Animal Studies Journal


This paper explores different conceptions of cruelty and kindness as they relate to the Australian dairy industry. Findings are drawn from the Dairy Farming Wellbeing Project: 2017- 18, which we affectionately call The Cow Project (also see Funded by Animals Australia, this study was designed to consider the many issues affecting the health and wellbeing of dairy farmers, their families, cows, calves, and to a more limited extent, bulls. The primary objective was to investigate whether farmers themselves identified (potential) links between their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their farmed animals. A total of 29 qualitative interviews were conducted with 8 dairy industry consultants and 21 dairy farmers (past or present), in South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Conversational, narrative interviewing was used purposively to draw out lived experiences of the dairy farming and the dairy industry. In the current paper, we consider notions of cruelty and kindness through our eyes and those of our participants. We found that to lesser or greater extents, participants used techniques of rationalisation to give revised versions of animal lives and wellbeing in order to facilitate their own moral and ethical comfort, with most maintaining that harmful animal practices within the industry were necessary, for economic reasons, tradition, expediency and/or for the good of the animals.