Leave them calves (and cows) alone …

… and go vegan? 

Some people ask us whether we have personal tips on climate issues that you can implement yourself. The media are now full of appropriate proposals, nevertheless we now have a section “action” where we want to gather ideas. There are many useful, positive changes that are easy to implement.

However, our goal of being vegan and live mostly plastic-free was challenging initially. Even if you (gladly) do without all the meat substitutes – most milk alternatives are only available in beverage cartons. Gradually, however, the range of products is expanding, and the shop for unpackaged food nearby now also sells tofu and soy yogurt in returnable jars. 

The step into vegan life is perhaps even easier than usual at the moment, as the restaurants are still closed anyway, most people are more at home and the range of vegan products is growing.

“In times of Corona,” said Karin Mück from “Hof Butenland” in the summer of 2020 in a TV-talk (NDR), “we have a new opportunity to see, if we want to continue to live like this, if we want to keep dealing with the animals this way? (…) How would life be if we just leave the animals alone?” In the last article we presented the documentation about the cow retirement home that she and the former organic farmer Jan Gerdes run.

“This compassion that you shouldn’t have as an exploiter of animals”

In the NDR panel discussion, Gerdes described very vividly the inner process that got started when he began to feel more and more compassion for his cows and calves: “This compassion, which you shouldn’t have as an exploiter of animals. Anyone who starts to care about them has already lost and can no longer carry on with this system,” he says. “And then at some point I noticed that this was also damaging my health.” – He and Karin Mück realigned their lives completely. And the two appear very balanced and fulfilled with their work and their lives.

Last year, the film “Butenland” gave us the final impetus to permanently leave organic dairy products and eggs on the shelves and to eat completely vegan. Our appetite for meat and eggs was long gone considering the cagerearing of chicken, the “shredding” of chicks, the castration of piglets, keeping of sows in boxes and the never ending scandals in meat production. And about milk … more on that below.

First the practical tip: The PETA Veganstart program is really a helpful support on the way to a vegan diet, where you receive an email every day for 30 days with information, recipes and background knowledge from nutritionist Jennifer Seim and the Veganstart- Team. For free, informative and motivating.

For us these 30 days have passed incredibly quickly. And since then there has been no impulse to return to old eating habits. Our approach to food has become even more conscious, we have discovered a lot: new types of sprouts, various types of beans, cereals and vegetables. For a while we only bought basic food products, made soybeans into soy milk and yogurt and tofu, fermented every vegetable we could get our hands on, experimented with new spices. In addition, there was the helpful basic rule for vegan cooking (thanks to Lisa!): Take with every meal: a grain, a green and a bean.

Take: a grain, a green and a bean

When cooking, you simply combine 1. Grains (pasta, spelt, rice, quinoa, millet, bulgur, couscous, wholemeal flour, etc.) with 2. greens (spinach, cabbage, savoy cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts etc., but also carrots, tomatoes, paprika…) and 3. beans in all varieties, including lentils, chickpeas, green peas, tofu and soy products … this gives you the basic formula for the ideal daily nutrient combination.

In addition it is worth to choose a good B12 product and to engage in the topic of omega-3 fatty acids (and replace safflower, corn and sunflower oil in the kitchen with linseed oil, rapeseed oil, walnuts and linseed, for example. ) If you give yourself enough time for the change and take a relaxed approach, it feels like an enrichment, not at all like a sacrifice.

Living vegan is – from an evolutionary point of view – unnatural

For all those who still might worry that this form of nutrition is “unnatural”, there is a nice (and funny) article by evolutionary biologist Macken Murphy, who initially even agrees with the critics: from an evolutionary point of view, “veganism is one unnatural way of life. “

Macken writes: “Our bodies evolved to kill other animals.Our musculoskeletal anatomy is perfectly tuned to throw objects with lethal speed and precision. We didn’t evolve this strange ability to throw baseballs, but to throw spears — a skill we have utilized to slaughter large mammals since the time of Homo erectus. After we abandoned the forest for the savannah, our lineage developed an expanded waist to let the upper torso twist independently, dropped shoulders to give our chest muscles more leverage, and lowered humeral torsion to allow for more dramatic rotation of the shoulder. These three adaptations made it possible for our species to whip objects through the air at speeds our ape ancestors could not hope to achieve, killing dangerous prey from a safe distance.

Similarly, we have a remarkable capacity to run long distances, a trait that is also absent in our closest cousins (who, by the way, are not vegans). Our species can run down almost any animal, so long as the distance is far enough. (…) We gained this ability likely to exhaust our prey through persistence hunting on the savannah, chasing our bigger, stronger victims until they were unable to resist further, and then spearing them. Natural selection dindn´t make us marathon runners so that we could chase down carrots”.

There is no Eden for us to return to.”

Among experts in human evolution, human omnivory is as uncontroversial as our bipedality. Indeed, arguing that it is unnatural for us to eat meat is entirely analogous to arguing it is unnatural for us to walk. We have physical adaptations to do so, almost every human does so, and the fossil record shows we have always done so.

However, if you think these facts deal a mighty blow to the project of veganism, you are deluded.

First, modern-day omnivory is equally unnatural. Pumping an inbred chicken full of antibiotics, raising them in a cage barely more spacious than your laptop, and then turning them into nuggets using an automated factory line is as artificial as it gets. One can hardly defend this process, from laboratory to drive-through, by saying it’s “natural.

Second, natural is not a synonym for healthy. It is entirely unnatural to wash your hands, get vaccinated, and visit the doctor annually — I still recommend you do all those things if you want to live a long life. Similarly, I recommend you shift to a plant-based diet: Vegans and vegetarians have dramatically lowered risks of heart disease and cancer, and we are less likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypertension, or diabetes. Given this information, it won’t surprise you to learn that vegans generally live longer. Living a vegan lifestyle isn’t particularly natural, but neither is living past 60, and I plan to do both.

When we ask what is natural, we merely look back over our shoulders; if we want to look forward, we need to ask what is right.

Finally, and most importantly, natural does not mean moral.(…)

To list only a few examples:

Lying is a natural behavior in our species — the ability to deceive someone when advantageous gave your ancestors a tremendous edge in the fight for survival. But if you caught your child in a lie, you surely would not accept a lecture on natural selection as an excuse. (Though, admittedly, depending on the age of your child, such a lecture might be sufficiently impressive to distract you from your anger.)

We vegans often hear meat-eaters make the following blunder as if it were checkmate: “Humans are naturally omnivores.” Imagine, for a moment, if I were caught lying, cheating, or attacking another human, and responded with, “Humans naturally [insert unethical act here].” The truth is, living as nature intended is not merely unhealthy; it is also patently immoral. If we calibrate our moral compass towards the lives of early Homo sapiens, we will doom ourselves to backward movement across the moral map. When we ask what is natural, we merely look back over our shoulders; if we want to look forward, we need to ask what is right.

Macken continues: “Veganism is not natural, but it is right. When we purchase animal products, we pay for animals to live in conditions that make dog shelters look like the Ritz. On our farms, piglets are castrated without anesthesia, chicks are ground up alive in a blender on their first day of life, and baby cows are robbed from their mothers and turned into veal. The creatures humans eat and wear are electrocuted, shot in the face, stabbed in the neck, and forced into gas chambers; they scream when they die. If you treated a single dog the way farmers treat billions of animals, you would be locked up in a cell and diagnosed with psychopathy. Though veganism is often maligned as an extreme act, going vegan is merely ceasing to pay for this cruelty.

While veganism is, by definition, motivated by the desire to help animals, it helps humans, too. Though the list of humanistic reasons is too long to cover here, veganism boycotts the horrendous exploitation and abuse of slaughterhouse workers, it reduces your contribution to indigenous land theft, and it is one of the greatest lifestyle changes you can make to help stop the existential threat of climate change. Plus, veganism boycotts the most common cause of humankind’s pandemics — including coronavirus.

To go vegan, your empathy need not extend past the boundary of your own species; it need only extend past yourself.” – thus far Macken Murphy.

The advertisment tricks of the dairy industry

For many people, meat is no longer considered to be “the vital force” the advertising slogan once propagated. But it is worthwhile to take a closer look at the tricks of the dairy industry that lead us to consider milk quite natural as a staple food. PETA has listed them (here in excerpts):

  • Naturalness

“The fact that humans are the only species to still consume milk after infancy without questioning it has to do with years of advertising. We are so used to the carton of cow’s milk in the refrigerator that we hardly ever think about how it got there. And that it has little to do with naturalness, imprisoning animals on a huge scale in order to empty their glands and then drink what comes out.”

  • School milk

“How do you lock customers into a product as long as possible? Sure, by getting them used to it from childhood onwards. This is why big milk producers are so keen to supply schools with cow`s milk at reduced prices and to celebrate this as a contribution to general health. (…) But as sensible as it may be to provide children with food in times and regions where there is little nutrition: Fruit, vegetables and whole grain products would be a lot better suited for this than the vanilla milk from the Tetra Pak – only that there is no such big lobby behind them.”

  • The food pyramid

“In the traditional food pyramid, cow’s milk and cow’s milk products have their own category. This is about as arbitrary as declare sesame and sesame products as a separate food group because they are such a great source of protein and include such a variety of things as tahini, hummus, sesame milk and sesame rolls. Sesame seeds are healthy, but we would never think of needing them as a staple food. The dairy industry has done just that for dairy products, even if there are no good reasons for doing so. ”

  • calcium

“When you think of strong bones, you think of calcium. And when you think of calcium, you think of milk. The dairy industry taught us that, even if there are great vegan sources of calcium such as broccoli, tofu or figs, and studies repeatedly show that osteoporosis rates are highest in countries with high milk consumption. Cow’s milk isn’t a particularly good source of calcium for humans, and it’s even been linked to negative health effects such as increased acne and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

  • The dairy association (MIV)

“And why do we believe the dairy industry without questioning? Because we don’t see them as businessmen with their own interests. If individual companies like Danone, Bärenmarke or Dr. Oetker would want to palm so many positive claims about their products off on us, we would be skeptical, after all, we know that these companies make their money with it. That is why these companies – and many more – have come together to form the dairy industry association. And when it goes to schools, on television and in nutrition programs with its marketing tricks, it no longer looks like advertising a single brand, but more like a caring program with which scientists and experts only want to benefit us. We don’t notice that there is a huge corporate lobby behind it.”

Lobbying “against pea drinks and oat sauces”

“Vegan milk substitutes currently only have a small market share of an estimated two to three percent, but they are achieving high growth rates, analogous to the development of meat products,” writes the WELT in early 2021 and cites the (somewhat lachrymose) complaints of the industry: “The Dairies no longer want the milk to be badmouthed. Because vegan drinks have long been taking away market shares from the dairy industry. It’s not fair, complains the industry lobby. (…) Now the dairy industry is opposing it with an industry-wide campaign. “We want to establish good, modern communication about milk,” said Eckhard Heuser, General Manager of the Milk Industry Association (MIV), on Tuesday. The aim is to place milk back in the front of the public attention, “and not pea drinks and oat sauces”.

The WELT also reports (remarkably uncritical, but that’s probably how it is in the economic department) on the planned campaign with the help of a large advertising agency, which costs 3.5 to 4 million euros annually and is to be financed by a levy from the dairies :

“The advertising campaign for milk should start in February. A company for its implementation is being founded, said Heuser. It is supported by the MIV together with the Raiffeisen Association and the German Farmers Association. (…) Due to the limited budget, no expensive commercials are planned,, rather the money will flow into social media, among other things. One of the most important target groups are young families.

The MIV also has an answer – albeit little understanding – for farmers who suffer from low prices and who are constantly fighting for better conditions.

Even in the near future, no sustainable increase in producer prices is to be expected, explains the MIV, followed by the empty phrase: “We stand by the side of the milk producers. But blockades are not a suitable means of enforcing interests. ”- What then? Maybe even more farmers should switch to the production of “pea drinks and oat sauces”?

Lessons in well-functioning lobbyism

The Tagesschau on January 20, 2020 showed how the strategies of the MIV also work in the area of ​​packaging and it even calls the process of legislation about the bottle deposit for milk a “lesson in how lobbying works”. In the original version of the law, an immediate deposit requirement for milk in plastic bottles was still planned. “The dairy industry association then started a large campaign with dubious arguments,” said the Tagesschau. “In an urgent letter to environmental and economic politicians from the Bundestag, which “Panorama” (a TV-programme) has available, the association warned of“ hygienic concerns ”caused by milk residues in the deposit machines. There is a threat of “a microbiological problem”. That sounds dangerous. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture also confirms in writing: The reason for the exception “were hygienic concerns about taking back packaging for milk and mixed milk drinks.”

The milk representatives claimed that the Federal Institute for Risk Research (BfR) had warned against a mandatory deposit. Upon being questioned, the BfR contradicted: “Effects on food safety and the safety of consumers are very unlikely.”

Although the BfR was simply exploited here – the milk in PET bottles remains deposit-free for the time being. And we remember what Macken Murphy said above: Lying is, from an evolutionary point of view, a natural behavior of our species and gives us advantages. Which unfortunately does not neccessarily mean that it is also future-oriented …