The sun shone brightly from a hazy blue sky as fluffy white clouds billowed by. The cows were largely sitting, munching on the recently collected cud. The air was heady with the fragrance of the summer hay meadows. It was a seemingly idyllic scene which belied the fact that for most cows Cowspiracy is reality. But why, why do we make it that way? The choice is largely ours.
Gazegill Farm is owned and run by Emma and Ian O’Reilly in a way which they seek to make fair to the land and its history, and respectful and caring to the animals they farm. Everything is farmed organically, with the farm intended as an integral part of the local community.
The jewel in the crown of Gazegill is its 60-odd strong herd of dairy shorthorns. The last time I had met them was in their winter quarters. Today they were well used to their summer pastures and calmly sat with an inquisitive eye as I made my way among them, occasionally sitting down alongside side one, both of us participants in a very English scene.
It really was difficult to fully appreciate that the inquisitive eye watching me fiddle and tweak the camera was a friendly eye and not that of a cow which had never seen a field or been treated in any way other than a machine. It was not one of inquisitive terror nor of instinctive aggression. It could have been. We were at ease with each other whilst obsessed by each other’s behaviour. So, so far removed from the conditions highlighted by animal activists in Cowspiracy and the like.
Yes, these cows around me are lactating for most of their lives, pregnant for over a good half and will be sent to the abattoir when they fail to provide milk. But in the meantime, I was sharing the life they have. To me the balance of good and bad, right and wrong, is in favour of this being acceptable. This is my decision, made by me, for me. It can’t be fully rationalised, nor does it diminish respect for those who go the whole way to veganism. I celebrate the diversity in views.
The key thing to me is that there is the diversity in dairy farming to give me a choice beyond Cowspiracy or nothing. I have been quite shocked by some of the debate I have got involved in where Cowspiracy is put forward as the only way dairy (or beef) farming is practised. That is patently far from the case. These Gazegill cows are grass raised, grass fed and sustainable within the farm and its surrounds. The thing I can’t get my head around is why more consumers do not seek out such farms. The choice between Cowspiracy-produced milk and Gazegill-type milk is a no brainer in all directions. The former is unethical and unsustainable – but it would seem to be one which the majority fall into. I presume through default? It beggars belief as to why anyone should consciously seek it out, the diversity in view which it reflects is certainly not one I can celebrate.
For more on Gazegill farm, see previous visits, here, here and here.
For more on Cowspiracy, see the website of the same name.
[Double clicking on any of the images below will open up that image up in a slideshow format. You can then run the slide show using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. Personally I prefer to go also to full screen having opened the slide show – F11 on my PC, don’t forget to get out of full screen is the same button , not ESC]
This is a really good-looking post, carrying a simple but powerful message. The benefits of the pasture-fed system go far beyond dairy, of course, having an impact on each and every one of us, together with the wildlife we cherish as a nation and the wider environment. Apparently bucolic, it is neither parochial nor outdated. In fact, for many it is the only sensible way forward for 21st century farming: husbandry rather than industry, combining accumulated wisdom and good sense with modern scientific understanding. I am a huge fan of Graham Harvey’s ‘The Carbon Fields: How Our Countryside Can Save Britain’ – highly-recommended reading.