Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cows, 1, Dairy Industry, 0

I don't expect the world to end the exploitation of animals and turn vegan overnight, but signs of struggle among the major animal-agricultural industries, like the dairy industry, has increased my optimism for the continued evolution of society and for the day when we choose to stop using and abusing farm animals.

Recently, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) gained the support of 70 members of Congress for a vegan options bill in a version of the Child Nutrition Act. The bill would have provided children with access to healthy, low-fat, cholesterol-free, vegan school lunch options that are not available to them today. Though the Senate ultimately passed a version that did not include the vegan option, the bill still achieved recognition for its efforts. It even had the CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), Jerry Kozak, a bit concerned. He had this to say at their October annual meeting:
The vegan crowd and their agenda is an issue. In years past, their efforts were discounted. But in the House of Representatives this year, the Education Committee supported an amendment creating a pilot project of vegan meals for school children. The larger concern is what is happening right now in the fight over obesity. There are some loud voices, in Washington and across the country, targeting every manner of food that some believe contributes to public health problems. And dairy products are at risk.
The National Milk Producers Federation has good reason to worry because the products they are peddling are neither healthy, necessary, nor humane. And more people are finding this out every day. According to a survey of college students, the number of students who said they follow a vegan diet has doubled in the last four years. In addition, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that many big players on the world stage have also chosen a vegan diet, including Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, former President Bill Clinton, hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, and Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, to name just a few.

Furthermore, a recent front page, Sunday New York Times article revealed desperate marketing efforts by the dairy industry to increase the amount of dairy people eat, specifically cheese, which has become the largest source of saturated fat in American diets and a major contributor to the obesity problem. According to the article, Americans eat nearly three times the amount of cheese they did in 1970. Due to diminished sales and increased oversight, the National Milk Producers Federation has forged alliances with major fast food companies to increase the amount of cheese sold in products like pizza and tacos. The NMPF is also focusing their assault on companies offering non-dairy alternatives like almond milk and soy yogurt.

The National Milk Producers Federation recognizes farm animal advocates as a major challenge to their waning industry. NMPF Chairman Randy Mooney said "Another key focus for us this year has been animal care, where we continue to do battle with well-funded, highly-motivated opponents who want to do away with livestock agriculture." Fortunately, animal rights issues are no longer a fringe topic as more people, including mainstream media, become aware of the plight of farm animals. Mooney goes on to mention the Nightline segment that aired in January, which brought to light the evils of dairy farming. He admits to having contacted ABC News in an unsuccessful attempt to change the focus of the program, but it appears ABC News wasn't buying his or NMPF's rhetoric, either.

Vegans aren't the only group upsetting the National Milk Producers Federation. During their October annual meeting presentation, Kozak and Mooney mentioned specific challenges to their industry from immigration reform, oil spill regulations, greenhouse gas emission restrictions and the estate tax! Clearly, the NMPF is willing to tackle any subject that proves a detriment to their industry.

The National Milk Producers Federation is down, but they are not out, not yet, anyway. It's time we all see the truth in advertising and really "get milk." The dairy industry is no friend to people, animals or the environment. Got it?

Photo of Gene Baur and Opie courtesy of Farm Sanctuary

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