Hanging in The Balance
Acrylic & ink on canvas, 36x36
$2000 (Scroll down for purchase details)
This piece brings to light the plight of dairy cows.
After all the articles I read, my takeaway is that an unstressed and well-fed cow is a happy cow and evidently produces much better milk. Quality of life and milk hangs in the balance between good science, economics, demand and farming practices that put animal wellbeing at the top of their list.
After reading and researching about farming practices and the dairy industry, I have some hope that the industry, not just a few small farmers, is looking into ways to improve the quality of life of dairy cows and calves born.
Do you know any dairy farmers? What are they doing to provide cows with some quality of life?
I often infuse my work with clusters of symbols organized in different ways. These symbols represent all aspects of life on the planet, like biology, chemistry, alchemy, technology, mathematics, pop culture, tribal symbols and icons of my own.
Humanity’s impact on our world is so profound and life altering that it seems all exists either in chaos, perpetual conflict or imbalance between humans, technology and nature.
Going through creating these clusters allows me to organize and digest the chaos, and literally open up space to breathe within the work and myself. Otherwise, all open space would be filled with chaos.
My work, though it tells hard truths about how human behaviors and consumption habits affect life, it is about hope that the human race will create a sustainable planet where life and technological advances can live in balance.
Several articles I read support demanding grass-fed cows, which supports smaller farmers who practice a more balanced coexistence with the cows.
I recognize that it’s important we don’t anthropomorphize cows based on our human experience as much as I appreciate the reasons why newborn dairy calves don’t stay with their mothers often because of safety and health but only good farming practices across the board help mitigate potential problems and there are still a good number of industrial level farms which are not there yet.
Contrary to what I always thought, not all dairy bull calves are being used for veal production and that’s a relief!. At least In the US, veal isn’t nearly as popular as it once was. Today only a small percent of dairy bull calves are being raised for veal and new, less cruel ways of doing that are folding into the mix. The rest are being raised for beef. Again, good farming practices provide calves with some quality of life.
A big topic of concern is animal wellbeing. The common practice of forced fertility via artificial insemination across the dairy industry is among the top concerns. It means that cows spend their lives being pregnant so they can produce milk. After 5 years, between constant pregnancy and multiple daily milkings afforded by technology, a dairy cow is often spent and sent to slaughter. The more demand for dairy, the higher the rate of forced fertility. A hard problem to mitigate while the demand for dairy continues to rise. Hard to balance for those of us who love our cheese, love animals, and abhor this practice.
Another topic of concern of course is cow manure. It produces vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions which contributes to climate change, and its poor handling can degrade local water resources.
From everything I read, there has been an attempt to demonize the entire dairy industry, and while it has many problems, it seems clear to me that not every farmer is in the practice of cruelty. Scientific research has led to many changes in the industry - still far from ideal, but at least it’s starting to go in the right direction and that gives me hope.
This is a big topic with many, many “branches” to look at, and I barely scratched the surface.
Perhaps we can all keep in mind to read labels and be mindful of where we source our dairy products from.
A few sources of many I read:
Setting is provided to show approximate scale only
*works are sold unframed unless specified. Pictures shown with frame are for display purposes only.