Happy Milk

» December 17th, 2014

A few days ago I wrote about the connection between the pharmaceutical industry and animal agriculture. The gist of the piece was that there’s so much animal flesh to keep healthy that eating animals is implicit support for an industry that already makes too much money over-medicating humans.

Since then, I’ve realized there’s another angle to this topic, one that’s more sinister, one that I missed. An article on The Cattle Site reveals that the pharmaceutical industry is interested in more than antibiotics and vaccines. It’s also using animal welfare as a pretext to market new drugs for farm animals.

Leading the charge to sell drugs that will create a calmer cow is Merck. Recently the company announced the launch of “Creating Connections.” According to The Cattle Site, it’s “a new program designed to help producers better understand cattle behavior and use that knowledge to employ strategies that can reduce stress, improve reproduction and foster stronger immune responses.”

In other words, Merck has found a way to exploit welfare washing for profit. The idea here is that you drug the beasts into a stupor so they don’t express feelings of distress and in turn—the real motive—cooperate with their executioners. This is a tactic that makes life easier for ranchers and meatpacking plant workers while making Merck look like it’s in league with the Humane Society as a steward of animals.

But it’s a bad joke. The piece explains, “Since calmer cattle are easier to examine, diagnose, treat and move, the techniques shared through Creating Connections will help make iteasier for producers to improve the health of their herds.”

As is to be expected, asinine blather has poured forth to justify these happy drugs.  “The behavior of cattle – how they interact with each other and with people – can be shaped by positive interactions with caregivers, and tell us a tremendous amount about how cattle are feeling,” said Tom Noffsinger, D.V.M., a consulting feedyard veterinarian well known for his work on low-stress cattle handling practices.

It’s not about lowering stress, but hiding it. You hook cows’ udders to milk pumping machines, send their babies to the meat counter as veal chops, and turn them into hamburger when production declines. But because you have drugged the cows into oblivion they don’t seem to mind, and so you can work more efficiency, not to mention less burdened by the suspicion that you’re doing something very wrong.

But come on.  If it’s welfare that we’re really concerned about, here’s something to consider: don’t bring these creatures into existence in the first place. There will be no suffering to medicate if you just use your resources to grow flora rather than fauna. Otherwise, spare us the welfare talk.

Nobody is really that stupid.





10 Responses to Happy Milk

  1. Rebecca says:

    Calmer, happier cows? Giving calmer, happier milk? Making calmer, happier, more complacent dairy-product consumers? Nahhhh…they wouldn’t want that! #stayinthematrixdamnit

  2. Teresa Wagner says:

    Bravo James! “It’s not about lowering stress, but hiding it”
    This is exactly what SeaWorld does to the whales they hold in captivity.


  3. John T. Maher says:

    The dirty secret of both BigAg and BigHumane is that the war for better animal welfare is essentially a media war removed entirely from the critters and resituated in the attentions span of a click thru or pop up or email in your inbox. If my reading of taoday’s post is correct then you imply as much. Your post goes toward the heart of the matter — eradication of instrumental use itself which is the true site of the final battle against using and eating critters. against ontologies of oppression themselves. So in many ways Eating Plants is every bit as radical as anyone from the ALF to the granny who has been a vegan for 80 years.

  4. Catherine Case says:

    So with psychopharmaceuticals it would be more of a date rape and abuse scenario–except for the periods in between doses and after tolerance when anxiety and panic symptoms get worse than without drugs. Just when you think it can’t get more horrifying.

  5. Mountain says:

    I wouldn’t call it humane, but it is a case of treating farm animals more like humans. When civilization causes suffering among humans, do we change the system, or do we medicate the people? We medicate the people, of course.


    And when animals suffer from our agricultural system, do we change the system, or do we medicate the animals? We medicate the animals, of course.

  6. Mountain says:

    Soon, perhaps, we’ll start medicating the plants.


  7. Trish says:

    Everyone wants a piece of the pie and our “humane” use movement (Humane Society of the United States, PeTA, Mercy for Animals, etc) is assisting them.

    Go vegan and end the violence of animal use.

  8. Monart says:

    Many people, too, are drugged (physically and mentally) into a stupor so that they become voluntary slaves and cooperate with their masters and executioners.

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