Educating the Cornell community about the wide pool of dairy-free products was one of the primary purposes of Monday’s “Dairy Alternative Day” — an event organized by the Cornell Vegan Society and Cornell Students for Animal Rights.
Inspired by the Cornell Dairy Science Club’s annual “Dairy Day,” the Vegan Society and Animal Rights clubs scooped free non-dairy ice cream and offered information on the environmental impacts of non-dairy vs. dairy milk. Across the street, a group of students, one in a bull costume, protested dairy industry practices they see as harmful, brandishing signs in front of the Dairy Bar.
“We wanted to spread awareness about the health, environmental and ethical implications of dairy,” Cornell Vegan Society co-president Lucy Contreas ’21 said. One of their other goals, she said, was to have people pick up free products from the Vegan Society instead of purchasing dairy products from the Dairy Bar.
Chloe Cabrera ’19, the other president of the Cornell Vegan Society, said that her animal science education at Cornell sparked her interest in animal rights.
“It actually wasn’t until I became an animal science major [at Cornell] that I became extremely interested in animal rights because I learned first-hand, from an industry perspective, how callous and how cruel we are to animals,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera described the “two ways” that one can love animals. First, one can love them and care for them, but still maintain a “speciesist lens” and treat them as an inferior species to humans. Or, secondly, one can love animals and “go out of your way to avoid harming them,” she said.
“How could we love our dogs one way, and then turn around and take a pig — an equally, if not smarter species — and treat it worse than we would ever treat any human being, or dog?” Cabrera asked in an interview.
The event also featured British vegan activist and lecturer Earthling Ed, famous for his YouTube channel on which he has friendly conversations with non-vegan passerby. On Monday, he was chewing the cud with members of the Dairy Science club about the ethics of animal agriculture.
President of the Dairy Science Club and a blogs writer for The Sun, Stephanie McBath ’19, responded to some of the common claims made at the event in an interview.
“Cows are mammals and, biologically, need to be milked,” McBath told The Sun. “They spend a maximum of 30 minutes in the milking parlor per day, depending on how many times they are milked.”
Additionally, improvements in technology over the past several decades “have only improved the health and well being of dairy cattle,” she continued.
The tables set up at the event were laden with non-dairy cheeses, non-dairy creme-filled cookies and a multitude of plant-based milks.
McBath voiced a common concern of the dairy industry today, critiquing the use of the word “milk” applying to a product that did not come from an animal.
“We call the product of an orange tree ‘juice,’ yet we call the product of an almond tree ‘milk,’” McBath told The Sun. “It is misleading to a consumer to label imitation products as ‘milk,’ as they do not fit this definition.”
A small group of listeners formed as a member of the Dairy Science club, and Earthling Ed discussed the serious effects of the dairy industry. One woman raised her hand and asked about the ethical concerns of employing refugees in slaughterhouses, and how ending the lives of thousands of animals can “desensitize” workers and “lead to domestic violence and substance abuse.”
The club member nodded and admitted that there are “systemic issues that need to be addressed.”
During the event, members from both the dairy community and non-dairy community remained respectful of the other’s views, and McBath emphasized that freedom of speech is an important value to uphold on campus.