#3 Milk’s Greatest Sacrifice

If you’ve read the Catcher in the Rye, you would understand J.D. Salinger’s referral to the color red as a symbol of youth. If you’ve driven through Vermont, you would know that the color red is recognizable in the faded sides of a barn. If you were an animal rights activist, red barn walls only represents a childish facade to a complex, adult, and potentially suspicious system.

Many of us assume that we have a higher level of understanding for people that are close to us. Many studies have proved this fairly false, which was evident in the duration of my interviews. People that I had assumed shared an opinion of mine, were strikingly ambivalent about the social issues I posed, whereas others in which I was wary of their response passionately agreed with my stand point. These conversations showed how little one opinion meant in the greater scheme of things, relative to a collective argument. The interviews that I’ve previously conducted, focused on history, and the story of the interviewee. I’m excited to begin directing these discussions towards opinions, and the story of someone else. More selfless conversations like these lead to some of the most influential, truthful, and meaningful conclusions, which is an extremely effective way of gauging a general public’s opinion.

The animal rights topic is one that is very controversial, especially in a state that relies on the dairy industry at the extent Vermont does. Controversy has a tendency to promote conversation, which creates immediate change, and potential action. Animal cruelty has many layers, which are both mortifying, and incredible to uncover. The preliminary layer consists of ignorance, and denial. This was evident while conducting conferences. It seems like we are either naive, or have a level of understanding that when it comes to the mistreatment of animals, many force themselves into contradiction. As Georgia Jeffers, a neighbor and friend explains, the lack of publicity, and knowledge encompassing the Animal Rights issue is fueling the continuing of abuse in Vermont.

The topic I discussed in my initial interview was a lot broader that what I presented in the second and third. This lead to a much broader response. My introductory interview was with Natural Resources Board member, Peg Rosenau. In the perspective of strong Environmental Activist, her opinion on the Animal Cruelty issue was slight in comparison to her Environmental concerns, even though both of us failed to mention the relationship between farms, and the destruction of the lake due to runoff. Her advice for creating positive change applied to every Social Issue that might effect our community though. She believes that the fundamentals for solving a problem revolves around “thinking locally, and acting locally,” as well as conversation with your political leaders.

This conversation had brilliant contrast to my third conversation. Georgia Jeffers and her children grew up in a generation where farms were even more abundant than now, and towns were more rural. Georgia believes that animal cruelty is and has been a social concern that has continued to affect farm animals for too long.  Unwillingness to be exposed to something as disgusting as animal cruelty is going to be one of the hardest challenges I face, Georgia describes, but she also believes that it is the primary solution to the abuse of animals. Creating publicity is going to be one of the first steps towards amendments.

These opinions are shared with Sarah Nilsen, a professor at the University of Vermont, who passionately believes that animal cruelty is one of the biggest concerns facing Vermont right now. The farming industry in Vermont consist of many smaller farms, which have the potential to lack proper inspection, and is harder to document, Sarah explains, which creates even more concern surrounding the treatment of animals. Sarah also entails that the greater the dairy industry, the greater amount of veal, which is a situation I’ve encountered first hand being a participant in the Shelburne 4-H club at Shelburne Farms. Upon further research, approximately 55,000 steer are born each year in the dairy industry. The production of veal is a brutal process, and knowing that Vermont is one of the top three producers of veal in the country, is a fact that many seem to be unaware of.

These conversations, either while enjoying the sun on a porch step, or in a bright classroom, have lead to my topic being narrowed down into something that I am passionate about, and can’t wait to continue exploring. I have experienced such range in opinion already, and I am so excited to see what else can come out of more conversation.


Rosenau, Peg. Personal Interview. September 22, 2016.

Jeffers, Georgia. Personal Interview. September 24, 2016.

Nilsen, Sarah. Personal Interview. September 22, 2016

Featured Photo: McGee, Shannon, My Fav Bull Calf 

Lena Ashooh

10 Responses to “#3 Milk’s Greatest Sacrifice

  • Hi Lena!
    My name is Megan Balparda. I really enjoyed reading your article, and knowing you are as passionate about this topic as I am. I am a vegetarian, and try to limit my milk and egg content as much as possible. Are you a vegetarian? I want to make it clear that I have no judgement if you are not, it is a pretty hard change to make. I love that you are doing this topic! Your article was very well written, do you have any advice for me, being not an advanced writer yet?

    • Hi Megan!

      It’s great to hear from you! Yes, I’ve been vegetarian my entire life, along with my family, which I think is something that influenced my interest in the treatment of animals. Have you always been vegetarian? Did you go vegetarian because of the treatment of meat animals?

      Writing wise, I really enjoyed reading your article. I know that for me it is definitely helpful to write about something you are passionate about.

      Once again, I can’t wait to begin working with you!

  • Lena,
    I love how you referred to the “Catcher in the Rye”, and made the red connection. I know at least for me it really hooked me into your article. It is also a great reference because a lot of people have probably read that book. Mr. B would be proud.

    • Hi Petra!!

      I thought the Holden kids might appreciate the reference :)!

      I loved reading your post, it was really well done!


  • Bob Uhl
    6 years ago

    Hi Lena,

    I enjoyed reading your post. One thing that stands out to me is the folks you were able to interview: you certainly found a diverse and experienced few people to speak with.

    I’m curious to know more about the animal cruelty problem you mention here. For example, how does it relate to Vermont’s dairy industry? Do some or most dairy farmers typically mistreat or abuse cows, or is the practice of dairy farming somehow inherently abusive?

    I had no idea Vermont was one of the top producers of veal in the US! It’s such a small state, and you don’t really see the factory farms that are prevalent out West. How is it, I wonder, that such a small state produces so much veal? And what is that process like?

    Good job! Looking forward to reading more!

    • Hi Mr. Uhl,

      It was definitely interesting to get perspectives from a diverse community, and range of experiences.

      I think that one of the most important relationships between dairy farming and animal cruelty revolves around the veal industry. Generally, if a male calf is born on a dairy farm in Vermont, it is sold to the veal production. Something that I didn’t realize, is that there are many types of veal meat. The most common being Bob Veal and Formula-fed veal. Bob veal means that the calf was slaughtered when a few weeks old, whereas Formal-fed veal is a process in which calves are raised only on a milk formula, and are killed at 18-20 weeks old.

      To the best of my understanding, 55,000 male calves are born in Vermont whom eventually are used for meat. Most of the Bob calves are shipped out of state, whereas the older calves are shipped to Pennsylvania, Canada or the midwest.

      Thanks for your reply!

  • Wow, I am so impressed with this post!

    I am especially intrigued by the interviews that you conducted. That is some great work! Where do you see yourself going from here? Is there anything that you think make sense to to tackle next? And great job with the Catcher in the Rye reference… that drew me in 🙂

    I look forward to reading more and continuing on this journey with you! Great job so far.


    • Hi Ella!

      Thank you so much for the response!

      I think that right now I’ve isolated something that I would like to explore, but am unsure on how to approach the topic, and eventually address the social issue.

      I’m also excited to continue working with you!

  • Hi Lena, you had some great interviews and have some great points. One of the things that I noticed is that you only had interviews with agreement towards your thoughts on the subject. It would be great to see what kind of conversations you could have with farmers and others who might be the target of your topic. I think you could vastly expand the view that your topic has. I also think that you have done an amazing job so far, can’t wait to see what else you come up with.

    • Hi Brennan!

      Thank you for the response!

      I definitely agree that discussions with people who oppose the topic will be interesting, it seems like the animal rights subject is very controversial in Vermont.

      I can’t wait to continue working with you!