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Pigs aren't the only animals getting cosmetic surgery:
October 10, 2002 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Pigs aren't the only animals getting cosmetic surgery: Cows in dairy shows are getting all manner of 'boob jobs' in a practice some compare to primping for the Miss America Pageant. "People really hate it when I compare cows to humans, but it's kind of the same," says one dairy farmer. Let's ignore the potential danger to human health of injecting stuff like silver directly into udders. My question is: Is there really such a wide gulf between Western culture's obsession with womens' breasts and and our refusal to wean ourselves, unlike the rest of the world, from milk?
posted by soyjoy (76 comments total)

 
Wow, that first link is pretty distressing. It's one thing for a beauty contestant to undergo procedures to make herself more likely to win -- she can presumably understand and consent to what's going on. A cow has no way of understanding or consenting, and nobody knows if it hurts the cow or has long term negative effects. The practice seems pretty much like animal abuse to me.
posted by kate_fairfax at 9:55 AM on October 10, 2002


It's one thing for a beauty contestant to undergo procedures to make herself more likely to win -- she can presumably understand and consent to what's going on.

I feel the same way about eating beauty contestants.
posted by 4easypayments at 10:09 AM on October 10, 2002


Cattle shows are big business. Farmers pay a lot of money to breed their cows properly. There are many catalogues of sperm available. If you have a cow with a sub-par udder, you try to find a bull in the catalogue whose daughters tend to have fantastic udders. Then you order the sperm, it shows up in an ice cream-like truck, and you break out the sperm gun.
Anyway...having an asymmetrical cow can lower the value of your herd, so as a dairy farmer, it is important that your cows look great when you show them.
Not that I'm defending all this, just pointing out that the motive isn't purely aesthetic.
posted by Fabulon7 at 10:13 AM on October 10, 2002


Not that I'm defending all this, just pointing out that the motive isn't purely aesthetic.

And it also generally has nothing to do with the cubbyholed veganism at the end of the post.
posted by machaus at 10:16 AM on October 10, 2002


My question is: Is there really such a wide gulf between Western culture's obsession with womens' breasts and and our refusal to wean ourselves, unlike the rest of the world, from milk?

Of course there's a difference. The rest of the world didn't bravely choose to wean themselves from wicked horrible milk; they have dysfunctional biochemistries that forced them to stop partaking. In populations where people actually have an effective choice over whether or not to consume milk, we drink it, because it's so darn tasty and chock full of milky goodness... Mmmmm..... mmmmmmoddddified sweeeeaat....
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:18 AM on October 10, 2002


they have dysfunctional biochemistries

For the record, no. Lactose intolerance, as you would have noted by following the link above, is the normal human condition. It is those of us descended from Northern Europeans who are "dysfunctional."
posted by soyjoy at 10:20 AM on October 10, 2002


soyjoy, allow me to introduce fold_and_mutilate.

I'll leave you two alone now; I think you'll find you have a lot in common.
posted by timeistight at 10:25 AM on October 10, 2002


we are the only animals which consume milk past infancy and the only animals which consume the milk of mothers other than our own. veal calves are the unwanted male byproducts of keeping dairy cows permanently knocked-up. and of course there's all the chemical crap they shoot into poor Bessie to keep her udders so positively pendulous.

but for as unnatural as i think the consumption of milk may be, my experiment in abstaining from dairy products for the month of october fell apart yesterday when i succumbed to a tomato, mozzarella and basil sandwich.

it's as important to watch from whence the food we eat comes as noting its nutritional value and the portion sizes we consume. the best thing we can do for ourselves and the world is eat as close to the earth and as far down the food chain as we can. every little bit helps. :)
posted by brigita at 10:36 AM on October 10, 2002


For the record, no. Lactose intolerance, as you would have noted by following the link above, is the normal human condition. It is those of us descended from Northern Europeans who are "dysfunctional."

And Eastern Europeans, and Indians (South Asians), for whom milk products are a central part of the diet as well.

But what does this have to do with cosmetic surgery on cows? I'm with machaus -- the segue between the topics is a non sequitur, and an apparent self-hijack. Except that it's an opportunity for soyjoy to promote a favourite subject.

I'm very leery of people using Metafilter as a ready-made audience for pet causes.
posted by mcwetboy at 10:45 AM on October 10, 2002


For the record, no. Lactose intolerance, as you would have noted by following the link above, is the normal human condition. It is those of us descended from Northern Europeans who are "dysfunctional."

It's not a bug, it's a feature. Frosty chocolate milkshakes, anyone?

on preview, I am far more inclined to agree with brigita's reasoning. some ethnic groups have trouble tolerating alcohol, but I rarely hear that as a reason we should all stop drinking.
posted by whatnot at 10:48 AM on October 10, 2002


Dysfunctional my hat, how is a genetic trait that allowed a population to survive a dysfunction ? Go down that road and you can say that folks with black skin are dysfunctional because they evolved the ability to stave off UV rays.
posted by zeoslap at 10:58 AM on October 10, 2002


But what does this have to do with cosmetic surgery on cows?

Do you folks think I connected these two in order to sneak a topic in? I find it noteworthy that American culture takes both of these things (adult milk consumption, breast fixation) to such extremes, given that they're both centered around mammary glands and emotional attachments (as some of these comments have illustrated).

but I rarely hear that as a reason we should all stop drinking.

Alcohol is nonanalogous, as no one consumes it for the purposes of food, except maybe winos, and no one claims it's meant to be consumed by children - two key points here.

And please, mcwetboy, we prefer that you call them "companion causes."
posted by soyjoy at 11:02 AM on October 10, 2002


blargh.
posted by whatnot at 11:24 AM on October 10, 2002


given that they're both centered around mammary glands and emotional attachments (as some of these comments have illustrated).

Boobs look good.

Milk tastes good.

End of story.
posted by Jart at 11:26 AM on October 10, 2002


Do you folks think I connected these two in order to sneak a topic in?

I'd bet that you're a member of peta. You're line of reasoning seem to follow the classic peta definitions that people were only "meant" to eat veggies. How can you say we we're meant to be any one specific way? We evolved, constantly changing diets and "features" to adapt to a changing environment.
posted by jeblis at 11:29 AM on October 10, 2002


Is there really such a wide gulf between Western culture's obsession with womens' breasts and and our refusal to wean ourselves, unlike the rest of the world, from milk?

I agree that it's an interesting point.

But, as mcwetboy points out, milk is a common beverage around the world. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Western populations drink a lot more of it, though. I would be interested in finding out if there is a difference in the amount of calcium deficiencies between the Americans (well-known for poor diets) and those populations defined as having large numbers with lactose intolerance.

I prefer this.
posted by valval22 at 11:30 AM on October 10, 2002


we prefer that you call them "companion causes."

No we don't. We don't prefer anything of the sort. We are not amused by your presumption.
posted by timeistight at 11:30 AM on October 10, 2002


A little known or often misrepresented fact: dairy cows are treated very well, for the most part. They are expensive and the quality of milk they produce is very dependent on how happy they are. So, in a vast majority of cases, dairy cows are treated like gold--constant fresh food, soft bedding, nice music playing in the barn, no loud noises allowed, lots of time roaming around fields, etc.

posted by Fabulon7 at 11:33 AM on October 10, 2002


we are the only animals which consume milk past infancy and the only animals which consume the milk of mothers other than our own

This argument always mystifies me, I mean, it's not like other animals really have the option, is it? Cats can't milk cows very well, curse their claws and lack of opposable thumbs! Most/all omnivorous and carnivorous animals will consume milk of animals other than their own species well past infancy if given the opportunity. Many of them are lactose intolerant, but that doesn't mean they won't drink milk if they have a chance. We're also the only animals which consume cooked grains and vegetables (barring domesticated species which we feed), does that make it somehow "unnatural" to do so? There may well be some valid arguments against drinking milk, but this isn't one of 'em.

Oh, and Fabulon7: they also make very successful waterbeds for dairy cattle.
posted by biscotti at 11:37 AM on October 10, 2002


mcwetboy. Thanks for the link...kinda puts soyjoy's arguments in perspective.
posted by jeblis at 11:38 AM on October 10, 2002


I love the argument that we shouldn't drink milk because no other animal does. How many animals cook their food? How many make bread? How many wear clothes? How many use tools? I bet a badger would chomp down on some brie if he knew how to produce it.
aside: I was actually thinking about this argument in the shower this morning, about three hours before reading MeFi - how's that for coincidence?

I think it's rather bizarre to equate shredded parmesan on pasta with breasts. If it's your choice, soyjoy, to not partake in the delights of dairy, all power to you. But don't bother crusading because of your breast fixation.

As for the other links... it makes me proud to live in a society that can actually worry about such things.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:39 AM on October 10, 2002


damn you, biscotti... you weren't there when I previewed
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:42 AM on October 10, 2002


a) what jart said
b) on the only-animals-that-milk-other-animals issue, not to lend credence to this argument, but what about those ants that milk aphids?
posted by jeb at 11:47 AM on October 10, 2002


For the record, no. Lactose intolerance, as you would have noted by following the link above, is the normal human condition. It is those of us descended from Northern Europeans who are "dysfunctional."

Well, no. Most populations lose the ability to digest lactose after childhood. Losing that ability is, per se, a dysfunction, a broken biochemical pathway, but one that doesn't normally cause much problems, so it sticks around.

Cultures where their people have milk in their effective choice space choose to drink milk. It's tasty, and you can blow bubbles in it if you have a straw, and you can make wonderful, glorious ((wallace)) CHEEEEEEEESE!!!!! ((/wallace)) out of it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:48 AM on October 10, 2002


American culture takes both of these things (adult milk consumption, breast fixation) to such extremes

American culture? Why pick on America? Are there other cultures where men (and women for that matter) aren't sexually attracted to breasts? Why is it a fixation rather than a natural urge? When does milk consumption stop being reasonable and become extreme? One pint a day? Two pints? Why are these things bad? I don't understand.
posted by Summer at 11:51 AM on October 10, 2002


The milking robot is another innovation that's improving the lives of Bossie and her friends. Instead of waiting for her traditional twice-daily milking, the cow can be milked as often as she wishes (often four or five times a day). This minimizes strain on the udder and extends the life of the cow.
posted by timeistight at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2002


having an asymmetrical cow

...is just what this thread seems to be doing.

(Ooh, new tagline! Metafilter: having an asymmetrical cow.)
posted by wanderingmind at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2002


jeblis - sorry, you lose the bet on PETA, though our differences are more about methodology than ideology. Hope you clicked through to the documentation that puts my arguments "in perspective."

And ghost - MY breast fixation? You, um, are somewhat familiar with American pop culture, right?

That's what this was supposed to be about. If I'd wanted to do a post about the evils of drinking milk, there are plenty of good links I could have used. I thought the cultural correspondence between these two things would be an interesting area to explore, given - once again - that we (in America specifically, the West in general) are so far outside the global norm in both of these aspects. Looks like I hit more of a sore spot than planned. Live and learn.
posted by soyjoy at 12:00 PM on October 10, 2002


Is there really such a wide gulf between Western culture's obsession with womens' breasts and and our refusal to wean ourselves, unlike the rest of the world, from milk?

Let's take a look at the rest of the world (or at least selected countries), shall we? You'll note two interesting things:

1) Between 1993 and 1998, annual milk consumption in the U.S. dropped slightly (from nearly 103 kg per capita to 99.4).

2) At least 12 of the selected countries (8 EU, 2 Eastern Europe, and 2 Oceania) consume more milk per capita than the U.S. -- Ireland, in fact, double the amount of the U.S. Two South American countries consume slightly less than the U.S.

As for the rest of the world's obsession with breasts... well, I'm at work, so I can't go surfing for documentation there.
posted by scody at 12:03 PM on October 10, 2002


Soyjoy: Guess I gotta pay up. Methodology makes all the difference. I'm not oppsoed to peta's beliefs per se, but their tactics are bad. Besides any time you tell people what to do or imply that they're doing something wrong they're naturally going to be defensive. I think the "refusal to wean" and "we are the dysfunctional ones" rubbed people the wrong way...well at least me. Also for the record I don't believe we need to be weaned or that we are disfunctional.
posted by jeblis at 12:17 PM on October 10, 2002


1. Cats drink milk, if you give it to them. They really seem to enjoy it.
2. Breast fixation: there is a school of thought that believes that human females developed perma-boobs as a result of we as a species beginning to walk on two legs. See, in most species, the female waves her ass in a male's face when she is ready to mate. Standing upright made this difficult, hence, breasts, which can look startlingly like an ass. Most animals only have visible breasts when lactating--they shrink down to nothing at other times.
posted by Fabulon7 at 12:23 PM on October 10, 2002


I've heard that ass-breast theory before, and I'm really not buying it yet. Was it really someone's job to think of that and write it up?
posted by jeb at 12:36 PM on October 10, 2002


Those who say alcohol is not food have obviously never drank Guinness.
posted by qDot at 12:41 PM on October 10, 2002


Uh uh folks. The standard and compelling ethical objection to using milk from animals has nothing to do with whether other adult animals "do it" or not. The standard and compelling ethical objection is that it causes suffering in other less powerful sentient beings, and there is no justifying need for milk (or meat) as a nutritional component.

In fact, the consumption of dairy products (often laden with steroids, pesticides, and antibiotics) has been implicated in a number of diseases, not the least of which is just plain ol' obesity.

Boobs look good.
Milk tastes good.
End of story.

Yep. Didn't have to wait long, did we? "Tastes good" as ethical imperative. Kind of like "feels good" as an argument for allowing child molestation.

Let us know when we can revert back to "using" women like we do cattle, ok? (Oh, but that's right, we seem to be "evolving" away from that particular tyranny too, now don't we?) Really gets back to that whole apt analogy about the use of powerless animals for one's own purposes, and the marked similarities to child molestation (using powerless children for one's own purposes).

I'm not oppsoed to peta's beliefs per se, but their tactics are bad.

Nope. Given the stakes, and given the tactics of generations of humans who countenance pain, suffering and violence because "it tastes good" or "we need a new cosmetics line", PETA's tactics are remarkably benign and nonviolent.

I suspect the only regrets among PETA-ites are along the lines of "in the face of all the horror, what possessed us to behave so well?"

soyjoy, allow me to introduce fold_and_mutilate.
I'll leave you two alone now; I think you'll find you have a lot in common.


Didn't have to wait long for that, either.

timeistight -- ad_hominem. I think you know each other well. I'll leave you too alone now. As I occasionally point out, like others you seem to have lots in common with a gun-shy dog, flinching before shots are fired.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:41 PM on October 10, 2002


Well, if the bottom-breast theory is true, our alleged fixation has nothing to do with milk .... oh no, I just remembered--assmilk.
posted by Fabulon7 at 12:46 PM on October 10, 2002


veal calves are the unwanted male byproducts of keeping dairy cows

Veal, unwanted? I don't know where you've been eating....
posted by rushmc at 12:53 PM on October 10, 2002


soyjoy: I'd say you have a fixation with breasts if dairy products make you think of Miss America pageants. Not making a judgment call on it, or implying that the general American public doesn't share the same fixation. I'm just pointing out that you saw a link there that I would never have considered, and even after you highlighted it, it seems tenuous at best to me.

Don't blame me for derailing your thread. Phrases like "our refusal to wean ourselves" just asks for trouble (and a number of half-assed - or is that half-breasted? - comments).
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:54 PM on October 10, 2002


fabulon7: Not that I'm defending all this, just pointing out that the motive isn't purely aesthetic.

I'm not so sure it isn't, even slightly, aesthetic. Do asymmetrical cows produce less or poorer quality milk than do symmetrical cows? Do cows really need to be symmetrical to be used for milk production? I'm not sure. Perhaps there is an aesthetic when cattle farmers are choosing how to breed their cows.
posted by zorrine at 12:56 PM on October 10, 2002


Cows with big, healthy udders produce more, higher-quality milk. That much is a fact, at least according to dairy farmers and cow classifiers. Regardless of whether or not an asymmetrical cow can produce enough good milk, the buyers want to buy from the best cows, and the best cows are classified as such based on these possibly nebulous criteria.
So, yes, I agree, it is aesthetic, but the motivation isn't purely that a particular udder shape looks good, it's that a particular udder shape looks healthy, which means more dollars for the farmer.
posted by Fabulon7 at 1:00 PM on October 10, 2002


there is no justifying need for milk (or meat) as a nutritional component

...nor is there a justifying need for chocolate, bread, tea, and a wealth of other foods. Next specious argument?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:04 PM on October 10, 2002


timeistight -- ad_hominem.

I'm confused. Was it an ad hominem attack on you to say you had a lot in common with soyjoy, or was it an ad hominem attack on her to say she had a lot in common with you?
posted by timeistight at 1:04 PM on October 10, 2002


Ghost - I really don't mind if you believe I have a breast fixation. After all, as you say, it is the norm here. But if you'd read the initial link, you would have noticed that the comparison was made several times in that article, which is what got me thinking about this correspondence in the first place.

I agree, though, that I shouldn't have put "refusal to wean" in the FFP, seeing how that put everyone on the defensive about their own mammary-secretion fixation.

Foldy, thanks for covering the ethical angle, but let me stress that that wasn't my point. I was curious about the phenomenon. But I must admit, all the posts about how wonderful life is for dairy cows are providing more entertainment than I had expected originally.
posted by soyjoy at 1:06 PM on October 10, 2002


ad hominem attack on her

Shouldn't that be "ad feminem?"
posted by soyjoy at 1:07 PM on October 10, 2002


I've heard that ass-breast theory before, and I'm really not buying it yet. Was it really someone's job to think of that and write it up?

I first read that theory in zoologist Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape. I'm pretty sure he originated it.
posted by timeistight at 1:09 PM on October 10, 2002


"PETA's tactics are remarkably benign and nonviolent." Ahh I see the ends justify the means or two wrongs make a right. Sure.

Since we're on logical fallacies:

"our refusal to wean ourselves"
Prejudicial Language: value or moral goodness is attached to believing the author

"Kind of like "feels good" as an argument for allowing child molestation."
False Analogy: the two objects or events being compared are relevantly dissimilar. And Prejudicial Language.

"The standard and compelling ethical objection to using milk from animals has nothing to do with whether other adult animals "do it" or not. The standard and compelling ethical objection is that it causes suffering in other less powerful sentient beings, and there is no justifying need for milk (or meat) as a nutritional component."
Good argument. Yes we don't need milk, but is it a false premise to say that the animals suffer? I'm not sure that they really do suffer for giving milk. What would their lives be like without care? For meat yes we do kill them so yes they do suffer.
posted by jeblis at 1:10 PM on October 10, 2002


Shouldn't that be "ad feminem?"

I stand corrected.
posted by timeistight at 1:14 PM on October 10, 2002


Since this is devolving into yet another veg- vs. meat-atarian urination contest, let me just say:

Suffering = Tasty. (This is true of vegetables as well as animals. I always make sure to give my carrots and broccoli a good wacking)
posted by Ty Webb at 1:16 PM on October 10, 2002


soyjoy: My apologies. But I still don't get the connection. Yes, udders are cow breasts, and human breasts are a fixation for many Western males, and both produce milk, but there are too many leaps to be made to form that logic chain. When I think of milk, I think udders and teats, not breasts. I stopped linking human breasts and milk before I learned to talk. There's a disconnect there.

Is Western culture the only one to glorify human breasts? I'll accept that nobody else takes it to the extreme we do, but for there to be the correlation you suggest, there has to be an equal lack of breast fixation in the non-Western world. Any sexual sociologists out there?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:27 PM on October 10, 2002


jeblis - I've tried to refrain from jumping back into this, but your arguments are, um, remarkable. "What would their lives be like without care?" Awwww. As if we're helping them out somehow rather than simply exploiting a biological process. Obviously if the cows hadn't been bred in the first place their lives wouldn't be, so I don't think they'd care. As to killing them, dairy cows are killed just as surely and completely as beef cattle as soon as their milk production drops off. And as to whether they suffer at all, well, if you've ever had a pet, ask yourself if you think that animal would enjoy a life as a relentlessly impregnated milk-producing machine. If you haven't had a pet, swap in something else, say, er... Miss America.
posted by soyjoy at 1:31 PM on October 10, 2002


Ghost - the questions you ask now are the kind I was hoping we would discuss back before the big "refusal" gaffe. To my mind, there is a connection, because it's not just the breasts. In the consumerist West, we tend to treat women's bodies as another commodity, just as we treat animals' bodies. Now, patriarchy and meat-eating are also part of the landscape worldwide, but the extreme we take both to rings similar for me - they both strike me as resonating with an infantile (which I mean only in the most literal sense) solipsism that I find pervasive in other aspects of this country, anyway.
posted by soyjoy at 1:42 PM on October 10, 2002


Yeah the link on breast fixation seems weak. I don't know many (I know there are some) people who want to drink human breast milk. Besides, men may be fixated on breasts, but what about women? Their motives are probably based upon attracting men or conforming to an ideal. How would that make them want to drink milk? I'd guess we use dairy products because it was a staple of the subsistance farmer's diet. Many recipes were based upon milk and butter since it was what was available to early american farmers. Those recipes and diet habits have persisted.

On preview soyjoy: I'm not suggesting their lives would be better or worse. I don't really know, but the argument left that unanswered or assumed which makes the argument incomplete depending on whether they suffer or not. And I do think it's important to compare their level of suffering to any benefits they may get. Maybe a more comfortable life, propagation of the species, feeding..etc. It is a bit of a trade off and obviously the cow cannot willing choose to participate.

On another note... Aren't there bigger issues of animal suffering that should be addressed first? Or is this Peta's "foot in the door" tactic?
posted by jeblis at 1:49 PM on October 10, 2002


A good cow is a dead cow.

Cow farts are destroying the ozone layer (methane and all that). For every porterhouse you feed your wee little child, you're saving our ozone layer.

Do it for the children.

Haven't seen any news reports on breasts shrinking the ozone layer now have we?
posted by blogRot at 1:51 PM on October 10, 2002


"My question is: Is there really such a wide gulf between Western culture's obsession with womens' breasts and and our refusal to wean ourselves, unlike the rest of the world, from milk?"

If that's the question at hand, then yes. Western culture's obsession with women's breasts has nothing to do with the culture's refusal to wean itself from milk. Your use of 'the rest of the world' is also too broad and shows me you don't know much about the rest of the world outside of Western or westernized cultures. Milk and milk by-products are still a staple in many Asian and African diets. Kumiss is fermented mare's milk still made by the Monguls. The Masai of Africa typically drink blood mixed with milk. And those are just a couple of examples. I'd suggest you go study the diets of the 'rest of the world' before you go making such claims.

A better question might have been, "Why does Western culture seem to have an obsession with imposing symmetry on everything it sees?"
posted by mikhail at 1:56 PM on October 10, 2002


soyjoy: Don't we in the West treat *everything* as a commodity? Men's bodies are just as commodified (albeit in other ways), as are intellectual and artistic creations. Political power is certainly a commodity here. I'm having a hard time thinking of something we Westerners haven't treated as a commodity. It seems like you're focussing on one small aspect and extrapolating a result favourable to your philosophy, and ignoring the fact that aspect is not an exclusive phenomenon. In smaller words, the link between our consumption of milk and our consumption of porn isn't breasts. We just consume everything.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2002


symmetry = health.
posted by brigita at 2:08 PM on October 10, 2002


I'd suggest you go study the diets of the 'rest of the world' before you go making such claims.

I'd suggest you not make assumptions about what someone has or hasn't studied. The notion that the non-Western world drinks milk at anything close to our level is preposterous and easily corrected by looking at country-by-country per capita consumption. Most non-western dairy consumption is not in regular "milk" form, but fermented, mixed with something else, made into yogurt, cheese, etc. and always taken in much smaller amounts. Not surprising, since the vast majority of noncaucasian (and over 90% of Asian) adults are lactose intolerant. But here we keep on chugging it right out of the carton. Why? Because we can.

And Ghost, yeah, the West tends to commodify everything - but the "meat markets" of women's bodies and cattle are similarly commodified in way that, I think, political power is not. I guess it's the extra layer of fetishization that makes the comparison seem so vivid to me. But I guess it doesn't to the rest of you.
posted by soyjoy at 2:15 PM on October 10, 2002


You're not going to get 80 pounds a day out of a cow that has a peanut udder

My new catch phrase.

Cats can't milk cows very well, curse their claws and lack of opposable thumbs!

No, but they can try other animals. My cat has been trying to milk the basset hound for years. Of course it doesn't help that the basset hound is a male, and neutered.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:42 PM on October 10, 2002


"symmetry = health"

Yes, but there is a difference between natural relative symmetry and extreme perfect symmetry, which is unnatural.

"The notion that the non-Western world drinks milk at anything close to our level is preposterous and easily corrected by looking at country-by-country per capita consumption."

That really has nothing to do with your original claim, does it? You inferred that the rest of the world had weaned itself from milk, when actually if you look at some statistics, you might see that milk consumption is mostly on the rise around the globe. Even in China, milk consumption is expected to rise.

I would also argue that the rest of the world never had to wean itself off of milk in the first place since it was never consumed in the quantities that it is in the West.

Pick an argument. Do you want to discuss over-consumption of commodities in Western civilization, or do you want to discuss breast obsession and aesthetics as it relates to milk?
posted by mikhail at 2:50 PM on October 10, 2002


Womens bodies are not the commodity... IMAGES of womens bodies are.

An important distinction I would think :)

Basically, the politics of this thread are fairly predictable...

Step 1: Assume everyhting done by is evil westerners is bad.

Step 2: Assume that the other peopel of the world do it (whatever it is) right do to some AncientKnowledge[tm]

Step 3: Toss about generalizations int he most inflamatory possible terms.

Step 4: ???

Step 5: Profit!
posted by soulhuntre at 2:54 PM on October 10, 2002


Most non-western dairy consumption is not in regular "milk" form, but fermented, mixed with something else, made into yogurt, cheese, etc. and always taken in much smaller amounts.

Now you're qualifying. That's not what you said earlier; you said:

our refusal to wean ourselves, unlike the rest of the world

i.e., we consume milk and the rest of the world does not. Sounds pretty binary, don't you think?

since the vast majority of noncaucasian (and over 90% of Asian) adults are lactose intolerant.

Define "noncaucasian". Define "Asian". I'll keep that in mind the next time I order a lassi from the Indian restaurant down the street.

If you didn't have to qualify and backtrack on the overly broad statements you made in the first place, you'd have a lot more credibility.
posted by mcwetboy at 2:55 PM on October 10, 2002


It's the same argument, Mikhail. If your argument is that there's no relationship between the two, fine. But that was what my question was. And of course milk consumption is on the rise: American culture is taking over the (Eastern) world.

And mcwetboy, I already retracted the 'refusal' line long ago. Obviously it was a generalization: I said "our" even though I have weaned myself, so it's clear there are exceptions. Noncaucasian is pretty straightforward - if you're caucasian, it doesn't mean you - and Asian is used in the standard (to people who discuss dairy consumption) sense. Hope this clears everything up. See y'all.
posted by soyjoy at 3:08 PM on October 10, 2002


The notion that the non-Western world drinks milk at anything close to our level is preposterous and easily corrected by looking at country-by-country per capita consumption.

Ah, so now you've widened your milk-drinking net to include the Western world and not just the U.S., which is side-stepping what you'd originally said. And, according to the country-by-country per capita data I posted earlier(selected rather than global, admittedly), that would hundreds of millions of people in Eastern and Western Europe alone as well as South America all drink milk in quantities approaching or even exceding U.S. levels. So this entire milk drinking thing (the "refusal" to wean ourselves, etc.) doesn't seem to be such a dreadful, confined anomaly.

PETA's tactics are remarkably benign and nonviolent.

Hmm. I must be missing the benign nonviolence in the following:

"Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses."-- Ingrid Newkirk, PETA Founder, The Washington Post, 11/13/83
"Arson, property destruction, burglary and theft are acceptable crimes when used for the animals' cause." -- Alex Pacheco, PETA Director, Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail, 1/15/89
"Even if animal tests produced a cure for AIDS, we'd be against it." -- Ingrid Newkirk, Washington Post, 5/30/89
In response to Animal Liberation Front violencein the Pacific Northwest: "We cannot condemn the Animal Liberation Front...they act courageously, risking their freedom and their careers to stop the terror inflicted every
day on animals in the labs. [ALF's activities] comprise an important part of today's animal protection movement." -- PETA statement, 6/19/91
"Andrew Cunanan, because he got Versace to stop doing fur." -- PETA's David Mathews reply to Genre magazine's request for "Men We Love".
posted by scody at 3:08 PM on October 10, 2002


"Noncaucasian is pretty straightforward - if you're caucasian, it doesn't mean you - and Asian is used in the standard (to people who discuss dairy consumption) sense."

You might want to understand the statistics you're quoting before you quote them. When that article discusses who is lactose intolerant it is discussing Americans, so 90% of Asian American adults have been found to be lactose intolerent, not 90% of Asians. Those statistics are quoted all over the web and they all refer to Americans. You might like to check out this article which states:
Approximately 75% of adults worldwide are lactose intolerant and those with the highest intolerance are native Americans and Asians and only slightly lower than these are the blacks, Jews, Hispanics, and southern Europeans. Lactose intolerance is lowest among northern Europeans and their descendants. In the US some 25% of Caucasians, 51% of Hispanics and 75% of all African Americans have insufficient levels of lactase to digest dairy products and 90% of Asian Americans are lactose intolerant.
posted by mikhail at 3:20 PM on October 10, 2002


And of course milk consumption is on the rise: American culture is taking over the (Eastern) world.

And yet! From the data I looked at, milk consumption has generally been on a slight decline in the U.S. and in most of the leading milk-drinking countries for the past decade. (Sorry to keep flogging my earlier link, but here it is again -- please, soyjoy, by all means, if you've got more extensive info that contradicts this data, post it.)

So now it's American culture that's the culprit? Milk is the new Coca-Cola/Michael Jordan/Mickey Mouse? Sorry, that argument doesn't wash either. Trust me, I'm absolutely the last person who would be an apologist for U.S. capitalism/imperialism but come on: the dairy industry can't exploit global markets to the same degree the entertainment and junk food industries can, the most obvious reason being that milk spoils while Mickey does not. (Well, okay, Mickey was pretty much crap after the early days, but that's another thread.)
posted by scody at 3:28 PM on October 10, 2002


The standard and compelling ethical objection is that it causes suffering in other less powerful sentient beings, and there is no justifying need for milk (or meat) as a nutritional component.

I have just one question: why should I find that compelling?
posted by kindall at 5:03 PM on October 10, 2002


well, since it looked like everyone moved on to another topic....i guess i'll add my two cents.

i personally enjoy milk for a couple of reasons:
1) creme brulee
2) vienese walnut cake
3) apple crisp
4) and every other desert that uses butter in it.

i say once the non-dairy deserts start getting better, than i'll probably use less milk. but the french have too much of an influence in my life.
posted by Stynxno at 5:17 PM on October 10, 2002


our refusal to wean ourselves, unlike the rest of the world, from milk

Showed up on my screen just as my dh (origin Bombay, India) handed me a plate of traditional home-made cheese. Must be the Americans' fault?
posted by loafingcactus at 5:18 PM on October 10, 2002


Yes, but there is a difference between natural relative symmetry and extreme perfect symmetry, which is unnatural.

unnatural != bad
posted by rushmc at 6:19 PM on October 10, 2002


"unnatural != bad"

Not that I said that, but I would say it isn't necessarily bad, although I do believe that striving to impose the subjective idea of perfection, in the form symmetry, on all things is bad.

If you want to discuss it philosophically, there is nothing unnatural at all. We are of nature and therefore anything we do or create is natural. We can do nothing that is not natural for human beings to do.
posted by mikhail at 6:32 PM on October 10, 2002


I can not begin to tell you all how much I love dairy products. Milk, yogurt, butter, and cheese. Oh, the blessed cheese. It may be fattening and possibly unhealthy, but I would put butter and/or cheese on anything. Seriously.

Don't bother checking where I'm from... I'm sure people everywhere love dairy products, right?
posted by BirdD0g at 6:40 AM on October 11, 2002


Scody - Thanks for flogging the link. I don't see why I need to post a different one - the stats back up exactly what I'm saying: That the Northern Europeans and their descendants (e.g. US) drink milk in proportions much greater than the non-Western world in general. This doesn't mean that no non-Westerner ever touches a dairy product, as I thought I had already made clear above. Neither the fact that US consumption is declining (as our population wakes up to the lie of "nature's perfect food"), or that US corporate interests can make money off milk produced and distributed in other countries, contradicts anything I've said.

And really, is the fact that the vast majority of nonwhite adults in the world are lactose intolerant really up for grabs? The "Asian American" qualification, mikhail, is a red herring - it's not as though Asians suddenly develop LI upon arriving in America. This is the wording I've always heard - "In other populations -- Mediterranean, African, Asian and Native American -- 75 percent to 100 percent of adults are lactose intolerant ... where people historically consume little or no milk after infancy." Does someone have stats contradicting that? Am I misreading it somehow, mikhail?

Anyway, I get your points. Y'all love milk. It tastes too good to stop drinking it. Duly noted.
posted by soyjoy at 7:31 AM on October 11, 2002


Scody - Thanks for flogging the link. I don't see why I need to post a different one - the stats back up exactly what I'm saying: That the Northern Europeans and their descendants (e.g. US) drink milk in proportions much greater than the non-Western world in general.

Well, that's what you've broadened your argument (as I've read it) to say the course of this thread -- to the point that we appear to essentially agree on the basic pattern of the data. But once that "set" of high dairy consumers is acknowledged to include Europeans (and not just Northern -- Central and Eastern as well) and their descendents (U.S., Canada, New Zealand/Oz, portions of South America, etc.), then you're speaking of hundreds of millions if not billions of people -- which contradicts your primary premise that "we" (cultures that consume high amounts of dairy) are "unlike the rest of the world." In other words, a significant minority of the human population consumes dairy in moderate or high amounts. That undermines the implication of your original post that milk-drinking into adulthood is an anomaly that is wildly out of step with global dietary habits.

Neither the fact that US consumption is declining (as our population wakes up to the lie of "nature's perfect food"), or that US corporate interests can make money off milk produced and distributed in other countries, contradicts anything I've said.

I think the idea that "the population" as whole is waking up some Big Lie is too simplistic (though certainly many people who no longer consume dairy may do so for moral/political reasons). Anecdotally speaking, everyone I know who cosumes less dairy now than ten years ago are people who have, for various reasons, broadened their diets in general -- my ex, for example: it's not that he decided milk/ice cream/cheese was bad for him; it's that he finally discovered that vegetables and fruit are tasty too. He eats less ice cream now because he sometimes eats a peach instead, not because he is trying to resist the nefarious dairy lobby.

I also agree that U.S. corporate interests can and do play a large (and negative) part in the promotion of dairy consumption abroad (heck, I boycotted Carnation as a kid because of the baby formula scandals; I'm also concerned about the health implications of all the antibiotics, etc. that go into milk production dometically). What I disagree with was your earlier statement "And of course milk consumption is on the rise: American culture is taking over the (Eastern) world." I think that's far too facile a conclusion to draw -- to me it implies that the "Got Milk?" ads or images of people eating cheese in movies carry (or are beginning to carry) the same cultural weight as do the McDonalds logo, images of the good/bad guys smoking in movies, etc. In other words, "Marlboro" (or Coke, or Disney, or Michael Jordan) acts in large part as a signifer of "America" on a global scale; I simply don't believe that "milk" does so in nearly the same way.

We do agree on one thing right out of the gate, however: the pronunciation of the word caramel.
posted by scody at 12:38 PM on October 11, 2002


You know, if someone in this thread had just used the word "hegemony" I would've had a bingo.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:49 PM on October 11, 2002


Mmmmmm... CARmull.

Look, Scody, my dear pronunciation pal, I've already admitted that the wording of the FPP was more provocatively worded than was good for it. But you still keep trying to make me say things I'm not. The fact that Americans are waking up to a specific big lie (that milk is "nature's perfect food") doesn't mean they're changing their diets for any political or ethical reason - they're just finding out that milk is a lot more questionable source of nutrition than they'd previously thought. Fine. Ditto with American culture taking over the world. The fact that there are more McDonaldses in a given country means there will be more dairy consumption. I'm not saying that milk is the agent by which America's taking over the world.

And significant or not, "wildly" out of step or not, we who drink milk regularly as adults are definitely in the global minority. So let's leave it there and agree to... um, agree.
posted by soyjoy at 2:32 PM on October 11, 2002


I agree: mmmmmmmmmmmmm.... Must. Have. CARmull. Now.

That brings up a question for you (and I am honestly not being snarky; I'm genuinely curious): what kind of caramel do you eat? Because I've never known the chewy kind to be made with anything other than milk or cream and sugar. Is there non-dairy caramel?
posted by scody at 4:31 PM on October 11, 2002


I knew you'd say that if I started the post that way. I have heard of, but not tried, non-dairy caramel. There are a lot of amazingly convincing substitues for dairy products, but I think caramel would be one of the hardest, and my guess is it'll be a few years before they get it right. In the meantime, I don't eat caramel or CARmull. I haven't noticed it having much of an impact on my daily level of pleasure.
posted by soyjoy at 7:57 AM on October 14, 2002


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