February 2017 Update: Cows and the World

My January blog about wild birds touched a chord among readers. Two websites reposted it on their platforms, spreading the word further. If you missed it, take a look here at the true story about an emerald bird called Emi.

I was honored to be featured in a short documentary called BEEF made by a fourteen-year-old, Sevy Lortie. An inspiring young man, he says: “I’d like to grow up into a kind and peaceful world. I hope to help make the world more green, and work to raise awareness and take action around climate change.” Watch the 16-minute film here.

Sevy is right to be concerned. Researchers examined 130 studies on climate change recently and found that “the range of animals affected by climate change is broad, including animals on every continent,” according to an article in Scientific American. The effect of climate change on endangered species has been especially underestimated.

The new administration has removed mentions of climate change and records of animal welfare violations from government websites. “Countless cases of animal cruelty have been removed,” writes Gene Baur, President of Farm Sanctuary, “and the actions and identities of abusive companies have been hidden. Citizens in our country deserve more transparency and accountability, not less.”

The dairy industry, specifically, has been acting shady in more ways than one. It recently settled a class-action lawsuit for a plan it called “herd retirement.” Though herd retirement connotes a pleasant pastoral life, the truth was far from it. “Over the course of seven years—in a scheme to hike up prices for milk products—dairy producers conspired to slaughter more than 500,000 young cows,” states an article in Washington Post.

The early slaughter of half a million cows limited milk supply and hiked up prices for consumers. Though animal cruelty is mostly legal, price-fixing is not. But in its settlement, the industry paid only a pittance—$52 million—out of its $9.6 billion worth of increased revenue. The case highlighted agribusiness willingness to exploit animals and steal from the pockets of consumers.

There’s something else the dairy industry has been doing. Americans drink 37 percent less milk today than they did in 1970, instead preferring non-dairy alternatives like soy milk and almond milk. In response, the industry is asking the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on companies that refer to plant-based beverages as milk. The tactic shows how insecure the dairy industry is about its relevance in a world of changing consumer priorities.

I’ve investigated dairy farms around the world, and Chapter One of Project Animal Farm delves into the industry. Read it here.