Easter eggs are now a political football with Animals Australia is using them as an opportunity to spread the word – and the guilt – about eating food laced with dairy cruelty.
At the same time, the Australian Raw Milk Movement is preaching the gospel of Vicki Jones, the woman behind the recalled milk associated with the death of a toddler. Apparently cows being treated with antibiotics when they fall ill are “paying the price” for the milk we conventional farmers provide. Better to assume no animal on an organic farm ever falls ill (or can simply “disappear” if she doesn’t respond to a massage with magic cream).
It disheartens me tremendously that treating a sick animal with the best medicine available can be dressed up as some form of cruelty but I think I’d better get used to it fast. Why? Because there are two movements gathering pace in Australia: “food fear farming” and “orthorexia nervosa”.
Food fear farming for product differentiation
You can make money from frightening mums and dads in the supermarket.
Milk that contains added permeate (which is an ugly name for milk’s natural sugars and vitamins), is pasteurised, comes from cows fed some grain or is not organic can be made scary. And non-scary milk gets a lift!
This is a basic marketing principle called “product differentiation” and is used by marketers in every consumer goods category from toilet paper to life insurance to gain market share or justify a higher price.
“When we were conventional dairy farmers I felt so frustrated at being powerless in the industry but now we are price setters and have security. It actually feels like we are running a business.”
– Vicki Jones, raw milk farmer, The Weekly Times, 17 September 2014
The reality is that as the margins around milk become tighter and tighter, we can expect to see increasingly desperate attempts to differentiate milk brands from the mainstream.
Nutrition lecturer at UNSW Australia, Rebecca Charlotte Reynolds, wrote in The Conversation recently, that:
Orthorexia nervosa, the “health food eating disorder”, gets its name from the Greek word ortho, meaning straight, proper or correct. This exaggerated focus on food can be seen today in some people who follow lifestyle movements such as “raw”, “clean” and “paleo”.
Of course, food-centric righteousness comes in many forms and I’m watching as animal activists and food activists come together.
That quest for purity teamed with the need to differentiate what is otherwise a commodity product is perfect for farmers and food marketers desperate to make a dollar. Sadly, it’s often at the expense of everyday farmers and shoppers like you and me. And, if they could have their way preventing the use of basic medicines like antibiotics, the wellbeing of innocent cows.
29 thoughts on “The politics of Easter eggs”
Your posts are always interesting, Marian. The issues seem to be a bit different over there than what I hear of here in the States. Here it has been the use of rBST in dairy, and antibiotics in feed to help chickens/turkeys grow faster, and as a preventative in crowded conditions when they are not sick. There is nothing like antibiotics when you need them, and resistant bacteria are a problem for animal and human alike from overuse. Beekeepers have done the same with the use of antibiotics and mitocides in hives as preventatives even when there is no problem. I remember this being presented as proper mangement in beekeeping class years ago. With bees there is always the problem of “bugs with bugs”, and proper use of IPM to prevent parasite/bacterial resistance and sickening of the bee itself, not to mention contamination of the honey.
Routine use of antibiotics in dairy cows doesn’t make sense because, apart from everything else, our milk is tested for antibiotics every time it is collected. It has to be free of any antibiotic residues and, if any is found, all the milk is ruined.
Anyone who has a penicillin allergy, for example, can be confident that our milk is safe.
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I get a little tired of people, like me who wasn’t food as unprocessed as possible, being lumped in with Animals Australia. I milk a cow, kill and keep chickens for eggs and make my own bacon because I am not happy with the standard mass market practice of these products. Does that make me a radical? (At least milk has come a long way now, it’s possible to buy three different brands of milk that hasn’t been pulled apart and put back together)
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You’re not being lumped in with Animals Australia, Beeso!
It is the Australian Raw Milk Movement that is now quoting Voiceless and reposting their material as a reason to embrace raw milk (although I’m not sure how pasteurisation is linked to animal abuse).
Are you a radical? Yes, I think so but in a very positive way!
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It’s a bit like the climate change deniers Marian. The more science you present, the less they believe the facts. Conspiracy ideation and cognitive dissonance and all that jazz.
The thing I don’t understand is why a flaky mob like AA are seen as a sensible representative group . Seems the RSPCA have abdicated there role here.
I wonder if the RSPCA is in a vexed position from a PR standpoint. Being responsible isn’t as media-worthy as being sensational and AA has captured the limelight, positioning itself as the animal welfare lobby that is prepared to “do what it takes”.
So this would look like the nasty vermin is the marketeer. Harvesting fear and consumer sentiment…
Just can’t tell the difference between real food with uncleansed risk versus over-processed food with introduced risk any more.
Very interesting to hear this from your point of view as a producer.
I went through an orthorexic phase a couple of years back and was heavily influenced by the Weston Price foundation. I was one of the ones who stalked the health food store for bath milk to drink because it would sell out stupidly quick. Extremism in any form is unhealthy, and consumers I think are easily suckered in by promises of purity and perfect health. I now shudder every time there is a post on clean eating or detoxing on Facebook. It’s a pretty deep issue cutting people at their core and capturing them by their fear, but also giving a sense of grandeur with “righteous eating”. I am worried what this cultural phenomenon will do to our health in the long run, and I’m sorry that it will effect our hard working producers such as yourself by people who don’t have all the information, or even worse, ignore it.
Thanks for your perspective, Annaliese.
Yes, the moral superiority exuded on some of the websites by many of the adherents is breathtaking. It’s especially bemusing when they are denigrating much of my everyday life without the benefit of any expertise or experience.
With the benefit of having been there yourself, how should farmers like me respond, if at all?
I don’t think there is anything you can do, bar what you are already doing. You are transparent, and what you have written on this blog has given me more of an insight into what your industry goes through better than anything else I have read.
I now buy my milk based on taste, even if it is the most expensive on the shelf. But I also know that is what is best for farmers too.
Thanks very much, Annaliese and congrats on getting better!
You get freaks, nutters and rent-a-crowd types in all industries, looks like the raw milkers bunch are just having their day in the dairy sector. Just ignore them as blow in and blow out again and they will always find a disgruntled or broker and desperate odd-beat journo to give them air time until reality and the truth kicks in.
Their accusations, no matter how plausible they sound to the misguided, uninformed and easily persuaded, do sting a little for those in the industry but hang in there you have the vast majority behind you and your industry.
Try not to engage them as that confuses them into thinking they hold something relevant and worth arguing over, including not posting their comments in your blog that send the rest us groaning over their views and feeling embarrassed they are of the same species and allowed out for a day untethered to make silly purile claims, in public, using their children as media stunts. Quality, quality people really, the nurses that let them out should be fired.
P.S. That’s 3 glasses of fresh milk you owe me now… 🙂
I certainly don’t want any form of deep engagement with the extremists but the issue is that people who just want to try “milk as it used to be” tend to read this stuff and there’s so much of it, there needs to be some sort of balancing material. Yes, I am ambivalent.
There isn’t an issue it seems with those that choose to pursue “milk as it used to be”, an honourable pursuit that in reality many just can’t pursue for a range of reasons.
For those that can, its simple really, just go local (i.e. walking distance from your friendly dairy cow twice a day) and drink on collection or soon thereafter or if this is your thing, go live in a collective.
For those that cant, or choose to live in latte world and have an above average paying job and still want to get milk fresh and clean delivered daily then welcome to having it treated, processed, packaged and presented in a manner which meets all sorts of compliance, regulatory and safety rules and pay for the convenience and safety.
Its either one or the other, take your pick. To try and deliver the former to the latter under a different guise and people die, including children and babies, for what? Personal gain of those anti-anything related to our current rules around food treatment, processing and handling.
I am not sure the nutters or their evangelistic followers understand this as they seem to think they can have it both ways and post some stunning wonderful but seriously invalid and flawed arguments on various social forums or in media channels through disgruntled or just plain dumb journos. It scares me that people see merit in their content or that it even warrants benefit of thought.
We don’t live in an ideal world, we live in a world full of constraints and compromises and this is just one of the simple compromises we make due to constraints being imposed from learned experiences in the past.
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1, i didn’t see any Easter egg link….?
2, I drink raw milk (because I milk my own cow) and think that a system of regulation that allows people a choice of raw or pastuerised milk is positive. I do not equate raw milk and cruelty-free animal husbandry, nor does anyone I know.
3, not everyone who drinks raw milk or eats organic eggs or likes kale is orthorexic, it is an obsessive compulsive disorder that focus’ specificlly on a set of rule-based eating practises. Being obsessed about germ control can also be seen as a form of OCD depending on the lengths someone goes to.
4, you are very biased in your handling of information which I think is at least manipulative even if it may not mislead.
I’ll respond to each of your points with the same numbers.
1. The Animals Australia Easter egg campaign is easy to find with Google but I’m not going to link to it here.
2. Of course you’re perfectly entitled to milk your own cow. You just can’t sell her milk to anyone without pasteurising it. It is the Australian Raw Milk Movement that is making the link repeatedly. If you are as surprised as I am, take a look at their Facebook page for yourself.
3. I have not suggested that everyone who drinks raw milk or eats organic eggs or likes kale is orthorexic.
4. I’m sorry you feel that way but, if you do a little more research on AA’s Easter egg campaign and the ARMM, you might appreciate my point of view.
I don’t appreciate you point of view but like everyone that is what I choose. Main issue here is that people should have the right to chose, end of discussion. Not saying you noted this but for anyone who is believing the media hype please prove to me the child who died in Oct 2014 died from drinking raw milk! Blessings to the parents of this dear child. Really sorry our govrnment have used your child’s passing as a scapgoat to this disguisting move to outlaw raw milk. Bring it on the Australian Milk industry and our pathetic governemnt to have a debate on this issue. Really tired of all the rubbish that goes on with this type of issue. If you want to drink raw milk drink it if you don’t then don’t. EASY
sorry I did not correct my spelling errors 🙂
Thanks for your comment Kath,
This post wasn’t actually meant be be a debate about the merits of pasteurisation or raw milk but about the tactics of the groups with an interest in it. Personally, I think the group called the Australian Raw Milk Movement is making a very strange set of links between raw milk, organic farming and animal welfare.
I appreciated the article as its good to see someone else is noticing what’s going on. The raw milk movement is headed by the owner of the Raw Store and they’ve also decided to provide a platform for Vicki Jones whenever she wants to promote her business or spread misinformation and slander about others businesses.
Given that harassing politicians through bulk copy and paste emails seem to be having no effect they have turned their attention as you said to turning it into an animal abuse issue. While the movement was about people having the right to access milk it is fast becoming a place to share overseas articles that misrepresent the situation in Australia, spreading misinformation about the Aus farming industry through farmers who have a self interest in selling their own product as of course they’re producers of the ‘very rare’ ethical organic farms..
If the links they made came naturally and it’s what their community wanted then that would be fair enough, but even their supporters seem to be tiring of It. They’ll use your blog post as another way to differentiate themselves because it’s much easier to constantly make themselves look like they’re trying to be silenced and discredited to keep it a david vs Goliath type battle as opposed to actually provide well thought out and researched content. They think it’s a sign that they’re having an impact instead of people tiring of their antics while they should be more concerned about people seeing the movement for what it is, fueled by self interested parties going negative on anyone who doesn’t agree with them.
Sorry for the long post, I’ve been watching the movement for a while now too few seem to call them out for what they’re doing. Also it still feels pretty gross when people defend Vicki’s farms milk as the cause of death of a child because she says the parents told her the child was already sick and of course the other kids didn’t get sick from the milk either and it’s all a ‘media beat up’ instead of their diary possibly being responsible, the movement has shown no sense of class or decency when they have mentioned what happened.
Also I’m enjoying checking out your blog.
thanks for your reply, I didn’t take your post as a debate on any matter nor were my intentions to have one. Doesn’t matter what it is we have a right to choose. I find it disappointing when people make reference to Vicky Jones’s raw milk indirectly or directly accusing their raw milk as the cause of the dear child’s death. We still have no proof to the claims. Paul maybe you can give us an update on this. It is a very sad world we live in. Pity everyone cannot come together on this matter. I think how animals are treated etc is a different issue. The issue here is freedom of choice. I also think Vicky Jones is entitled to her opinion on how she felt about being a conventional farmer. As you are on your blog. All the best.
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I appreciate your concerns about products being differentiated from yours in a way that might make your seem less desirable – that must be a vulnerable feeling, and it’s obviously important to you and your family’s livelihood not to have your produce de-valued. And I also really appreciate your attempts to educate people on why farmers legitimately use antibiotics to treat sick animals. However, I don’t think you’ve accurately reflected the concerns of people like Vicki Jones & those who are part of the ARMM or the broader fair food movement in Australia.
As I understand it from Vicki and other dairy farmers I know, the regular need for antibiotics due to frequent occurrences of mastitis is a problem that can be avoided through different management strategies – lower stocking rates, less grain inputs to their diets, and different milking regimes for example. I’m anything but an expert on dairy and happy to be told I’ve misunderstood if that’s the case. But I know with our pigs that we only require antibiotics for a sick animal once or twice a year – they simply rarely get sick in a healthy, low-stocking density environment with a diverse diet of whole foods. So perhaps you could write something about the realities of antibiotic use on conventional dairy farms? I know I’d be interested to read that in order to understand it better.
As for the orthorexia nervosa bit – I’d suggest it’s not helpful nor accurate to attempt to characterise the growing fair food movement of people genuinely concerned about the provenance and conditions of food production as mental illness. The condition is, as others have pointed out, a serious obsession and compulsion that detracts from a person’s ability to interact ‘normally’ with others. Dismissing everyone fighting for a food system that is more just for animals, soil, farmers and eaters as mentally ill is disingenuous to say the least, and appears to put you in a position I don’t believe you want to be in as someone unconcerned about these issues.
In the years that you and I have interacted, I’ve known you to care deeply about food production and the health and well being of your cattle, as well as farmers’ livelihoods. I’d personally love to see you fight with the movement rather than rail against us.
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Thank you Tammi.
This post is not about the value of our produce. I could choose to go down the same path as Vicki but have chosen not to on purely ethical grounds. After all, Vicki herself says she is making more money selling raw milk than she was selling her milk legally.
I am concerned about these issues. The intense fear mongering of the ARMM which describes conventional milk as a “safety issue” and suggests that “inhumane” treatment of animals is de rigeur on conventional farms will only intensify the anxiety of people who already have irrational fears about their food.
If you have influence with them, Tammi, it would be wonderful if you could inject some fairness into the ARMM’s characterisation of Aussie family dairy farms.
Fair request, Marian. I’ll see how I go, though posts like this unfortunately serve to fuel the fire rather than help get everyone onto the same page. And I really am interested in a post about antibiotic use on a standard Australian dairy, if you’re interested in writing one from your perspective.
I’d also just reiterate that I don’t actually believe organic or raw milk farms are trying to use fear as a marketing tool – they are genuinely concerned about routine practices on many conventional farms. Of course their product is consequently differentiated – I know it’s important to farms like ours to ensure people know how our pigs are raised as we want all pigs raised outdoors like ours and we want everyone to have access to genuine free-range meat. But sometimes those motives are misread re profit or greed by conventional farmers. Fortunately, it does seem that farming that is fair to animals seems to be proving profitable. Hopefully that means more farmers can move in that direction to their own and their animals’ benefit.
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I would appreciate it, Tammi.
The people at ARMM are just so vehement in their view that normal Aussie farmers like me are focused on money to the detriment of our cows that I don’t like your chances. Even a farmer who believes raw milk should be sold has been banned from their discussion simply because they have been ruled to have “a different agenda” to that of ARMM. In circumstances like these, coming together seems impossible as we are vilified the instant we are identified as normal farmers.
I write Milk Maid Marian because I think people who are not from Aussie dairy farmers might appreciate an insight into what we do here. I’m happy to write a post on antibiotics but will have to think about how to do it because it’s very simple: when we see an infection (not a metabolic problem, which are incredibly rare), we treat it with the best medicine to help the cow recover as quickly as possible.
Obviously Marian you are privy to knowledge about the autopsy of the child and medical reports of other sick children that even the coroner is not yet privy to. You must have insider information.
I drink raw goat milk and I will drink raw cow’s milk anytime I can get it over the pasteurised, processed white liquid that is sold in supermarkets and the public is being conned into calling ‘milk’.
It is not your fault as you and many farmers like you are victims of the big corporations and they control you and the markets. By golly, you had better toe the politically correct line, my dear, or else you will be in real trouble. Financially that is. They tell you what you need to say and like good little boys and girls you ask them how high do you want me to jump.
I find it quite offensive and judgemental that people are still blaming raw milk as the cause of the child’s death and the sickness of several other children. Plus the media hype and conning of the public that took place in December 2014 was a public con of the very worst kind.
We deserve to have the choice to buy fresh cow’s milk if we so choose and to drink it, bath in it or do whatever we deem appropriate. If you really want to look at what is being done to the food supply, I would be more scared of the chemicals being poured onto soils and ingested by cows, goats and other animals that we use for dairy produce, meat and food stuffs.
I have no argument with you drinking your processed cow juice. Please let me and others have our cow milk and goat milk au naturel. Going by media hype I should have died at 12 months when my mother weaned me off the breast and I was fed, (GASP) raw cow’s milk except then in the fifties it was called fresh. Yes, I am 60 and still around despite drinking milk raw. Either I am made of tougher stuff than today’s kids or there is something really wrong with yours and other hypothetical argument against RAW milk. I have a fairly strong suspicion it is the latter case.
Why not ban Coke Cola? That stuff is much more of a health hazard than raw milk. Why take a dig at Vicki Jones? I thought you were in the same industry? So she chose to be certified Organic and at one stage before the ridiculous extremist hype in the media about ‘toxic and killer’ milk the Jones sold fresh unpasteurised milk from their dairy. Is she hurting your business or are you the unofficial mouth for Dairy Safe Australia?
Your blog seems overly concerned about justifying your farming methods. Yes, it is interesting in some parts but I feel a hint of paranoia there about the Australian Raw Milk Movement. Have they got you worried? Do you think they may secretly feed your cows unprocessed hay? What is your problem with the Mountain View Farm? Do you know for a fact that it was raw milk that killed the child and made the other children sick? Has that been proved beyond reasonable doubt?
Innocent until proven guilty my friend, Non or Nous sommes en France, guilty until proven innocent????
I’ll take the expert judgement of the Health Department over that of Vicki Jones and the ARMM any day. They have spent a lot of time denigrating the hard work and high quality milk of almost every other farmer in the country to further their cause.
We also drank raw milk straight from the milk vat as children. Just to be clear: the problem with raw milk is that it is variable in quality and after it has been transported from farm, deterioration can be rapid indeed.
And no, I am not anyone’s stooge (as much as some might like me to be). This blog is a reflection of how I feel about things. I am not elected or paid to represent anybody else. There’s no conspiracy here!
Not anyone’s stooge. LOL you can fool some people some of the time, but it is pretty hard to fool all of the people all the time. No conspiracy. Gee, I really do want to see what toxic milk looks and smells like. Toxic milk is nothing like fresh raw milk, It is more like the over-processed liquid sold as milk and that was a neat little side step of the real issue, Marian. Coroner’s report please. Have you read it and the autopsy report? This nonsense about ‘killer milk’ makes me want to keel over with laughter, if it was not so serious.
What about toxic chemicals on overstocked pastures, animals stressed to the limit in the push for production? Production and production and money, yes we do test and test that milk and so they should because really the problem is the milk that is being over processed eliminate all the ‘diseases and bacteria’ so their a$$es are protected and they can show paper work and hide the real problem which the big corporations are facing in today’s world. How all these chemicals and very toxic chemicals, I might add, are affecting and contaminating the food supply from soils to the vegetables grown in it and to dairy products from animals that consume the grasses and more and how children are being affected by the chemicals in their foods. You have bought into the big lie very well. Yes there are some overseas farms in Europe that do shed most of the year around but they do have very good management protocols in place. Here in Australia, things are a mite shoddy and in the states it is worse.
Do you soil test and do you test your milk for heavy metals and the build up of toxic chemicals? I wonder. You probably do not care. One day your children and grandchildren might have wished that you did.
As I said, I write my blog to have conversations about what we do on our farm because I love to write and I love farming, too. I am not paid (however lovely that would be), elected or censored.
If you have any information to support your accusations, now is the time to present it.