This was going to be on list of things I’ve noticed during lockdown, but I was so annoyed about this observation that it took on too much length for that list. This realisation came this morning. I heard a huge high pitched crash – as though a thousand hammers had simultaneously smashed a thousand bottles. Not quite, I looked out of my front bedroom window to see shards of thin and brittle glass, large and tiny, beaten down on the road, piled and scattered densely across both lanes; the remnants of used and unused milk bottles, freshly flung from the van with no walls that had stopped the traffic behind it. A 4×4 had pulled out in front of the milk man apparently, and caused him to swerve to avoid it, resulting in a profusion of sharp, dangerous, filthy glass and putrid dairy milk littering my road.
In an instant, I realised something I’d never spared a thought on previously – that milk floats are unsafe and inappropriate vehicles for transporting hundreds of glass bottles precariously balanced on top of one another, unsecured in a vehicle with no walls to contain them!
Three households came out to help sweep up (and I was not surprised which neighbours joined in with the clean up and which neighbours couldn’t be arsed. They would all definitely have heard and seen the accident). I was worried my gardening brush would be contaminated with rotting bodily secretions, or that by helping clean up I would be complicit in an industry I detest, and for these reasons was mentally reluctant to help, though physically my body went into automatic pilot when I saw the scene. My neighbours swept cheerily – smiling, chatting and joking, often forgetting we ought to stay two meters apart, seemingly happy for the social interaction.
Trying to focus on the tiny glints of light on the dark grey road as the sunlight highlighted fragments scattered everywhere – an angry instruction from nature to clear it quickly – I swept in silent, disdainful annoyance. Annoyance at the Covid contamination risk this careless business posed to us all. Annoyance at the risk to wildlife and pets that this mess now presents as we are unable to sweep up the glass entirely. At Carnism rendering my kind neighbours and the milkmen so disappointingly ignorant to the cruelty of the dairy industry and the problematic transportation involved in this incident. Anger for the treatment and oppression of cows.
It occurs to me that the dairy industry yet again gets away with actions that would not be accepted in other industries. Milk floats seem to me akin to a car driving around with the boot open and full of glass or unsecured materials. You’d be pulled over for that; it would clearly not be considered to be safe transportation. My neighbours surely would not have been so cheery about the mess if it had been the result of a careless car driver. I worked in an industry in which risk assessments and method statements are required for every job and where every possible precaution be put in place to reduce risk of accidents and harm to both workers and the public. In this case, a sensible precaution, surely, would be loading hundreds of unsecured glass bottles onto a vehicle with WALLS to contain them should it need to swerve or be involved in an accident. This milk man is very lucky indeed that no passers by were harmed.
Why are milk men exempt from safety requirements? I suspect because, as with other facets of Carnist culture, the ‘tradition’ is valued and protected despite the risk it poses. In fact, through the lense of Carnism, the risks are actually invisible to those trapped within the belief system. ‘Free milk for a month for us’ angled the man from no. 7, a joke made in greedy hope as he held his food recycling bin for us to pile our collected shards into. The milk man did not find this funny, and neither did I, though the other neighbours laughed along. I despair.