Friday, September 14, 2007

Did you hear the story about....

A couple of weeks back, I stopped in to visit a local shop keeper who just happens to be in "production mode" (ie she's pregnant). She is a raw food vegan, so sometimes, we chat about that. Anyhow, she was relaying a conversation she had had with a co-worker and how she had reacted. The co-worker, who Jane (I've changed her name) says is an intelligent, educated woman, questioned her about whether or not she was going to breast feed her baby, given that she was a vegan and did not eat dairy products and given that human breast milk is also a mammalian milk. I found this story absolutely hilarious, it was so ridiculous. But later on as I began to think about what the woman had said, I saw a thread of logic. She built her case on the following: cows are mammals, humans are mammals, so if you are going to avoid one mammals milk then why not another? (I'm just trying to see it from her perspective.)
Well...I had to retell this story to my husband for a laugh and as he stated, "I think she's missing the point". One point (at least an obvious one) surrounding this topic is that humans are the only species that drink other animals milk (a species specific liquid produced for the sole purpose of nourishing offspring). What choice does a human baby, or any other "baby" in the animal world, have but to seek it's mother's milk? Only the human species has taken it upon themselves to interfere with this most perfect design by providing other substitutes for our own milk (infant formula and cow or goat milk for instance). Generally speaking, you don't see this happening in other species. (Yes, I know about the stories, with pictures even, of orphaned kittens being nursed by a lactating dog. ) Not to mention that other school of thought which questions why a human even needs milk, it's own mother's or any other mammal's, after the very earliest years. (As a mother who did nurse her children, I say "Thank goodness most of us our weaned to a cup in toddler hood".)
As a vegan, and I think I could say this for most other vegans, I am not avoiding "mammalian milk". I am avoiding milk so as not to support giant factory-farmed, profit-driven dairy industries which deny basic rights to the livestock in order to meet the enormous demand . Some vegans, eschew dairy products for other reasons (religious, dietary, health). But to think a "vegan" would deny her own baby, the milk that the body is producing, designed for optimal nutrition, because she avoids cow's milk, is ludicrous!
Of course, in reality, had I been the person confronted with this statement, I might have reacted as "Jane" did, rather stunned and taken aback. I chuckle to myself, as I am not usually quick on the draw and sometimes, when questioned about my dietary choices, have felt somewhat challenged and defensive (I call myself a former "angry vegan".) Fortunately, though I am feeling more confident and open to people's viewpoints and usually view it as interested curiousity. When words fail to come, then often, example is the best teacher. Hopefully, my lifestyle and demeanor can speak volumes.

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