Traveling, especially by bicycle, brings you into contact with experiences, sounds, smells and landscapes that would otherwise whizz past the tinted glass of a cars windscreen. Cycling through a landscape is the only way to fully appreciate the richness of a country.
Every mile I've pedaled by bicycle whilst touring, no matter which country, have all had one thing in common; the people. Everywhere I've been it's the people that have made the trip special, and the last few weeks were no exception. One key element of those meets are the things you learn.
My journey ended in Missoula, Montana, where I finally met Jennifer, the senior cartographer at Adventure Cycling, who I have been corresponding with for almost five years. Her husband Rob met me at the airport, and with a seal of approval from the family dog Tiika, we were already old friends.
Jenn and Rob follow a vegan diet, to put it simply, a plant based diet. No part of an animal, or anything they produce, is in their diet. Though I knew vaguely about the vegan way of life, I had never really delved into it. From the word go I was amazed and impressed at the fantastically tasty meals that they served up at the table, and a conversation ensued.
Though it is highly unlikely that I will change to being a total vegan personally, there was one aspect that struck me, and I was a little amazed that I hadn't previously known about it. That aspect was milk.
When I was a little boy in single figures, my father was a dairy herdsman, and every morning before school I went with him to bring in the herd for milking. Almost five decades, thanks to Jenn and Rob, on I have just learned a disturbing fact.
All dairy cattle are artificially, and forcibly, kept pregnant in order to constantly produce milk for us. When the calves are born some are disposed of and some are taken to be locked in darkness to produce veal. All veal comes from the calves born to dairy cattle.
In addition most dairy cattle are pumped with hormones in order to produce as much as 12 times the normal yield, requiring the cows to be milked twice a day!
I've never eaten veal, but I certainly consume milk.
Yes I eat meat in various forms, and I choose carefully what I buy with an eye on the welfare of the animal raised. But I can't abide the thought of this blatant, and not talked about, cruelty to an animal just to satisfy our thirst for milk.
So I have recently started a quest to switch part of my diet to dairy free. I believe it will be a healthier diet too, so that's an added bonus.
I have sourced five different alternatives to cows milk and over the next week I'll be trying them out in various parts of my daily diet. Included in this is cheese, which I have also sourced an alternative to, which should arrive in the next few days.
I'll publish my thoughts of my experiences next week. It's a tiny step in only one aspect of the whole animals-for-food trade, but at least it's a step.