Late 2016, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) UK played a prank on passersby to get across their message, “Dog’s’ milks, cats’ milk, rats’ milk, cow’s’ milk – what’s the difference?” They ran focus groups, asking people to try ‘Barker’s Farmhouse Milk’. People were shouting the milk with praise, until they were told it was actually dog’s milk (it was a soy milk).
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word milk?
Calcium? Cows? Icecream? Coffee?
The humble food pyramid poster on your year three classroom wall?
According to Dairy Australia in the financial year of 2015-2016, Australians consumed 2,516 million litres of milk.
This crazy figure makes you wonder, how can we think so positively towards cow’s milk? How do we not spit out milk when we are told it came from a cow, similar to the thoughts of the prank ‘victims’ when they ‘found out’ they were drinking “dog’s milk”?
From a young age, consumers are encouraged to drink milk for its health benefits. We hear this in our schooling, on our televisions, in magazines, on our products. All over the media, we see happy cows, heart ticks, and something about permeate (or lack of).
How is this so different in comparison to say a cup of tea?
In the 2015-2016 Annual Report, Dairy Australia reported investing $9.7 million; in protecting “dairy’s place in the Australian diet”; increasing the “dairy positive health messages heard by consumers from health professionals”; “improving societal trust and respect for the industry”; “positively shift (ing) Balanced Mums attitudes and perceptions around the dairy industry” (including “updating the Australian Curriculum”); and changing “attitudes amongst younger woman”.
Yes, $9.7 million Australian dollars is being spent on ensuring the Australian consumer sees cow’s milk in a positive manner.
Our purchasing power is influenced by the marketing and the media, every day, and yes money speaks through powerful advertising campaigns and public relations tactics. However, again I put to you how do we not spit out milk when we are told it came from a cow? It is not some bizarre secret, consumer’s know where their milk comes from. I am just going to take a dive in the deep end and put it down to speciesism. That being, “a prejudice or bias in favour of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species”. It is the idea that because we are human, we are superior to other species, and therefore have greater rights than them. Let me use an example, say humans consumed cow’s milk for it’s ‘health benefits‘ (Dairy Australia funded webpage), despite the pain that a cow endured.
The influence of the media on consumers, can be seen by the disregard we have for an animal, when we consume their by-products, eg. milk. This is not necessarily because consumers do not care for animals, but because they do not correlate drinking milk with animal’s suffering. A recent example of the influence of the media on Australian consumers, was a segment of The Project where Waleed Aly, a well-known journalist, called on viewers to support Australian farmers, as shown in the video below. This had a massive response throughout Australia with over 4.1 million views and 93,000 shares, on Facebook alone (The Project 2016). In just a month after the video was released, South Coast’s local dairy ‘The Berry Rural Co-operative’ received a 54 per cent jump in demand for local milk.
Humans have utilised the natural process of an animal, not only for their own good, but at the expense of another. However, while consumers are placing their needs above that of dairy cows for self-centered reasons (taste, supposed health benefit, thirst) they do not feel guilt or shame. They are ignorant to the prejudice they have placed on animals, this is then justified by happy advertisements of such products(see video below) where there is an emphasis on imagery of lush fields, and descriptions of “creaminess”, “wholesome”, “natural”, “farmers”, and “pure”.
“Milk is, milk is, milk is milk, right? Well, not exactly. See us dairy farmers know that…”
“The dairy industry has become a very powerful economic force” (Vox 2016)
The below video provides an overview of the dairy industry and its power to influence consumers. It is an American clip, however holds true many values and factors, that Australian consumers are so vulnerable to.
I am not vegan, I consume dairy products, and I am in denial of being a contributor to speciesism. I am one of the ignorant consumers, who bought into whatever the media told me to buy, with disregard to who it might affect. My above research is just some words on a screen, on a topic, in which I am greatly passionate about, however for the love of cheese (one of the most selfish sentences I have ever typed), I
indirectly contribute to speciesism.
There is so much information out there about how the media impacts our choices, and how our perceived superiority of animals is a questionable act. If you would like to know more about these, check out the below links.