Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Vegan FAQs # 3 - What's Wrong With Dairy?

 
I was recently asked by a friend "What's wrong with dairy? Why not just be vegetarian?", and was talking about it with another friend too, so I thought I'd write a post on it.
 
Please note that this post is just me sharing my personal experiences and answering a question I am frequently asked.  It is not intended as an attack on anyone else's choices.

Reading the health facts about milk started to put me off.  But finding out how cruel it is to cows is what turned me vegan. 
 
Like humans, cows only produce milk if they've had a baby, so cows are artificially inseminated (usually, as it's cheaper) so they will have a calf.  When the baby calf is born, the mother produces milk to nourish it.  If humans want this milk the calf can't have any, it's not economically viable to allow the calf to have 'just a little bit and we'll have the rest'.  So that milking for humans can commence the calf is removed from the mother within a few days, causing extreme distress and grief to both mother and calf as they establish a strong bond within a few hours.  There has been research into the trauma and stress this causes and even the dairy industry admit it causes emotional stress.  The calf is then either shot, raised for veal (when it will be killed at 1-7 months old) or if it's a female it might be raised for the dairy industry too.  The 'variety' of cows used for the dairy industry don't grow into big, hefty meat cows, so the boys are no use to be grown for beef in the meat industry, they are seen as 'waste products'.  I used to live near a dairy farm and the sounds of the mother cows' cries after the calves were taken away were absolutely heart breaking, it was horrendous, and continued for days.  As a mother the thought of someone separating me from my child is too terrible to contemplate, it makes me feel sick. 
 
The mother cow is then made pregnant again and the gruelling, heart breaking cycle starts again.  As the mother is re-impregnated whilst still lactating from the previous pregnancy she spends 7 months out of every year simultaneously pregnant and producing huge quantities of milk (10 times more than a calf would drink, so her udder is forced to work unnaturally hard).  A calf would normally feed 5-6 times a day so that the maximum amount of milk in her udder at any one time would be 2 litres, but on modern dairy farms a cow is milked only twice a day, allowing milk to accumulate in the udder and forcing her to carry around 10 litres of milk or more.  This greatly enlarged udder can lead to lameness in her hind legs and predisposes her to mastitis. 
 
A depressing number of dairy cows are culled after only two to three lactations because they are worn out, either through emaciation, breakdown of the udder tissues, or chronic lameness.  When the mother stops producing enough milk, usually by 5 years old (their natural life span is 25-30 years), she is slaughtered, often whilst pregnant.  One of the worst videos I've ever seen in my life is a pregnant cow being slaughtered, and seeing the baby calf kicking inside her as she died.  It has stayed with me ever since. 
 
I cannot be a part of that. 
 
This is the same for all dairy production, from zero grazing to organic, as this is how the industry works.  You cannot get milk any other way.  I honestly think that the dairy industry is even crueller than the meat industry.  If you are interested I'd really recommend reading The Dark Side of Dairy for more in-depth, referenced information about dairy http://www.whitelies.org.uk/sites/default/files/Dark-Side-of-Dairy-report-2014.pdf
 
Regardless of the inherent cruelty involved in dairy production I researched a lot about the health of drinking dairy.  I had always thought that dairy was really healthy, necessary in our diets, and that it is the main source of calcium humans need.  Actually in the average UK diet only 43% of our calcium comes from milk and milk products, the rest comes from the food we eat.  Soya and other dairy-free milk is often fortified with the same amount as or more calcium than cow's milk, so it's really not an issue.  Foods like leafy green vegetables, tofu, dried fruit, nuts and seeds are good sources of calcium. 
 
Dairy products have been linked to breast, bowel, ovarian and prostate cancer, diabetes, asthma, eczema, digestive issues and numerous other conditions. Scientists, nutritionists and health organisations have an increasing interest and concern about the negative effects of dairy consumption on human health.  The China Study was a human study of 6,500 adults in 65 counties in China, including the use of questionnaires and blood tests, and had 367 variables, resulting in more than 8,000 statistically significant associations between lifestyle, diet, and disease variables.  It concluded that people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease.  People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest.  In multiple, peer-reviewed animal studies, researchers discovered that they could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off by raising and lowering doses of casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk.  We are told that we need cow's milk to build strong bones, but dairy consumption actually makes the blood more acidic which causes our bodies to leach calcium from our bones, INCREASING the risk of osteoporosis.  Dairy is really not the health product that the industry-funded marketing would have you believe. 
 
Another fact that completely turned me off dairy is that up to 400 million somatic cells are legally allowed per litre of milk (somatic cells are pus cells).  SICK! They're not filtered or pasteurised out (pasteurisation lowers bacterial count but not somatic cell count). 
 
I also believe in animal rights.  I don't feel that animals are ours to use and exploit for our own gain, they have their own lives and interests and should be allowed to live a life that is not under human control. 
 
Another thing that made me think about it before I went vegan was when someone asked me if I would go and suck the teats of a cow to get milk.  Or suck my mum's boobs.  Or would I drink milk from a horse or a cat or a rat? Um....clearly the answer was no! Yack!
 
There's not even room to mention about the livestock industry's impact on the environment, I'll save that for another post.
 
So I gave up dairy, and after the first couple of months of getting used to it and missing cheese, I would never go back. 

And that's why I personally choose not to eat dairy!


* All the facts and statistics etc. mentioned are from:
 
 

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