There’s this idea that we have to drink milk to be healthy. Growing up in a vegetarian family, I was drinking milk, putting butter on my bread, occasionally enjoying cheese on my pizza and eating ice-cream.
When I learned about the dairy industry, there was no way I could ethically continue drinking milk or eat cheese and feel good about where my food was coming from.
I stopped appetising all dairy products, it was stopped being a matter of taste to me. It was a moral improvement for me. I still enjoy almond milk, vegan pizza and rich coconut milk ice cream. Avoiding dairy made sense to me ethically, but the health benefits were hard to ignore; because milk is actually pretty bad for you.
I am going to make three arguments here; hopefully one of them will help you reconsider.
Most people don’t know what happens on a farm or how the food they eat gets to their plate. The complexity of today’s food system is known to very few people.
Have you ever wondered why your cholesterol levels didn’t significantly change even after you cut down on your oily and greasy food consumption? It’s because of Dairy, and not just butter, ghee or cheese but also MILK.
If you haven’t watched Cowspiracy yet, I highly recommend you to. One of my favourite part of the documentary is when Dr Michael Klaper explains that milk is “baby-cow-growth-fluid”, it’s designed for baby cows, not humans.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Services, dairy operations can use upwards of 150 gallons of water per day per cow in total, including the water used for drinking and cleaning, and there are about 264 million dairy cows, now you do the math.
Cows are continuously crossbred, which results in so many cows, thus so much water to keep them alive and producing milk (for us). According to the USDA, the waste from just 200 dairy cows produces as much nitrogen as the sewage from a community of up to 10,000 people.
This waste, if not treated properly, can contaminate local drinking supplies and the soil. Not forgetting to mention, the amount of land that is required to graze all these cows.
Many people have a false image of what the dairy industry is and what a dairy farm actually looks like. The reality for dairy cows is far different than what the cartoon on your milk carton might otherwise suggest.
When a cow is born, if she’s a she, she is taken from her mother within 24 hours, because if not, she will drink up all her mother’s milk, which is for us and if he’s a he, he is sent to the slaughter industry for veal or to grow up to be beef.
Sometimes we forget that cows are not milk-making machines, they need to get pregnant just like other mammals to produce milk. Cows are artificially impregnated again and again throughout her life, in order to continue producing milk.
These dairy cows’ life is far from what we see on milk cartons or cheese packets that show cows happily grazing grass with their calves, they go through sexual exploitation, physical and emotional exhaustion and agonising pain.
You, the wise and intelligent consumer, have the power to influence what goes on in the industry and how it can be changed. With plenty of plant-based milk options out of which some are equally nutritious, some more healthier than cows milk. You have the power to improve our global food resource and act sustainably.
Maybe, it’s time you rethink that glass of milk or that second cup of coffee today.