I recently participated in a 30-comment Facebook thread on dairy farming practices — specifically, hormones in milk. Originally, my college roommate had asked whether she should feed her 1-year-old son exclusively organic milk, alluding to the rumored “connection” between rbST and early puberty in girls. One woman commented that she only feeds her kids organic milk due to the fact that “factory farms” churn out pus-filled, antibiotic-laced milk from abused downer cows. It was like she was reading directly from the vegan playbook. Good grief.
I chimed in with my dairy checkoff-trained responses (milk is milk; IGF-1 doesn’t pass through the membrane; cow comfort is paramount to farmers, both from an animal welfare perspective and in terms of their bottom line; rbST helps us get more milk for our environmental footprint; conventional farming is the only way we’ll be able to feed the soon-to-be 9 billion people on planet Earth; the vast majority of farms are family-owned and -operated, etc.). And she had “answers” to each of these points, including, “I don't think cows injected with rBGH are comfy cows. They often get painful infections which require antibiotics to treat” and “I encourage you to watch footage from workers in the farming industry who went undercover to show the absolute horror that occurs. Those cows are not queens by any stretch of the imagination.”

The one point she couldn’t refute was my request that she tour a dairy farm and see for herself. Now, in this woman’s instance, I don’t believe even that would change her mind. But it might have influenced her several years ago, before she was bombarded with gimmicky appeals from animal rights groups. A tour might have laid a foundation of trust in dairy farmers; it might have deposited some credits in the Bank of Trust that we like to talk so much about. Meeting a dairy farmer might have put her in the position to question the rhetoric she would be fed from vegan groups. In short, it might have prepared her to make up her own mind.

It took two days of comments for us to agree to disagree. I was reminded how difficult it is to pull someone back up after they’ve jumped over the ledge of common sense when it comes to animal agriculture. So please do the industry a favor and hold more farm tours. It’s our first best defense against this kind of ignorance.