By Published On: 29 June 20101277 words6.4 min read

It’s been mentioned here before but, if you’re consuming animals, you’re not vegan, period.  If you are taking “baby steps,” and have yet to evolve from your “vegetarianism,” I’m sorry- you’re not a vegan.  The term “veganism” seems to be applied too loosely, too often.  Without a consistent message, who are we- what’s a “vegan?”

Case in point- Lara Adler.

Ms. Adler has written a very detailed post titled, Why doing the right thing sometimes means doing the “wrong” thing, justifying her use of animals.  Lara Adler says she’s a vegan, yet she consumes cream from cow’s milk.  I’ll briefly explain her justification for this:

She can’t do without butter (she uses the analogy that she shouldn’t suffer without butter).  Earth Balance kills orangutans.  The cow cream she buys comes from an organic family farm.

First, I’ll say that Lara appears intelligent, has a good heart, and genuinely wants to do the right thing by the non-humans of the world.  So, I’m a bit surprised at her lack of an effort to apply her vegan philosophy, and a little shocked at her selfishness:

“But how is THAT (cow cream) vegan??” you may be asking. It’s not – not by the traditional sense, but given the options that exist (besides of course, forgoing all butter-like products forever – something which would contribute to more suffering – my own!), it’s the one that’s the most “vegan” to me.

She details how forests are cleared at massive rates to plant palm for oil production- a key ingredient in margarine products such as Earth Balance.  When these forests are destroyed, so are the habitats of many species, including orangutans.  She’s right.  Lets also consider then, how much forest and other types of natural habitat, such as swampland, are destroyed to make way for soy, corn, bananas, coconuts, wheat, oranges, sugar, coffee, cacao, etc.  Are the lives of cows worth less to Adler than those of orangutans?  Vegans are not (normally) speciesists.

Then, she details how she found a dairy called Milk Thistle Farms, which she describes as “a tiny operation,” who, along with Grazin Angus Acres (beef and eggs), “both worked their farms with love, respect for nature, and respect for their animals.”  So I was curious, what does Milk Thistle do with all the male calves born to the milk-producing mothers?  Sell them to Grazin Angus?  We asked via email, and have yet to hear a response.  On June 18th, we sent this email to Milk Thistle Farms:

I was directed to your website in an article about small organic farming and milk production.  I would like to learn more about your operation and have some questions.

I see that your cows are permitted to roam free the entire “growing season.”  I’m not sure what the growing season is, would you be able to elaborate a bit more what that time frame is?  I’d also like to inquire more about the process in which the cows produce milk.  It is my understanding that a cow will only produce milk if she has recently given birth.  Does your farm impregnate the cows on the farm?  If so, what happens if the calves are born male?  Do these animals remain on your farm, or are they shipped somewhere else?

I sincerely appreciate your time in reading and responding to my questions.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions of your own.  I look forward to hearing back from you.  Thank you in advance and please have a good day.

A farm, regardless of who runs it (IE: A “family farm” or a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation – “CAFO”), is going to be a business first. The animals lives are secondary next to profit.  I know that seems particularly elementary but it’s important when talking to people who use words like humane, family farm, happy animals, etc.  These are the type of people who rarely recognize (or mention) the reproductive requirement of running a farm.  Simply put, a farmer controls the life cycles ( and breeding cycles) of the animals who reside on the farm.  There will always be consequences for this, usually in the form of unwanted male animals that will need to be “disposed” of.  It really doesn’t matter if you can name all of the cows on the farm, the animals are still being used. And that is utterly antithetical to the core vegan belief that humans have no right to use animals in any way.

And then there’s the whole,”A tiny operation” thing.  According to a NPR piece from 2009, the farm had “60 or so cows,” and was planning to raise $700,000 in order to expand to meet the rising demand for natural and organic milk.  Dante Hesse, owner, “says he could sell even more milk — plus butter and cheese — if he could just build a processing plant right in his barn.”  Nice.  Just as a side, the U.S. legal definition of a family farm does not define the number of animals kept, and simply states that the owner-operator (family) must provide a substantial amount of labor.  Ninety-eight percent (that’s 98) of the farms in the U.S. meet the USDA requirement for “family farms.”

Milk Thistle Farms is obviously trying to run a business and be profitable, and further, is trying to expand and become more profitable- at the expense of non-human (cows) lives.

What do they do with the male calves born to their (presumably) artificially inseminated mothers?

Ms. Adler concludes with this:

The cost of my butter is dear, it’s true, but I look at it as the true cost of food. How on earth could the $3.50 I paid for my margarine represent the real costs associated with it’s production, which of course includes lost habitat, and lost life, not to mention pollution to the water, air, and soil. How much is it really worth then? So while I won’t be buying heavy cream that often, and while I’ll be using the butter I make sparingly, I’ll also do so having full appreciation for how it came to be.

The true costs of all food are many and varied.  We eat natural, we eat local, and we eat vegan to eliminate death and suffering.  Lara asks, “how much is it really worth then”- to buy heavy cream not all that often, to make butter used only sparingly?  Apparently, it’s worth the lives of 60 or so cows that work for Milk Thistle Farm.

And that makes her one spurious vegan.

Author’s note:  Before we are inundated with hate mail talking about how we shouldn’t pit vegans against vegans or how every little bit counts, please know that Lara Adler has invited commentary on her position to use animal products, both in her original article and on twitter.  Regardless of that fact, why should we settle for a watered-down version of what being vegan means?  We shouldn’t. Vegans shouldn’t settle. It’s not about bullying people, making people feel bad for their choices, or kicking people out of a club. It’s about saying, this is what veganism is and what it means- and remain consistent about it. How is anyone (in any situation) going to be taken seriously about their beliefs if they don’t live true to their beliefs? Why would a non-vegan take a vegan seriously if the vegan would eat non-vegan food when they went out to eat simply because “it was easier.”  It is the same thing if you continue to consume animals in any other way (clothing, furniture, etc.)  If you set aside your own beliefs, other people will too.

By Published On: 29 June 20101277 words6.4 min read

It’s been mentioned here before but, if you’re consuming animals, you’re not vegan, period.  If you are taking “baby steps,” and have yet to evolve from your “vegetarianism,” I’m sorry- you’re not a vegan.  The term “veganism” seems to be applied too loosely, too often.  Without a consistent message, who are we- what’s a “vegan?”

Case in point- Lara Adler.

Ms. Adler has written a very detailed post titled, Why doing the right thing sometimes means doing the “wrong” thing, justifying her use of animals.  Lara Adler says she’s a vegan, yet she consumes cream from cow’s milk.  I’ll briefly explain her justification for this:

She can’t do without butter (she uses the analogy that she shouldn’t suffer without butter).  Earth Balance kills orangutans.  The cow cream she buys comes from an organic family farm.

First, I’ll say that Lara appears intelligent, has a good heart, and genuinely wants to do the right thing by the non-humans of the world.  So, I’m a bit surprised at her lack of an effort to apply her vegan philosophy, and a little shocked at her selfishness:

“But how is THAT (cow cream) vegan??” you may be asking. It’s not – not by the traditional sense, but given the options that exist (besides of course, forgoing all butter-like products forever – something which would contribute to more suffering – my own!), it’s the one that’s the most “vegan” to me.

She details how forests are cleared at massive rates to plant palm for oil production- a key ingredient in margarine products such as Earth Balance.  When these forests are destroyed, so are the habitats of many species, including orangutans.  She’s right.  Lets also consider then, how much forest and other types of natural habitat, such as swampland, are destroyed to make way for soy, corn, bananas, coconuts, wheat, oranges, sugar, coffee, cacao, etc.  Are the lives of cows worth less to Adler than those of orangutans?  Vegans are not (normally) speciesists.

Then, she details how she found a dairy called Milk Thistle Farms, which she describes as “a tiny operation,” who, along with Grazin Angus Acres (beef and eggs), “both worked their farms with love, respect for nature, and respect for their animals.”  So I was curious, what does Milk Thistle do with all the male calves born to the milk-producing mothers?  Sell them to Grazin Angus?  We asked via email, and have yet to hear a response.  On June 18th, we sent this email to Milk Thistle Farms:

I was directed to your website in an article about small organic farming and milk production.  I would like to learn more about your operation and have some questions.

I see that your cows are permitted to roam free the entire “growing season.”  I’m not sure what the growing season is, would you be able to elaborate a bit more what that time frame is?  I’d also like to inquire more about the process in which the cows produce milk.  It is my understanding that a cow will only produce milk if she has recently given birth.  Does your farm impregnate the cows on the farm?  If so, what happens if the calves are born male?  Do these animals remain on your farm, or are they shipped somewhere else?

I sincerely appreciate your time in reading and responding to my questions.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions of your own.  I look forward to hearing back from you.  Thank you in advance and please have a good day.

A farm, regardless of who runs it (IE: A “family farm” or a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation – “CAFO”), is going to be a business first. The animals lives are secondary next to profit.  I know that seems particularly elementary but it’s important when talking to people who use words like humane, family farm, happy animals, etc.  These are the type of people who rarely recognize (or mention) the reproductive requirement of running a farm.  Simply put, a farmer controls the life cycles ( and breeding cycles) of the animals who reside on the farm.  There will always be consequences for this, usually in the form of unwanted male animals that will need to be “disposed” of.  It really doesn’t matter if you can name all of the cows on the farm, the animals are still being used. And that is utterly antithetical to the core vegan belief that humans have no right to use animals in any way.

And then there’s the whole,”A tiny operation” thing.  According to a NPR piece from 2009, the farm had “60 or so cows,” and was planning to raise $700,000 in order to expand to meet the rising demand for natural and organic milk.  Dante Hesse, owner, “says he could sell even more milk — plus butter and cheese — if he could just build a processing plant right in his barn.”  Nice.  Just as a side, the U.S. legal definition of a family farm does not define the number of animals kept, and simply states that the owner-operator (family) must provide a substantial amount of labor.  Ninety-eight percent (that’s 98) of the farms in the U.S. meet the USDA requirement for “family farms.”

Milk Thistle Farms is obviously trying to run a business and be profitable, and further, is trying to expand and become more profitable- at the expense of non-human (cows) lives.

What do they do with the male calves born to their (presumably) artificially inseminated mothers?

Ms. Adler concludes with this:

The cost of my butter is dear, it’s true, but I look at it as the true cost of food. How on earth could the $3.50 I paid for my margarine represent the real costs associated with it’s production, which of course includes lost habitat, and lost life, not to mention pollution to the water, air, and soil. How much is it really worth then? So while I won’t be buying heavy cream that often, and while I’ll be using the butter I make sparingly, I’ll also do so having full appreciation for how it came to be.

The true costs of all food are many and varied.  We eat natural, we eat local, and we eat vegan to eliminate death and suffering.  Lara asks, “how much is it really worth then”- to buy heavy cream not all that often, to make butter used only sparingly?  Apparently, it’s worth the lives of 60 or so cows that work for Milk Thistle Farm.

And that makes her one spurious vegan.

Author’s note:  Before we are inundated with hate mail talking about how we shouldn’t pit vegans against vegans or how every little bit counts, please know that Lara Adler has invited commentary on her position to use animal products, both in her original article and on twitter.  Regardless of that fact, why should we settle for a watered-down version of what being vegan means?  We shouldn’t. Vegans shouldn’t settle. It’s not about bullying people, making people feel bad for their choices, or kicking people out of a club. It’s about saying, this is what veganism is and what it means- and remain consistent about it. How is anyone (in any situation) going to be taken seriously about their beliefs if they don’t live true to their beliefs? Why would a non-vegan take a vegan seriously if the vegan would eat non-vegan food when they went out to eat simply because “it was easier.”  It is the same thing if you continue to consume animals in any other way (clothing, furniture, etc.)  If you set aside your own beliefs, other people will too.

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  5. askantik July 1, 2010 at 8:18 am - Reply

    My problem comes when I subscribe to a very concise and clear cut philosophy/worldview, namely, to avoid the exploitation of animals so far as possible and practical, and then here you are blogging away about the “humane” myth and eating animal products while claiming to be vegan. I hear enough about “humanely raised animals” or “free-range animals” or “organic milk,” etc. as it is without people claiming that such things are vegan. Claiming (falsely) that any of those things are vegan is only serving to create confusion.

    Whether or not palm oil is vegan has no bearing on the fact that dairy products are not. You can say I’m making veganism into a “club” or a “clique” or whatever, but the simple fact is that veganism has a very clear and simple definition. And in my humble opinion, you are doing the philosophy a disservice when you misrepresent it.

  6. lara adler June 30, 2010 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    Hi Charleen,

    In your post you say that you sent me an email asking me questions to which I didn’t respond. I double checked my server but I never received any email from anyone asking me anything about this post. I had a few people comment on my blog, but that was it. If you’re going to rake someone over the coals, which you are more than free to do, at least do it with honesty.

    I’m certainly not standing up to be the poster-girl for veganism with my choice. Outside my home I am fully vegan… inside my home I make concessions that are mine and mine alone.

    As for Milk Thistle Farms, they are a family run farm, with Dante Hesse running the place with his wife, and one hired helper. That’s it. Staff of 3. Hardly a CAFO. I did attempt to visit his farm this past weekend to ask him exactly the question you said you posed to me (what happens to the male calves), along with a slew of other important questions, but wasn’t able to connect with him. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to do that in the future.

    But if the 1 pint of heavy cream I purchased from them to make the meager 6oz of butter that i’ve stretched now for a full 3 months cost the lives of 60 cows then sure, call me a spurious vegan.(Compare this to the dozens upon dozens of tubs and stick of Earth Balance I’ve bought over the years with little thought ever paid to where it really came from) But I don’t think i’m settling… nor do I think i’m being selfish. Maybe this is anti-vegan, but I don’t think that eating animals is wrong… we are animals, and in nature animals eat each other. This doesn’t mean that we HAVE to eat animals… one difference between other animals and us, is that we are capable of making a choice based on ethics, morals, and our tastebuds. The majority of people make their choices based on their tastebuds, and barely stop to consider ethics or morals.

    I must object to your comment that I have a “lack of effort to apply her vegan philosophy”. I make a tremendous effort to research all aspects of my choices, from food to clothes, to shampoo, to home goods. I buy old furniture instead of new so that I don’t contribute to a destructive new-goods economy… I make my own deodorant and shampoos to avoid toxic polluting ingredients… the list goes on. This is not about one-upmanship.. this is just illustrating the depth to which I try to investigate my choices, striving for the one that causes the least amount of harm, while still maintaining a normal life.

    My choices are my own. My blog post, and subsequent twitter posts where simply there to open up a conversation about the gray areas that are inherent in veganism. I know PLENTY of vegans who live off of soy hot dogs, soy frappuccinos from Starbucks, and vegan cakes and cookies. Not only are these people often physically unhealthy, but they project a terrible and unapproachable vision of vegansim to the general population. The point is to get people to see that there are healthy and ethical alternatives to mainstream foods without sending them down the faux-food/processed food isle.

    I’ll happily continue to be the person who is intelligent and has a good heart but who is also sometimes a “bastard” as the title of your post implies.

    • Charleen July 1, 2010 at 2:40 am - Reply

      Hello lara adler,

      To begin with, you may want to be sure of what you believe to be the facts before labeling someone as dishonest. Regarding the email, my words were, “On June 18th, we sent this email to Milk Thistle Farms.”

      But, onto the larger issue here, your blog states, “I’m vegan,” in reference to yourself. This is a dishonest statement and is the reason for my post in the first place. Being vegan is being a poster-girl for veganism. A vegan does not eat cow milk. Your muddying of the term, “vegan,” is precisely why it’s so difficult to get non-vegans to fully comprehend the aspects of animal rights and plant-based diets. If vegans do not have a consistent message, our message will be not taken seriously.
      Your personal choices are yours. But if you put yourself out there as a vegan, then damn well be one. Otherwise, don’t hijack my ideals with your watered-down version of veganism. It impedes my fight to end the exploitation of animals.

      As for Milk Thistle Farms (I still haven’t heard back from them regarding the calf issue), I never labeled them as a CAFO, a careful reading of the post will confirm this. They are in the business of impregnating cows for profit, whether they are a small operation or a CAFO. Further, due to the despicable and ignorant demand for “healthier and humane” animal products, Mr. Hesse has publicly stated his desire for a larger operation because, “he could sell even more milk.”

      As for the butter you so vehemently defend, if you can stretch 6 ounces of cow butter, why couldn’t you stretch 6 ounces of Earth Balance? Why couldn’t we all? Killing one animal in lieu of another for the sake of your taste buds is not a vegan solution. It won’t kill you not to eat butter/margarine. Trust me.

      Back to your claim that you are a vegan. The following statements do not, I repeat, do not, jive with the vegan philosophy, “I don’t think that eating animals is wrong,” and this gem here from your twitter, “absolutely loved my visit to @GrazinAngus yesterday!! Sweetest, nicest people, with a wonderful operation. Best of the best.” I can’t believe I would have to say this, but here goes, Grazin Angus Acres is in the business of killing cows to profit from their meat, and no true vegan, by definition, would love a visit to a place such as this, let alone call it a wonderful operation.

      Your choices are your own, Ms. Adler, and the depth to which you investigate your choices is commendable, but it doesn’t make you vegan. You may have realized by now that my main concern here is your diluting of the vegan philosophy. I, too, know many who claim to be vegan, all the while consuming over-processed foods that certainly don’t keep our environment or our bodies clean. I acknowledge in my post that eating natural, local, and vegan is the way to eliminate death and suffering. Are people still going to choose perceived convenience over health? They sure are, but I hope to communicate, by sending a consistent vegan message, that convenience and taste alone should not influence one’s choices- just as they have yours, for butter. Vegans must take the animal’s lives into consideration. And, quite frankly, you’re not doing that. Your choice- just don’t call yourself vegan.

      One more thing. You claim to make tremendous efforts to research, and investigate to great depths in order to inform your choices. So, taking the 1st listing from Merriam-Webster’s definition of spurious, rather than reading on for one that contextually makes sense, seems a bit duplicitous to me. Maybe that should have been the title of my post, The Duplicitous Vegan.

  7. leomendel June 30, 2010 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Great post! I must tell you, just yesterday, someone told me she was vegetarian… only eating fish! Sometimes I think for them is more important carry a label than be easy and clear with their actions.

  8. Healthy Vegan Foods June 30, 2010 at 7:34 am - Reply

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