Monday, February 27, 2012

On eating cheese, and not

In the past, I was perplexed by people who didn’t eat eggs or cheese. I thought the only reason was the belief that the use of any animal products is inherently abusive, and that is in fact a belief held by many vegans. I’ve done a lot of reading about farmed animals, though, and I know that more than once I came across descriptions of the treatment of animals (cows and chickens, at least) whose milk and eggs we use. But given my love of some of these foods, particularly cheese, and the beliefs and behaviors my culture normalizes and naturalizes, the information and objections never quite sank in, and didn’t take root in my conscious memory.*

(That, Karla McLaren, is what a polemic looks like.**)

At long last, it has, and I’m doing something about it. I’ve searched for cruelty-free cheese, and found it to be elusive if not nonexistent. It’s far more complicated than I’d thought. I’m going to keep searching (including for cruelty-free milk that I could use to make my own cheese), and begin asking around at local farms. Meanwhile, I can get eggs from the happy chickens at my friends’, and I’m now armed with a vegan cookbook, a list of dairy substitutes for baking, and a gift card for Whole Foods where I can find the better vegan cheese substitutes.

*I didn’t, though, to the best of my recollection, respond by eating a hunk of cheese or talking about doing so in front of them out of spite. That would have been idiotic.

**Actually, I don’t think McLaren, with her talk of terror and despair, has a clue what a polemic is in the first place, or read all of the books she wrote about, so it’s neither here nor there.


  1. I feel conflicted about this. I've succeeded in going fully veggie, of late, but I'm still ovo-lacto-vegetarian; I've never been able to sustain a vegan diet. (Pizza and baked goods form important parts of my present diet.)

    In principle, I think my position is that it's not inherently wrong to consume dairy products and eggs, provided the animals are raised in a non-cruel environment; but of course the industrial dairy and poultry farming industries are renowned for a number of abusive practices, and one can't usually rely on eggs or dairy products being cruelty-free unless they come from a known source. So, from the perspective of the moral standards I espouse, I can acknowledge that I probably should be vegan or nearly-vegan. The reason I'm not is really one of cost and practicality rather than morals, and I'm somewhat unhappy with myself about that.

  2. Unfortunately every time we eat cheese we help send a days-old calf to a dark veal crate for months until it is slaughtered.