Bristol’s home of in-depth journalism
Powered by 2,000+ members
The Bristol Cable

Artist reflects on dairy industry by living with cows in Bristol city centre for a weekend.

Words and photos: Holly Dove

 

vanessareid

Vanessa Reid

Provocative installation The Milking Parlour, showcasing work by performance artist Vanessa Reid as she mucked, milked and lived with two Guernsey cows in a hay-covered temporary milking shed located at Anchor Square in Bristol’s harbour-side, came to an end this Monday after five days of interaction between famers, the public, artists, politicians and environmentalists.

The deliberately controversial exhibition, curated by Cape Farewell, an arts-based organisation connecting climate change and livestock production, invited the public to come watch milking sessions and ask farmers and the artist questions about agriculture, the dairy industry and its impact on the environment.

Speaking to Reid on her opening day, she told The Bristol Cable how the project began.

“The journey began 18 months ago because I wanted to understand deeper my relationship with food – milk was a great lens to look at [this] relationship because milk is the first thing we consume as children.

“Food is really complicated. It’s deeply emotional… [The Milking Parlour] is provocative. It’s not a project promoting the dairy industry, and it’s not saying that we shouldn’t have one; it’s asking people to question a bit deeper where their food comes from.”

“We need enlightened agricultural systems that can feed our burgeoning population, but also not cost the earth,” Reid said.

“Can the dairy industry, currently so complicit in causing climate change, be part of the solution?”

Exposing the injustice of a market-system that devalues small-scale dairy farming and the environment, Reid’s asked a difficult question; can the dairy industry, currently so complicit in causing climate change, be part of the solution?

One thing is for certain, though; the current model of wide-scale industrial farming does not appear to be working very well. Currently the price of milk is less than a bottle of water.

South West farmer Will Best pondered solutions with The Bristol Cable. “I converted to organic twenty years ago, and never looked back. There is an argument that if everyone did, the market would collapse and nobody could make a living as organic farmers, but still, that is what I would do, wherever I was, because I would be comfortable with what I was doing to the environment and the animals.”

His advice to fellow farmers was to “think outside the box”.

“[Don’t] just go with this ever intensification flow [as it] is actually a road to nowhere, because you create more and more milk, the world gets swamped with milk , price goes down and down, and farmers get less money.”

“In the very old days, when I was a young farmer, we had the milk marketing board in England, which regulated the price of milk, and the government, the farmers, the dairy trade and the retailer sat down once a year and agreed the price from the farm on the doorstep to the process, it agreed all the prices, so everybody had a margin. But you just can’t do that now because regulation has gone out the window with the free market, so you get all this fluctuation.”

Support the journalism Bristol needs.

Thanks to the 2,000+ members who support the Cable, our in-depth journalism is free for everyone. Together, we empower readers with independent and investigative local reporting. Join us and be a part of Bristol’s reader-owned media cooperative.

Join the Cable

Comments

    Report a comment
    Comments are moderated according to our Comment Policy

  • Luther Blisset says:

    Having gone I don’t really see what it was inviting people to question to be honest. It seemed like a publicity stunt for the artists and not much else. The artist didn’t actually seem that in the know about the dairy industry.

    Upon asking I don’t really understand why the cows were in the town centre overnight either. I heard on the radio that some people came after hours to ask about this and were disturbing the cows but I don’t really see how someone putting cows outside a nightclub can claim it’s anyone else’s fault if they’re woken up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Listen: Bristol Unpacked With Neil Maggs Banner Home Page

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with David Goldblatt, on how sport can help save us from climate change

Coronavirus In Bristol Reports

Cars to be banned from parts of Bristol city centre in major boost for cycling and walking

Opinion Banner Home Page

‘We need nature to help stem Bristol’s flood risk’

Solutions In Bristol Edition 22 Banner Home Page

How to heat your home, save cash and the planet

Ideas And Action Interviews

The Bristolian 17-year-old campaigning for racial justice in climate change movement

Banner Home Page Co-op Community Edition 22 Solutions In Bristol

We asked: What needs solving in Bristol?

In Bristol

The essential round-up

Sent to your inbox every Friday