“My baby was born and then passed away during my time working as a dairy farmer, yet I was still so deeply indoctrinated by the industry that I didn’t make the connection between what was happening to other females of another species,” says Jackie Norman.
Norman spent 18 years as a beef and dairy farmer in New Zealand.
“Most people don’t know how women are used to exploit females of another species,” she says. “It’s something I could only see myself once I got away from all that conditioning. And when I did, it made me incredibly angry and want to fall through the floor with shame.”
Her experience is shared by Jessica Strathdee, the New Zealand founder of Mothers Against Dairy. Initially feeling empowered by working with other women in the dairy industry, Strathdee’s perspective shifted after she became a mother.
“When the calving season started, it hit me like a ton of bricks when I saw all these tiny, shattered, broken babies still covered in afterbirth, still with bloody navels standing in the pens, calling for their mums,” she recalls. “And I realized these cows aren’t machines with a tap that you turn on and off. These cows were mothers who birth these babies and I was taking their milk. Even though it was wrong, I was so suckered into the industry’s propaganda.”
One day while breastfeeding her baby and looking out the window at the calf pen, Strathdee had an epiphany.
“I was watching the cows cleaning, loving and just being good mums to those babies,” she says. “These are cows who have probably lost countless babies before, and here I am breastfeeding this little person and realizing how much my baby needed me. And then watching my partner come with the tractor and the cage and taking those newborns away from the mums and seeing the absolute distress of the mums when they were taken – that’s when the blinders completely came off.”
Norman and Strathdee shared their experiences during a recent discussion panel presented by VIVAS to celebrate Amy Taylor’s shocking, powerful new documentary Milked: White Lies in Dairy Land.
Watch the discussion:
Executive-produced by Keeghan Kuhn (Cowspiracy co-director) and Suzy Amis Cameron, the film follows a young activist as he travels across the country meeting current and former dairy farmers, whistleblowers, medical professionals, scientists and environmentalists.
Taylor, who also took part in the VIVAS panel discussion, made the film to showcase the realities of the New Zealand dairy industry.
“So much is justified by the industry such as how it’s working for the economy and farmers need to do it,” says Taylor. “There’s so much greenwashing and the more we discovered, the more we saw how the dairy industry is failing in every way.”
Nivi Jaswal, founder of the Virsa Foundation whose JIVINITI project is helping to decolonize the food system, says the film carries a global message.
“There is a specific message for ethnic minorities and communities of color in Milked,” she says. Both these audiences are carefully profiled and targeted by dairy advertising. Media content creators, especially female, creative professionals in other countries need to investigate similar stories in their own backyard. It’s their job to expose the links that help consumers see how this very brutal, very cruel, very anti-divine-feminine, global dairy complex really operates.”
According to Strathdee, feminism and the dairy industry are interconnected.
“Feminism is so deeply aligned with the cause of animal rights because the sheer disrespect and exploitation to females’ bodies, regardless of what species they are, is gargantuan,” she says.
Find out more about Milked: White Lies in Dairy Land
Watch Milked for free on Waterbear now or on Plant Based News’ YouTube channel (from 25 March)
Watch a rousing speech by Jessica Strathdee of Mothers Against Dairy speech at an animal rights march
Watch Nivi Jawal interviewed by Chef AJ on India’s Dilemma with Development, Dairy & Diabetes
Sign the Milked team’s petition calling for a 25% reduction in dairy herds by 2025
Katrina Fox is an award-winning vegan journalist, publisher, speaker, PR consultant and media trainer who teaches vegan business owners, entrepreneurs and change makers how to get free publicity by sharing their stories. Katrina was a regular contributor to Forbes for a year, writing about vegan and plant-based business. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Vegan Business Media, the host of Vegan Business Talk podcast, and the author of Vegan Ventures: Start and Grow an Ethical Business. Katrina is also the creator of Vegans in the Limelight: Online PR course for Vegan Business Owners and Entrepreneurs, the founder of the Vegan Women’s Leadership Network and host of the Conversations with Vegan Women Leaders podcast. For more information and to hire Katrina, email her at katrina [at] veganbusinessmedia [dotcom]