Daily life of the vegetarian #13SO, FONTERRA IS extending its free milk in schools programme from its trial in Northland to the whole country next year.
Fonterra chief Theo Spierings is against the idea of charity, and says it’s no more than a wise business decision for the mega-dairy co-operative. The company will just pull some money out of its publicity budget to pay for what will likely amount to about 80 percent of NZ’s 350,000 primary school pupils.
Consumption of milk is declining year-by-year, says Spierings, so getting children to drink it daily will do Fonterra nothing but good in the long-term, creating a willing and ongoing audience for the product.
The good vibes around Fonterra’s gifting of milk to schools would offset bad publicity around what many claim are inflated milk prices in shops. [Prices which are inflated because Fonterra puts exports first when it comes to pricing].
John Campbell was his typically nice-guy effusive self on Campbell Live last night, maintaining that – while the free milk may on the one hand be a cynical marketing ploy – it has to be a good thing for the health of our kids, who, studies have shown, are often deficient in basic minerals and vitamins.
While it’s tempting to take Campbell’s position, and see milk in schools as a way for kids to get their daily dose of what they’re not getting at home, I felt the bile rising in my throat as this news sunk in.
The whole thing stinks of 1950s thinking – let’s dose the water with fluoride and chlorine so we don’t have to try too hard to keep it clean in the first place. Let’s immunise all the children when there’s an ‘epidemic’ so it can save us the trouble of looking at the root cause of the problem (which is more often than not, simple bad hygiene at home), as well as giving money those nice pharmaceutical people. Let’s give all primary school kids ‘free’ milk so we don’t have to look at whether their parents are providing for them, or do anything about it if they’re not.
New Zealanders should be ashamed of themselves for even thinking of taking free milk from a company like Fonterra, whose moral compass was well and truly exposed for the faulty mechanism it is during the Chinese infant formula scandal. New Zealanders should be ashamed that kids are going hungry and not being provided for by their parents, and that nothing is being done to solve the root problem. New Zealanders should be ashamed to have voted in a government that espouses the free market economy to the degree that they’re happy to stand back and watch poor families feed kids with Coke – which is cheaper than bottled water in supermarkets – and then happy to watch while that same ‘free’ market economy pushes itself into our primary schools in a blatant attempt to get kids indoctrinated into drinking cow’s milk when they’re young enough to fall for the strategy.
It’s a sign of complete denial right throughout society.
And we haven’t even started on the ethical reasons for rejecting cow’s milk, from a vegetarian point of view. But before we go there, what about the huge number of children who are lactose intolerant, or for one reason or another, don’t want to, or can’t, drink milk? Is Fonterra going to provide non-dairy alternatives, as well? This is like going to a dinner party and finding that the only thing on the menu is scrambled eggs.
It’s clear at this point that the National government doesn’t give a flying fuck about animal welfare, from its support of animals being used to test ‘smart drugs’ to its high tech research into ways to reduce sheep farts to its rank refusal to ban caged chicken farms; so I’m not surprised that the government doesn’t have an ethical problem with a multinational profit-driven dairy operation ‘gifting’ an immoral product to schools.
Okay, there are some amongst us who consider ourselves vegetarians and animal lovers who don’t really have a problem with dairy farming, and I have friends who grew up on dairy farms and reckon the farmers treated “their” herds with love and respect, and that the factory dairy model isn’t relevant to New Zealand.
I’d like more information about the typical New Zealand dairy farm. It’s probably true to say that most of the farms that provide milk to Fonterra are small to medium sized, and while they might have the latest milking technology, they’re probably not near as inherently evil as their Stateside counterparts. But there are a couple of important caveats. If I’m wrong here, I’d love someone to tell me so, but everything I’ve read indicates the following: That dairy cows are kept producing milk for the maximum ‘yield’, which means that as soon as they stop producing milk, they have to be artificially impregnated again. And that after the inevitable birth, the calves are killed for veal (if they’re bulls).
Another consideration that’s more about health is the environmental cost of milk production, the agricultural chemicals that will be found in any milk other than organic milk, and the processing of modern milk, which strips out and re-introduces the constituent parts, making it a kind of Frankenstein milk that barely resembles that which comes straight from the udder.
There’s been a big campaign against raw milk this year, because occasionally someone dies when it’s not as clean as it should be, but that campaign contained a lot of so-called logic bereft of truth. Are they saying that in the 21st century, with all the technology and methodologies and checking procedures available to us, that there’s no way to make raw milk safe to consume?
But that’s a side consideration.
The fact is that most of the foods that in the 1950s were considered staples of building up strength and resilience in our children are now known to be bad for us. Back then, charcoal meat swimming in lard and a few grey veg that had had the life boiled out of them was considered a healthy meal. And milk was the nectar of the gods.
Now we know, because science tells us, that a plant-based diet is incontrovertibly better for us than a meat-based diet. But all the evidence is being conveniently ignored by our public servants, the government, who don’t want to annoy either the producers (the farmers) or the big business at the other end of the equation.
And that’s how we end up with something as lackluster as ‘free’ milk in primary schools. No, it’s not free, because there is and will be a price to pay. GARY STEEL