Unfortunately, it's very hard to be a milk drinker without being complicit in the killing of male cattle. For every female dairy cow born, there's a male that's got to be put to some use. In developing countries, the male might be used for labor, but here in the US, males are used for meat.
I've been thinking for a while there's a solution that's at least conceivable. Females are artificially inseminated with bull semen. Why not preselect XX sperm so male cattle are never born? Why not indeed. It turns out that the technology already exists and has been used since 2006. Over 90% of calves born using this technology are female. The New York Times says that 63,000 sex-preselected heifers are going to be added to US dairy herds this year, and 161,000 next year. That means there will be about 250,000 fewer male cattle destined for slaughter.
So, something to celebrate?
Not so fast! It turns out that all those extra heifers seemed economically desirable, back in 2006, but now there's too much milk flooding the market, making prices too low. "Desperate to drive up prices by stemming the gusher of unwanted milk, a dairy industry group, the National Milk Producers Federation, has been paying farmers to send herds to slaughter. Since January the program has culled about 230,000 cows nationwide."
So much for milk without killing.
But what if the technology had worked, just as promised? More females, more milk, fewer males, less killing. Is that all to the good? In their new book on women's rights, Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wu Dunn decry the the huge number of baby girls that aren't born each year because of the widespread practice of sex selection in places like India and China. They call this "gendercide," obviously inviting a comparison to genocide.
Why is it that human gendercide is a very serious matter, morally, but animal gendercide is not? It's not, is it? Using sex pre-selection to prevent later killings of animals seems all to the good. I can't really see a downside.
So animal gendercide is not just like human gendercide, if it's like it at all. While we are making comparisons, how about the comparison between human gendercide and genocide? Does the word play create a false analogy?