Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Dairy milk is misery milk!

Icons come, and icons go, but “Peanuts” abides. Beginning in 1950, ending in 2000, and living on in syndicated reprints, the round-headed kid and the bodacious beagle are cultural fixtures for generations of American and world citizens. Baby Boomers have spent our entire lives–60+ years!–under the influence of “Peanuts.” And 17,897 published strips later, it shows no sign of waning:

It’s hard to overestimate the “Peanuts” phenomenon: it’s both a warm, familiar, daily presence and a seasonal treat–a beloved friend arriving for the holidays. And that’s why it feels so darn wrong to see the gang pushing milk–(chocolate milk, in this case, “The Official Drink of Halloween“)–a product whose origin lies in animal suffering.

In 2010 “Peanuts” was acquired by Iconic Brand Group in an 80%-20% partnership with the family of the strip’s creator, Charles M. Schulz. Said son Craig Schulz, “Peanuts now has the best of both worlds, family ownership and the vision and resources of Iconix to perpetuate what my father created throughout the next century with all the goodwill his lovable characters bring.”

How it is: Click image

How it is: Click image

But there’s no goodwill found in the dairy industry where cows–kept pregnant and lactating–endure miserable lives fraught with disease, suffering, and cruelty. As mothers, they suffer emotionally when one calf after another is whisked away to early death in veal production (if male) or to her own short, painful life of milk-producing servitude if female. Factory farmed cows are spent and sent to slaughter at four years old on average; according to Born Free USA, “fully 25% of dairy cattle are slaughtered before they are 3 years old. Only 25% of dairy cattle live more than 7 years, although the natural life span for cattle is 20-25 years.” Good grief, Charlie Brown, where’s the compassion?

Humans, of course, are the only mammal that drinks another species’ nursing fluid, and the only animal that continues to drink it into adulthood (unless common sense or lactose intolerance strike first). But the dairy industry has a powerful public relations machine constantly and cleverly convincing us that something not good for us really is. Admired celebrities sport milk mustaches while the “Got milk?” campaign plays on a “milk deprivation strategy” (running out of milk when you need it most–the horror!)–something we humans apparently hate. Oh,Schroeder, are you THAT shallow?

But any talk of deprivation that fails to focus on what bovine individuals endure is just self-indulgent, speciesist blather. Factory farmed cows are deprived of any semblance of a life worth living until their profitability declines and they’re trucked off to premature death at the slaughterhouse like disposable commodities. Lucy, girlfriend, where’s your heart? (Sure, Barbie sold out, but you’re…well, you’re BETTER than that!)

There’s only one logical conclusion we can draw here: The “Peanuts” gang simply doesn’t know. They’ve been duped. Hoodwinked. Co-opted. Linus?–sensitive Linus–faithfully awaiting the Great Pumpkin to rise up out of the most sincere pumpkin patch? No, he would never be a shill. Can you imagine gentle Linus endorsing milk if he had seen the undercover video of dairy cows being painfully de-horned? Or kind-hearted Charlie Brown jumping on the milk bandwagon had he viewed footage of routine tail docking performed without anesthesia? Wouldn’t little Sally dissolve into tears at the sight of calves being dragged away from their bellowing moms, as documented by Mercy for Animals? Aren’t you pretty sure (I am!) that even crabby, self-centered Lucy would stand up and shout, “Hey blockheads, this is wrong! It’s sadistic and cruel! Stop it! (That’ll be five cents, please.)”

No, Snoopy would never agree to this disingenuous marketing ploy if he knew the suffering (open wounds, physical abuse, “downer” cows left to die) (aaugh!) his four-legged kin endure for that chocolate milk mustache. But U.S. milk sales are at their lowest level in decades, and drastic times call for drastic measures: “Milk is an important part of a healthy diet for growing children, so PEANUTS is happy to support the iconic ‘got milk?’ campaign,” said the Chairman and CEO of Iconix Brand Group, owner of Peanuts Worldwide.

Countering this obsolete dietary dogma is Dr. Frank A. Oski, chief of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine: “At least 50 percent of all children in the United States are allergic to cow milk, many [of them] undiagnosed,” he claims in his book, “Don’t Drink Your Milk—New Frightening Medical Facts About the World’s Most Overrated Nutrient” (source). And listen to Dr. Gary Huber: “If you search the literature as I did, you will find studies that support both sides of the argument,” says Huber. But “if you read any article not funded by the Dairy Council (if you can find one), you see milk is not good food. It is neither healthy nor necessary for kids or anyone else.”

It should be clear by now that the “Peanuts” gang–those lovable ambassadors of goodwill–are being exploited. They’ve been suckered. Deceived. They’re unwitting tools. Patsies (*sigh*). And that is a real downer.

Comment on this post at animal law blog Animal Blawg.

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