colonial law, plantation economy, milk commercialization, dairy regulation, health legislation, intersectional analysis

Document Type



This paper tells a story of the relationship between colonialism and capitalism through the lens of “milk” and “the law” in the Caribbean. Despite high levels of lactose intolerance amongst its population, milk is a regular part of many Caribbean diets and features prominently in its foodscapes. This represents a distinctive colonial inheritance that is the result of centuries of ongoing colonial violence and displacement. Taking a feminist and intersectional approach, the paper draws on analysis of key pieces of colonial legislation at significant historical junctures and secondary literature to do three things. Firstly, it examines how law aided the colonisation of peoples, lands and nature in the Caribbean, and how the introduction of draught animals and livestock played a key role in this story. Secondly, it shows how the colonial desire for tastes from the “motherland” resulted in the importation and consumption of bovine milk where there had previously been none, but also how this story of straight colonial imposition is complicated by the arrival of indentured Indian labourers after emancipation who brought with them their own dairy cultures of production and consumption. Thirdly, it examines how the colonial administration, at different points in time, used the law to manage and control the conditions of both human and bovine milk production, and demonstrates the ways in which this is linked to the commercialisation of bovine milk for human consumption. Ultimately, the paper shows how animals, peoples and nature were manipulated for colonial and capitalist ends and how laws relating to animals and milk produced change at specific historical junctures in tandem with shifts in colonial and post-colonial relations and new constellations of gender, race, class and animality.