Exclusive: undercover inside the US dairy industry
With planning permission for Britain's biggest dairy at Nocton about to be re-submitted, The Ecologist travels to California to examine intensive milk production - and finds factory farms, conflict, intimidation, pesticides, pollution and small-scale farmers driven out of business...
‘You better get out of here or your gonna get your ass kicked or worse,’ the leathery-faced farmer slurred, picking his words carefully as we pulled up outside his milking parlour. It was coming to the end of our first day in the US, and despite our best efforts to persuade the farmers otherwise, it was clear that journalists are not welcome in this part of the world.
Far from the glittering lights and well trodden-tourist paths that people normally associate with California, the vast udders of America’s dairy industry run through the Central Valley, a rarely-visited arid plain that stretches down the state, wedged in between the Sierra foothills and the Californian coast.
This is the breadbasket of the USA, where almond farms, grapes and corn are carved out of the scrubby desert and grown on eye-wateringly large scales. It is also home to the largest dairies on the planet, a concentration of several hundred milk farms so vast, that in Tulare county alone, there are over 900,000 cows, producing in excess of a billion dollars worth of milk each year.
But as an Ecologist investigation carried out in conjunction with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has discovered, the Central Valley has also become a battleground for an unreported conflict, pitting community activists and family farmers against the might of mega dairy farms that have taken root here.
Factory or farm?
For a first-time visitor, the sight and scale of a mega dairy is overwhelming; enormous open-air sheds, mountains of feed, million-gallon pools of slurry and thousands upon thousands of listless cows. Granted access by disgruntled dairy employees, we were able to observe a mega dairy in operation. More akin to a factory production line than a farm long lines of cows could be seen stumbling over outstretched udders as they were driven back and forth to the robotic-like, rotary-milking parlours.
It is a continual daily cycle that stops only when the milk output begins to tail off, and the animals are either re-impregnated or sent off to slaughter; burnt out and discarded after only a few years of life on the factory floor. Animals in American mega dairies will never see a patch of grass in their life, and the only respite comes from shade in the dusty open-air lots where they wait between milking. Even here the animals will not get a chance to really rest; high-milk yielding cows suffer from chronic ‘negative energy balance’, where the cow uses more energy in making milk that she can physically take in by eating, losing body condition as a result.
The Holstein is the favoured breed of choice for most mega dairies, their towering bony frames contrasting wildly with bulging vein-filled udders swinging underneath them. Milk produced by them is of a lower quality with a higher pus content in the milk than that produced by other cow breeds, but what these freakishly-bred animals lack in quality, they make up for in quantity: milked three times a day and propped up with growth hormones to boost milk production, and antibiotics to stave off frequent infections, milk output in the Holstein has doubled in the last 40 years alone.
It’s not just the animals that suffer. Tom Frantz is a retired schoolteacher and grew up in Shafter, a small town in Tulare County. ‘Until 1996, there weren't any dairies near me, then we got the first mega dairy situated close to here, followed by several others. Within a couple of years at the local school we had two big problems that have never existed before… the school was invaded by hoards of flies, nasty biting flies, clogging the water coolers and forcing the teachers to hang fly strips in the middle of each classroom. It changed things, changed the atmosphere of the school. Then nitrates in the water showed up. The school had always used water from its own well in the past, but suddenly the nitrate level doubled, then tripled, making it unsafe to drink,’ he told The Ecologist.
I'm trying to research using Iodine (instead of fluoride toothpaste) against tooth decay. My 3 year old son has cavities, the pediatric dentist immediately wanted to schedule him for dental surgery under general anesthesia for carries in baby teeth that are not bothering him at all! He is still breastfeeding some (of course the dentist insisted THAT had to STOP.) Guess what, we are not going back to them. In any case, I do know there are some small cavities (yellow orange spots) as I can see them on a few teeth but they said 8 cavities and I think they were trying to drum up extra business.
Immediately I started researching curing tooth decay naturally and got a book by that title. I have not figured out how to get my son to take the cod liver oil but I have made great strides in minimizing the sugars and refined carbs in our diets. Working hard to make sure any seeds, grains and nuts are soaked, sprouted, or fermented.
We have our own pastured chickens for eggs and get raw milk from local Jersey Cows on pasture and a NON Genetically-Modified-Organisms feed supplement.
Anyway, I've seen videos of a dentist railing against fluoride and saying that brushing/rinsing with Iodine can kill off the bacteria that causes tooth decay but he never really says or links to any details about how to go about it.
I have some 5% Lugos Iodine. I tested both myself and my son with a patch of it on our inner upper arms. Mine was gone in under 12 hours. My Son still has a little bit of a patch showing at 14 hours.
What do I need to know and what sort of Iodine should I get in order to clean his teeth. How do I go about it? He is very picky about what is used on him and what he eats. It is near impossible to trick him, he is very sensitive to smells and tastes and notices very minute variations in things. I know the Lugos can be harsh in the mouth so I need to make sure it is dilute enough not to burn or cause him issues or I'll never be able to get near his teeth again.
Any Tips? What do I need to know when using and supplementing Iodine.
I have a feeling that my descending colon is very stiff. What makes me feel this is that when I take an enema or colonic, I can feel stiffness in that area.
I also have a very stiff neck and shoulder on the left side, and the muscles around my left hip are also quite stiff. The muscles in my legs tend to get rather tense if I sit for long, much more on the left than the right. Plus, for the last year and a few months, I have had a stiff and heavy sensation on the left side of my face, mostly on the upper left side, particularly in the left eye.
These symptoms make me feel even more that the descending colon and perhaps the sigmoid colon are at the root of my health issues, partly if not entirely. These symptoms increase after I have eaten.
I've done a week long colosan cleanse and 9 colonics in the last year. Also 10 Liver Flushes and I plan to continue doing those. I have been doing salt water enemas - about once a week or so for the last 2 years, occasionally experimenting with ACV or Oil Enema s, or more occasionally, with some ayurvedic herbal decoction enemas. Have also done about 40 coffee enemas over a period of a couple of months in August-September last year.
I eat an organic diet of cooked vegetables with a small quantity of brown rice, and every other day, I eat a large quantity of fruit. I am mostly but not entirely vegan. I follow some of the Nourishing Traditions guidelines in cooking and some guidelines for the ayurvedic vata dosha.
None of this has made any difference so far. What else can I do to help my colon?
Thank you Archus. Those are some useful thoughts. Most people seem to eat without mindfulness. Even when they enjoy the food the attention seems more on the conversation or their own thoughts rather than on the sensory experience of eating and the psychological experience of sharing food.
When I get back home in the evening, before dinner I do tai chi for 20 minutes or so. That helps me slow down and disinfects me from the rush of the city outside where I've just been.