Recently The New York Times published an article on female cheesemakers who have been naming their cheeses after famous feminists.
Their cheeses are named after women who have fought fiercely to improve women’s lives, including Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Hillary Clinton, and Jane Goodall. Yet in using their products to celebrate women, the cheesemakers are forgetting someone: the female animals who have their milk stolen to make cheese.
If "animal-based feminist cheese" seems like an oxymoron, that’s because it is.
Female animals are exploited in animal agriculture specifically for their milk, eggs, and reproductive organs.
All mammals lactate to nourish their babies. Accordingly, though it may seem obvious, female animals actually have to be pregnant or have just given birth to produce milk.
In the dairy industry, cows are put through a yearly cycle of forcible impregnation, birth, and lactation. Their daughters are dragged away only to suffer the same fate as their mothers (they’ll be used for milk as soon as they’re old enough to conceive). Cows’ sons are forced into tiny crates and given only weeks to live before they’re violently slaughtered for veal.
The misery of mother animals is undeniable. Mother cows have been known to cry and bellow for days, yearning for the calves they will never see again. Many have been filmed following the farmers as they drag the babies away.
After four or five years of enduring this cruel cycle and producing abnormally large quantities of milk, thanks to genetic manipulation and drugs, cows become “spent.” Their milk production slows down and their bodies just give out. Many suffer painful infections, such as mastitis. Some become so weak they are unable to stand.
No longer profitable for dairy farmers, “spent” cows are sent to the slaughterhouse and brutally killed. Many are so weak they are dragged onto transport trucks.
Now before you say, “Oh, but this was a goat farm,” you should know that mother goats and their babies suffer a similar fate. They are torn apart, often only hours after birth. Female kids are raised to replace older goats, while the males are either slaughtered immediately or raised for meat. Virtually all baby goats suffer painful mutilations, such as castration and disbudding.
And it’s not just the dairy industry that exploits female animals. The meat and egg industries exploit female bodies every single day all around the world.
In egg production, one of the most egregious abuses is the extreme confinement of hens, who are crammed together into cages so small that each hen must spend her life on floor space smaller than a notebook-sized sheet of paper. These cages often contain five or six hens who are denied nearly everything natural to them, like walking, perching, nesting, or spreading their wings.
Similarly, mother pigs are often kept in gestation crates, individual cages so small the animals cannot walk, turn around, or lie down comfortably. They are continually impregnated to produce more pigs for human consumption. Mother pigs spend their lives on concrete floors. They will never see grass or root through dirt, and they will never be allowed to bond with their piglets.
Still not convinced? Watch this.
Simply put: Animal agriculture is anti-female.
The cheese sold by dairy farms should never be called “feminist cheese” if it’s made from animals’ milk. As a woman and a feminist, I could not promote feminism while contributing to an industry that systematically exploits female bodies and has been linked to higher risks of cancer in women. By imagining myself in their place, I realized what animals went through: a needless cycle of abuse that we can end simply by leaving animal products off our plates.
For a list of true feminist cheeses—which don’t exploit females—click here.
Check out the tasty vegan recipes on our Pinterest page.