Then she mentioned how her doctor had initially prescribed her Premarin following her oophorectomy, but she’d chosen natural sources of estrogen instead. It wasn’t out of place in our conversation of animal abuses in society. A vegetarian and animal lover, she was put off by what Premarin was; a compound drug derived from pregnant mare urine. The horses involved in the drug’s manufacturing are kept artificially pregnant and restrained against their will while their urine is collected and used by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and because of this lack of movement, they develop many physical disabilities that drastically shorten their lifespan. She told us that she couldn’t allow herself to use this product while there was an alternative that did not harm animals.

And while she told us this, I chuckled sadly and ironically to myself, looking at the three different cheeses sitting half-eaten on the coffee table.

Everybody in the room was so full of love and I couldn’t imagine any of them deliberately harming or confining an animal; and yet, they’d been eating cheese.

In the most common production of cheese in our society, animals are not cared for under any better conditions than they are in the production of Premarin. Cows must be kept pregnant, because like all mammals, they only produce milk for a short period after giving birth. Once the calf is born, it is taken away from its immobilized mother as the milk intended for her child is sucked from her by machines. The milk is then curdled by casein, which comes from the stomach acid of another cow, often one that could no longer produce milk and was thus expendable. At every stage of production, animals are abused and eventually killed.

Although I wanted to, I did not say anything. I was a guest, after all, and this was polite conversation. It’s hard at times being aware of the overlooked aspects of our habits.