Response to Malta Today’s article “Malta’s unlikely eco-warriors”
Desperate much? Clearly the decline in dairy products is taking a dramatic toll globally, and Malta is no exception. Through sheer desperation, farmers are trying to find ways to cover up the very reasons in which people are choosing to ditch dairy, as well as injecting millions of taxpayers’ money into projects such as the recent Benna logo change and new product range.
“Dairy farmers are saving our natural landscapes and keeping our land green and clean” and “Farmers are essential to the environment, as they keep agricultural land active and protect against overdevelopment” are two of the claims made by Clint Camilleri, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights. He then proceeds to assert, “The perception out there is that the farmer does harm to the environment. This idea also exists within the European Commission”
So why do people hold such a perception? And even more importantly, why does this idea also exist within the European Commission?
Let’s take this opportunity to analyse why, and to give the hard, irrefutable facts on the dairy industry and the serious harm it is causing.
Firstly, let’s address this argument from an environmental point of view. Dairy production has a considerable effect on climate change due to emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. Dairy operations can also be significant contributors to water pollution and soil degradation as well as having a negative impact on air quality.
Dairy production is a leading cause of species diversity loss. Grasslands have suffered a massive loss of biodiversity as a result. What was once a rich ecosystem is now is a single species monoculture.
Dairy operations can consume tremendous amounts of water to grow feed, provide drinking water for cows, and wash away manure and urine from the farms which often pollutes water resources.
At present, over two-thirds of the world’s ice-free land is used for animal agriculture, including beef and dairy cows. It is a major cause of deforestation in many parts of the world, with over 91% of the Amazon Rainforest being cleared to make land for cattle grazing and soybean production as cattle feed.
So going back to the public and European Commission’s opinion of dairy farmers, we can safely say this ‘perception’ they have most certainly holds true. When taking into account the vast amount of resources required, and the harm caused in doing so, it is clear that dairy is highly unsustainable and serves no purpose in “saving our natural landscapes and keeping our land green and clean”, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
If we focus our attention on the health aspect, studies have repeatedly shown that dairy is linked to certain kinds of cancers, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes to name a few. It’s also important to note that cows’ milk is designed to turn a 65-pound calf into a 700-pound cow as rapidly as possible. It is loaded with growth hormones, fatty acids, cholesterol and contains no dietary fibre. Furthermore, why is it that humans are the only species to drink the milk from another species and continue to breastfeed into adulthood? Surely we should have realised by now that cows’ milk is not designed for human consumption and leads to a magnitude of health problems.
If we draw our attention to the ethical aspect of dairy production, it is disturbing to say the very least. Cows are repeatedly artificially-inseminated during their short lives. After a 9-month pregnancy, their babies are taken from them and if male, killed for veal, and if female, separated from their mother until they are old enough to become milking machines. Once the cow is ‘spent’ i.e. can’t produce any more milk due to the strain on her body leading to sheer exhaustion, she is sent to slaughter.
So how can we transition to more sustainable, healthy and ethical farming practices in Malta? Is there a way? Let’s first acknowledge that it is estimated that there are over 20,000 species of edible plants. Many which can be grown anywhere in the world, all year round. not to mention fruit trees, crops, beans, nuts and grains.
There are alternative agricultural means to keeping the landscape visually pleasing as well as ‘clean and attractive’ with the concept of ‘Plant-based permaculture’ being an innovative, effective method. Plant-based permaculture continually looks to nature as the shining example of sustainability. No natural forests were ever built on the manure of domesticated animals after all.
Another option may be a new technique that has emerged over the past 100 years which is ‘raised bed gardening’. This method ensures better soil, fewer weeds and more food in less space without causing harm to the environment, our health or the animals. With the support of the public, Maltese farmers can transition to these farming methods. If there is demand, there’s supply after all.
The most compassionate, environmentally-friendly and healthy lifestyle anyone can choose is a vegan one. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life. It is the most effective way a person can reduce their carbon footprint and nowadays, the number of places in Malta that offer vegan options as well as plant-based milks such as soy, coconut and almond are endless.
If you are interested in finding out more about leading a vegan lifestyle then Vegan Malta would love to hear from you. We can offer you full support and guidance in transitioning to veganism. Alternatively, you can check out our Facebook page ‘Vegan Malta’ as well as our ‘Vegan Malta Eats’ page where you can find posts on everything food-inspired in Malta. If you would like a list of vegan-friendly places in Malta, please check out our website where you can find the ‘Vegan Malta Map’ which many people have found to be invaluable.