A vegan activist set to speak in Kelowna this month wants people to see milk as a feminist issue.
Gillian Walters, who describes herself as an intersectional vegan activist, told the Capital News that dairy deserves that attention of feminists because the reproductive systems of female cows — the ones that have the ability to lactate — are being systematically exploited to produce milk products.
“I see [the cows] as mothers giving birth to babies and lactating, and their milk is not going to their babies,” she said. “The lactation, the milk that’s being produced for them, is being squeezed out of them for humans to drink.”
Walters said that when she became a mother, she saw more of herself in cows, her favourite animal.
“Becoming a mother I felt even more closely related to that issue,” she said. “And as a feminist it’s all about speaking up for women’s rights.
“The fact that the whole industry is based on a female’s ability to reproduce, that’s what female rights are, that’s what feminism is, it’s about speaking up for our rights as a female body.”
Her message? “Not your mom, not your milk.”
Walters plans to share this message as well as information about her project MummyMOO, a blog with images of mother cows and baby cows that she photographed at B.C. dairy farms, at VegFest Kelowna 2019.
The fest is a rebranding of the Kelowna Vegan Festival, meant to make the event more inclusive for people who are not vegan.
This year the event is set to take place on May 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Immaculata Regional High School. It will include food trucks and vendors with vegetarian and vegan food and beverages, presentations, dance, music, and for the first time, demonstrations.
Walters’ presentation is scheduled from 3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. in the gym.
Through her blog and her VegFest appearance, Walters said she hopes to have conversations with farmers about the dairy industry.
“I would like them to transition to another way of farming where they can meet or exceed the profit that they’re making right now without harming animals,” she said. “I know that there are examples of that and I hope to bring them with me when I come to Kelowna.”
The City of Kelowna has designated the full week leading up to Walters’ presentation and the overall festival as Vegan Awareness Week.
In February Mayor Colin Basran signed a new proclamation that May 19 to 26 will be a week of awareness for plant-based diets, because they are healthy and require less resources, he said.
“I found it to be in line with many of the other events in our community that are promoting things going on in the world and in our community,” Basran told the Capital News. “This one I thought was worthy of a proclamation.”
According to VegFest organizer Sarah Parsons, Basran will read the proclamation outside of City Hall on May 22 at 10 a.m.
Aside from raising awareness, Parsons said the week will entail local vegan and vegetarian-friendly businesses offering a discount or special service.
She said the fest is working on a list of participating businesses, which will be posted on their website in the next few days.