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A Fascinating Ethical Dilemma: Milk from Sentient Cows

(Photo: Alma)

Zach Weinersmith, the webcomic artist responsible for Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, offers this original ethical question. Vegetarians eschew meat for various reasons, often to avoid harming animals. Vegans often take this perspective even further by using nothing which exploits an animal. So a vegan may choose to not drink milk or use sheep wool because those are products extracted from animals, even though the animals are not killed.

How would you answer Zach's question?

Is the milk now vegan?

Today, fortunately most people get by with two umbrella terms, vegetarian and vegan, which cover quite a few different motivations with the same practical results. But things like this hypothetical question or the development of artificial meat will split those differences. A lot of people just don't like milk, meat, etc. (I've known people that will say they are vegetarian for ethical reasons when really it was just about taste, as that produced less backlash from others). And there are those that will complain about anything along those lines, real or just an emulation, as I've bumped into people that were opposed to fake fur.
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I was once thinking about deer antler velvet. Deer will shed velvet from their antlers by rubbing them on tree branches. If this 'volunteer velvet' is collected from the wild, would it be considered a meatlike product acceptable to vegans? (Its content of growth hormones and supposed effects on strength and wound healing are issues not addressed by this question)
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Automated, cow regulated, dairy farms exist now. The cows choose when to eat, be milked, etc. Some are quite luxurious with cow triggered brushes and misters. I was reading an account of one in the midwest where they frequently left the gate open for truck access and the cows would wander out and eat the rancher's lawn, only to come back in of their own accord.

I believe cows are already sentient, and intelligent enough to make their own choices to some degree. If it runs away and we have to capture it, it is a prisoner and slave.
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Cows don't just produce milk because they are magic. They have to become pregnant first, and then over and over again.
I'm not vegan. But from what I am aware, vegans primarily don't drink milk because of the whole veal thing.
If a cow had a choice, I doubt it would choose yes. I'm sure they love their offspring as much as most/all animals do.

If they said it was OK... I guess it would be OK. But that would seem kind of sociopathic wouldn't it?

Another thought. It's illegal to eat a person, even if they say it's OK. But is it ETHICALLY wrong?
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[Edited by JF. No name calling, please.] You've lost the ORIGINAL intent of the term vegan, which means not using or consuming animal-derived products. The reason WHY is immaterial. A vegan who doesn't consume animal-derived products for health reasons wouldn't give a crap whether the cow consents to it or not. Animal-derived products are not vegan. Period. Full stop.
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