[WATCH] ‘I wouldn’t have accepted this role, if I had to compromise my principles’ – Alison Bezzina

Commissioner for Animal Welfare addresses backlash on Facaebook post challenging the need for milk consumption • Bezzina says she “only wants to educate people”

Commissioner for Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina
Commissioner for Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina

Commissioner for Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina has defended her stance on the milk production industry and human consumption of dairy against criticism from farmers, saying she would not have accepted her role to compromise on her principles.

Bezzina landed in hot water earlier in the week when she published a post on Facebook challenging the need for milk consumption on World Milk Day, saying cows had to be impregnated artificially to keep producing milk continuously, with calves separated at birth and fed formula while their mother’s milk goes for human consumption.

Hosted on MaltaToday Newsroom, Bezzina explained her position on veganism and animal products. “There would not be a need for veganism, if animal products could be produced without the need to abuse animals. Unfortunately, currently, the only way is to go plant based. I like meat and I wished I did not have to make a sacrifice every day when not eating meat or taking my coffee black,” Bezzina said.

She explained that she was brought up consuming meat and milk, but added that she started educating herself on how animal products were produced. “I now refuse to take part in this process.”

“My attempt was to educate people with facts and truths about the milk production process. I believe in education and what I wrote is not subjective,” Bezzina said in reference to her post.

Asked whether the post was an attack on the livelihoods of those working in the milk industry, Bezzina argued that whenever the health minister advised against smoking or alcohol consumption, the message was never regarded as an attack against individuals whose livelihoods depend on those industries.

Bezzina’s position on milk consumption is not aligned with that of the government, that actively promotes milk consumption and subsidizes it. Asked whether her engagement in this discourse was jeapordising her job, Bezzina said she was not compromising her beliefs.

“I would not have accepted this role, if I had to compromise my principles. The only compromise I made was that on this issue I did not offer my opinion but chose to focus on facts. I left it up to the people to make up their own minds.”

She said that the role of a commissioner, as defined by law, is to promote educational campaigns and social dialogue on the fair treatment of animals. “I did not divert away from my role. I am the animals’ advocate and the animals are a priority.”

Bezzina said that she engaged in conversation with the farmers, however she acknowledged that they could never agree on principle. “You can’t change the fact that a cow has to remain pregnant in order to keep producing milk.”

She said that the middle ground could be possibly found, if demand went down, leading to better conditions for the cows. “The idea of cows grazing over green pastures is however impossible to achieve here in Malta.”

Bezzina also touched on the issue of the price of plant milk, which is much heftier than that of cow’s milk, therefore making it much more difficult for the average person to make the shift.

“There should be a level playing field, as we are aware that the plant-based choice is more environmentally friendly. The subsidy should be towards plant based milks, but for starters, it should at least be on both. Those that choose one way should not be discriminated against,” Bezzina said.