold against him.

Eden believes that “a true post-milk generation is yet to arrive”. But can any generation now ignore where large-scale dairy farming has taken us? Consider the unfortunate Sadie, featured in Kathryn Gillespie’s book The Cow With Ear Tag #1389: impregnated annually, her calves taken from her, and milked until her capacity for reproduction and lactation waned to nothing. She was then “sold to a teaching hospital as a venepuncture and rectal exam teaching tool”. The morality around this practice is easy to ignore, hard entirely to dismiss when your attention is drawn to it. And as someone once said about the disempowered in society, at some point attention must be paid.

Stig Abell

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