Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 137- Back off the Wagon

I think I spend more time off than on lately, but when I fell off this time, I fell far.

I went to save-a-lot (not bad) to get a cheap mango (again, not bad) that wasn't rock hard (and it wasn't) but I went hungry (bad) so while I was there I wandered (also bad), rather than wait in the one very long line, over to the frozen food section (uh oh) and after looking at the frozen veggies (which would have been good) and turning down the opportunity to buy frozen microwave mac and cheese (good) and pre-made hushpuppies of questionable origins (also good) I grabbed a totinos party pizza (bad). A cheese pizza (very bad) for 99 cents plus tax (not as bad as it could have been).

Up until then the day was going fine- buns with EB for breakfast, a couple scoops of coleslaw for lunch (lazy, right?- need to move it into gladware today), then off to the store. Of course, if I'd just eaten a dratted burger with one of those rolls, this wouldn't have been a problem at all. Or not as much, anyway.

But no, I went to the store hungry, bought a cheese pizza of questionable ingredients, and nommed my way into a cheese induced coma that lasted from about 7pm until I finally stopped hitting snooze at 6:30 this morning.

So, not vegan. Strict veggie? Lacto-veggie? I try to keep politics out of this, I mean, it's food, right? But food is pretty political, and the veggie/ vegan/ omni/ animal welfare/ animal rights thing tends to be really political. Planting and harvesting with tractors and combines kills animals- lots of them. Planting and harvesting with a shovel and hoe and bare hands kills animals, even if they're "only" worms and bugs. Big dairies feed *a lot* of calves into the veal industry, and keep cows in pretty unpleasant surroundings (anyone driven past a feedlot?). Would a small home dairy work any better? What about if the dairy was the money making side of a rare breed preservation effort?

Is there such a thing as ethically raised dairy? Even if you have a dairy cow and keep all the offspring as seriously over-sized lawn ornaments/ pets, you'd be breeding the cow every other year.

I guess the real question is (swiftly fading lactose tolerance aside)- is it better to take yourself totally out of something, or to support (financially or otherwise) things that make steps in the right direction? I don't see myself ever eating meat again, but family members do. If I (twitch twitch) bought them meat from small herd, grass raised cattle, that had been treated more like animals than figures on a balance sheet, would that be better than letting them buy the equivalent amount of agribusiness "meat" because I don't think it's right? In the same way, is it better for me (inability of my body to digest much of it aside, again) to cut dairy out totally, or to source, buy from, and promote smaller dairies with practices I'm more ethically comfortable with?

Sorry, just rambling at this point.


  1. That's a lot of questions, but they are ones that I wrestle with too. You read my blog, so you know I obviously make different choices. But that's not because I think I know everything.

    I have heard that "it's healthy" for cows to be milked regularly. So it seems we should not be letting it go to waste. Now the way in which we acquire that milk varies greatly, so when is it legit. I can't help but wonder if cows don't always have milk or if they manipulate them to be that way. My husband and I drink soy milk ( motivated by cost as well) - and find it can substitute for milk/cream and so forth in many recipes. But of course we do eat cheese!

    Huh!-probably could write a blog on this myself... The animals. Animals that are raised humanely, still have to die before they get into your burger... so I ask myself am I okay that there lives were short - albeit happy. I've seen these signs where they have a cat next to a chicken and it asks "What's the difference?" Of course, I think well one I want cuddle, the other I don't.... of course that answer seems a little trite.

    Also - what is humane? I am pretty sure everyone at the shelter I work (including myself to be fair) eats meat. Furthermore, the "Humane Society" is NOT a no kill organization. So where do they get off? We had a little kitty (a baby) come in to the shelter once that was scheduled to be euthinized somewhere else - luckily we rescued it some how... oh - but that really hurt to see.

  2. Wild animals, even those that can be used as dairy animals, don't get milked- at least not by people. It's not that it's healthy for people to milk cows, but rather that it's unhealthy for the milk to just stay in the udders. Left to their own devices, cows feed their calves with that milk, and wean them eventually, cutting off the milk supply naturally. In dairy herds the calf doesn't get to milk, it gets fed some other stuff, and milk production (especially in the US) is manipulated with unhealthy and expensive feed regimens to increase lactation- american dairy cows produce something like twice as much milk per day as cows in other countries.

    Most humane societies and shelters are not no kill, you're right, but they (mostly) put pretty strong emphasis on spay/ neuter, because it does, eventually, cut down on the number of animals they do euthanize. It's still more humane to PTS animals that aren't going to be adopted then turn them out into the streets to get run over or starve to death, or keep them forever in a cage- which a lot of animals don't adapt to any better than people do. And (since you work at a shelter I'm sure you already know, but...) "culling" those less likely to be adopted frees up time, space, and a chance for a more marketable animal, distasteful though the idea might be.

    It's tough to know where the line is, right? Or even where you should be on it... Oddly enough, there are violent AR protesters who eat meat. I never did get that....

  3. That information about cows... bother me to say the least. I mean why is it that milk cows in the US produce double, yet family friends of mine (who are dairy farmers) barely eek out a living (and they work 12+ hours a day -everyday). I have some theories as to why this is, but the disconnect is troublesome for sure.

    At our shelter - the cats have "nice" lives. Obviously a "home of their own" would be much better, but I guess I didn't think of them as living in cages. All of our cats get time to roam around. We also take time "socializing" with the not-so-adoptable cats to make them more friendly. We don't take feral cats into the shelter - but there is a spay/neuter outreach program for them.

    I hope I am not making this too lively of a discussion :-)

  4. No, not too lively. Cows in the US are (usually) fed a high grain/ corn diet to produce more milk. It makes dairying more expensive over the long run, but less expensive at the outset then buying x-billion acres of good quality pasture. it's supposed to be more efficient and profitable, but I'm not sure how....

    Ah, looks like I was wrong- israel and s. korea both surpass the US by something like 500kg/cow/year. But most of the higher producing, more intensive countries are 2/3rds the production of US (which averages in pastured dairy), and it's a good 3x NZ, where they minimize costs by not feeding as many (if any) supplements. snazzy map-

    Cats, I think, don't do as bad in shelters over longer time periods, but dogs get nutty. Still, animals past the "baby" stage are in for a pretty long stay at most shelters. Are you at a shelter that can provide longer term care, similar to a no-kill shelter? The county shelter here puts down tens of thousands of animals a year- they only seem to adopt out 10 or so a day, and have limited space. It's interesting (academically) to look at how they pick out the animals most likely to get adopted, to give the best chance to the most animals. I don't want to think about the stress levels of the people who do the euths, it's gotta be crazy with those kinds of numbers.

  5. Totally bookmarked the graphy thing! That will probably be the largest source productivity loss for the next month. I love it! Ok - what were we talking about.

    Muh - many questions, fewer answers. Or answers, but lots of red tape, politics and peoples feelings in the way.

    "My" cat shelter is the no kill type. But as I am becoming more educated - I realize we are really above average, not bragging, but we do have the resources to treat all of our cats great. Obviously not everyone is that lucky, and has to make more strategic decisions. That being said many live a long time at the shelter (or in foster care). We do have special rooms for special cats... I.E. Some cats are considered "more adoptable" and our put towards the front. I don't always follow the logic of it all... but even some of our "tough luck" cats get adopted from time to time.

    If I had a magic wand - I could probably find a way to "fix" things, but so far no magic wand. Let you know if the status changes.

  6. There have been several 'no kill' shelters in my area shut down b/c the volume of animals overwhelmed the people trying to run the places and the animals suffered in the long run anyway, so while no kill shelters sound good, they are not the utopia for critters that many people think they are. As for cows, around here, the artificial insemination guy is the busiest guy in the farm community. They keep the cows 'bare-hoofed & pregnant" or they don't give milk--it's that simple. And I'm ashamed to report that I am totally addicted to dairy products and never want to give them up. The cows I see everyday don't seem overly miserable; the thing that bothers me most is when I see them covered in flies b/c the farmer didn't spray them with bug spray and has docked their tails (the natural fly remover) for milk-producing sanitary reasons. Of course, I am observing family farms in a Mennonite community, not the agri-business farms of the mid-west. And as a co-worker pointed out yesterday, I apparently identify closely with cows; she says I moo everytime we pass one!

  7. Ruby Leigh- another interesting thing, though I couldn't find a snazzy map or really any paperwork to support it, just my fuzzy brain, is that while NZ cows might not give as much per year, they usually last more years before being culled- lower overhead means they can keep lower producing cows without losing money. So rather than 3 or 4 seasons, they can go through their entire reproductive life of 10 or 20 years as long as they remain fertile and don't lose calves.

    Cyndee- that's a good point, too, about the "no-kill" shelters not always being great places. If they take in more than they can care for or have room for, they're really no better than hoarders.

    Also, I'd bet the LA vet is at least as busy, coming around after the AI guy to see if it "took". I don't think I've ever seen a cow with a docked tail. You'd think it'd be "easier" or more affordable to just leave the tail on so you don't have to worry about flies... Of course, a cow tail can hold a whole lot of crap. You moo at the cows too? Good to know I'm not the only one. So cute, but really not for hugging, kinda like a polar bear.

  8. Without getting into the political aspects of things (since it's not my favourite topic), how was the pizza? I love those things, despite them not being real food. Haven't had one in ages though.

  9. Bad but addictive- I've had like 6 since then... probably not helping with the cold.

  10. Oh my. I feel you on the junk food issue. It torments me too.