The Chilling Reality of Cheese: Adirondack Farms


Advocates for ethical veganism are routinely asked about dairy products. “I could easily give up meat,” people will say. That’d be easy.” But “cheese,” they exclaim. “I just can’t part with cheese.” This reaction reflects not only genuine affection for a familiar and comforting taste and texture. It also reflects the implicit idea that an animal didn’t have to be directly killed to make it. This comment is the cue, of course, to note–loosely paraphrasing Gary Francione–that this opinion is dead wrong, and that there’s more suffering in a pound of cheese than a pound of beef.  I have the speech down pat.

But it’s always sad to deliver. It’s amazing how few of even the most highly educated consumers simply don’t know (or don’t want to know?) the details–a true testament to the power of producers to keep their work out of sight. After all, here is what the world’s cheesemongers–“artisan” or otherwise–don’t what consumers to have on their minds:  female cows are repeatedly sent to the “rape rack” to be artificially inseminated, all calves are immediately torn away from their mothers, male calves are summarily killed or crated to become veal, and mothers are milked by machines, re-impregnated, and exploited with ruthless efficiency until their productivity wanes. When that happens, they are shipped to the slaughterhouse.  This scenario plays out on small organic dairy farms as surely as it does on large factory farms. No society should tolerate it.

On factory farms these disturbing practices are enjoined by a host of additional horrors. Sick animals go untreated, diseases are rampant, calves’ horn buds are burned off without anesthesia, and disgruntled workers jab, mutilate, and burn cows for kicks (or out of psychological despair). According to PETA’s recent  expose of Adirondack Farms (where I actually once visited), “workers routinely jabbed and struck cows with a pole and cane, on the face, udder, and hindquarters when leading them into a room to be milked.” Another cow was repeatedly shoved in the ribs with a screwdriver and referred to as “a dumb bitch.”

These details only scratch the surface of what we’re not supposed to see. After a while, one hopes, they start to make that slice of cheese seem a bit less appealing.


About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

6 Responses to The Chilling Reality of Cheese: Adirondack Farms

  1. Nancy Kogel says:

    When I was pregnant with my son, some 2,000 years ago or maybe just 34, my breasts filled up with milk and towards the end, I felt like Marilyn Monroe. This is true of all mammals (well, not the part about M.M.), We females produce a lot of milk in ready to give to our babies. Dairy farms have to keep the cows pregnant in order to keep the milk production at its peak. This is hell for the mother cow, to be pumped of milk while being pregnant and to have this process of artificial insemination, pregnancy, birth … repeated over and over. She becomes severely arthritic after only a little while, very painful. And to have her baby calf pulled away from her ~ both suffer dreadfully. And the baby calf is tied up in a tiny crate unable to move and he can’t even walk to his slaughter, twelve weeks later.

  2. Paula Franklin says:

    Thank you James. There’s also an aspect about dairy, which I’ve learned about from Robert Cohen’s NotMilk column, which is a mildly addictive natural substance called casomorphine. It’s there to sooth the baby calf, and apparently has similar affect on humans. I attribute this mostly unbeknownst factor to why so many vegetarians (including the whole Hindu culture) say they cannot give up dairy/cheese.

    • gfinthecity says:

      Casomorphins are not only soothing, but addictive. This, of course, also contributes to the feeling of “can’t” when it comes to giving up dairy products. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize how little they’ll miss these things once they’ve finally detoxed–or just how much cruelty goes into their production. Always good to keep reminding. Great post, James.

  3. Provoked says:

    People will often eschew eating animals because they don’t wish to cause innocent beings harm. I wish I could show them all these facts ‘n figures:

    There’s nothing “wholesome” about dairy at all.

  4. I often find myself encouraging people to give up dairy over meat, because the animals suffer longer than for meat. (i don’t advocate eating meat either, but if you have to start with one, start with dairy!)

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