"Agriculture is the best of all business" – this quote from the new documentary "The milk system" makes it clear: Milk is usually not a natural product from an idyllic farm, but big business. The impressive documentary shows the machinations of the global dairy industry and their consequences for animals, the environment and people.
The image of happy cows is usually emblazoned on milk and yogurt and the advertising tells us that milk is essential for our health. Given the masses of cheap dairy products, one can actually imagine that this is not the whole truth.
The milk system
And yet the new documentary “The milk system” opens your eyes. Because it shows not only how most dairy cows really are kept, but above all how powerful, lucrative and globally networked the dairy industry is today – and how far away from our idea of green cow pasture.
Milk production like on an assembly line (Photo: © EIKON FILMPRODUKTION and MIRAMONTE FILM, Martin Rattini)
The well-staged and impressive images of large-scale industrial companies are more reminiscent of the assembly lines of the auto industry than farms.
Disturbing pictures of the milk machinery
Director Andreas Pichler presents us with recordings of high-performance cows that can hardly walk anymore, of gigantic computer-controlled milking parlors that slowly rotate in circles, of sterile factories that fill thousands of liters of milk per day in cartons, some of which are disturbing, in fully automated processes.
But the documentary "The milk system" does not rely on cheap shock effects, but wants to understand and explain: Where does milk come from today? Who makes money from it? How do dairy cows live and is there another way? The film allows actors all over the world to speak, from small farmers to large industrialists, from Austria to China.
High-performance cows are bred in absurd proportions so that they give as much milk as possible. (Photo: © EIKON FILMPRODUKTION and MIRAMONTE FILM, Martin Rattini)
The film recordings and statements are in stark contrast to each other: here the group manager in suit, who is talking about growth, business opportunities and competition on the world market, there the family-run business, which is trying to at least make some money with the manure of the cows.
You only work for corporations, for the concentrated feed industry and for the food industry. And you yourself fall by the wayside ”,
this is how Martin Geiger, a dairy farmer in a family business in southern Germany, sums it up.
Industrial vs. smallholder agriculture
The documentary lets managers of the powerful dairy companies, scientists, politicians, experts and breeders have their say. As an example of agriculture, the film presents a huge industrial dairy in Denmark and an organic smallholder in South Tyrol – two concepts of dairy farming that could not be more different.
"It is simply much more than a job, it is actually a life model",
says the organic dairy farmer Alexander Agethle in South Tyrol. The Danish entrepreneur, on the other hand, has other priorities:
"Our entire existence is based on the fact that we produce one liter of milk as cheaply as possible."
The statements made by the interviewees are sometimes thoughtful, sometimes sad and sometimes angry – can a sentient being be treated like a commodity so that we humans can drink milk? Is it morally justifiable to trade an animal product on the world market as if it were petroleum? And: Smallholder organic farming can be the solution?
Can smallholder agriculture be the solution? (Photo: © EIKON FILMPRODUKTION and MIRAMONTE FILM, Falco Seliger)
Given the scale that industry has now adopted and the pain it takes for animals, the question of human health is almost irrelevant.
One thing is clear: we consume a lot of milk products unnecessarily and that is not good for us. But the real problems of the milk system lie elsewhere: exploitation, animal suffering and ruthless pursuit of profit.
The milk system (© Tiberius Film)
Utopia thinks: "The milk system" shows in a multifaceted and credible way what milk is today. Unlike many other films on the subject of animal protection, it presents many facts and allows different perspectives without trying the moral index finger. Which conclusions you draw for yourself from this film is up to you, but he will certainly not leave anyone cold.
The film: "The milk system – the truth about the dairy industry" is still available in the until 19.09.2022.
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