Ahimsa - the Sanskrit term and first principle of yoga translated to mean 'non-harming' hailing from a culture that reveres the cow as sacred. And the name of a British commercial farming operation that promises "no cow, calf or bull is ever slaughtered as part of its production." Finally, some people are getting a real ethical choice for dairy milk... outside of milking your own that is.
Ahimsa goes so far as to say, "Seeing as all animals involved in the dairy business are slaughtered at some point, it is questionable whether dairy can be considered as strictly vegetarian." Fodder for thought, vegetarians. In addition to inevitable slaughter, often at only a quarter of their natural lifespan, our dairy industry is known for cruel treatment towards cows that includes practically milking the hormonally-pumped up and incessantly artificially-inseminated cows to death. Often cows are kept indoors at all times, with zero access to grazing. Calves are taken from their mothers soon after birth and, if not slaughtered for their scrawny 'unprofitable' stature, become veal calves, dairy cows or beef bulls. In essence, our cows are treated solely in terms of profitability without so much as a thought given to the value of their lives.
Of course, organic dairy farms are better (but not great). A recent study found that organic farms with happier cows eating healthy diets produce healthier (and more delicious!) milk and less crap (literally).
Ahimsa is different, very different. The aims of Ahimsa Dairy Foundation are lofty and admirable and are as follows:
- No slaughter of cows/calves or bulls
- Protected herd for life
- Pension scheme & hospice for non-productive cows and bulls
- Open grazing policy
- To educate and campaign for slaughter free milk and better care of cows
- To establish an 'Ahimsa' marque / Label certifying slaughter free milk
- To pilot, model and replicate sustainable Ahimsa dairies
- To support the establishment of Ahimsa dairies and ox-working farms
- To further sustainable farming and support biodiversity and the environment
- To explore innovative ways of working with bulls
While some environmentalists will be quick to note the increased ecological footprint of such an operation (where cows are allowed to live out their 'normal lifespans'), those of us concerned with animal welfare might be more than willing to pay the hefty pricetag and encourage agriculture that values the life of animals. After all, the devaluing of life all around us is what has gotten us into this environmental mess anyhow.
What do you think - is Ahimsa the milk of the future?
image: Jeremy Vandell