Dairy. What a sham. Where should I start…the health issues, animal cruelty or the environmental path of destruction created by the dairy industry. Let me first start by addressing the myth that so many of us are still dearly attached to. Nearly all of the dairy cows in this country today live in filthy, cramped quarters on industrial factory farms. They don’t live on Old McDonald’s Farm in a big, red, cozy barn grazing outside on a sunny, green pasture alongside their kin. The year I became a mother myself, I wrote a blog post for PETA about dairy cows. Here’s an excerpt:
Cows in the dairy industry live a miserable life they’re often treated as if they were nothing more than milk machines. Just like humans, cows produce milk to feed their babies. But on factory farms, the milk that cows produce goes directly to humans. The dairy industry forcefully impregnates millions of individual cows year after year to keep their milk supply flowing. They're frequently pumped full of hormones and antibiotics to increase their milk supply, as more milk equals more money. This physically demanding cycle takes a toll on the cows' health, and more than half the cows suffer from excruciatingly painful mastitis and lameness.
By the end of their lives, many of these cows are in so much pain and so weak that they can't even walk or stand, so workers callously drag them or push them with a bulldozer to a truck that is bound for the slaughterhouse. That's the thanks they get for providing humans with years of milk--a trip to the slaughterhouse to be made into ground beef. For their entire lives, cows on dairy factory farms are forced to stand indoors on concrete floors or are crammed into filthy, overcrowded feedlots.
After being nestled in comfort and safety inside their mother for nine months, newborn calves are literally dragged away from their mothers just hours--sometimes only minutes--after entering the world. Female calves will face the same fate as their mothers: They'll replace her when her body gives out and her usefulness as a milk machine runs out. Male calves will be shackled by the neck 24/7 in a tiny crate, unable to even turn around. They are fed iron-deficient diets in order to produce the pale-colored flesh that humans prefer. The stress, loneliness, fear, and frustration that these babies must feel is heartbreaking. Then they'll be slaughtered, and their flesh, labeled as veal, will end up on a dinner plate, where the person consuming it won’t think twice about it.
Read the entire post here.
These large corporate operations manage to decrease their costs through intensively raising hundreds or thousands of animals in small spaces, while they increase revenues by pushing the cows to produce more milk at whatever physical cost to the cow. They win, and the animals lose. The consumer also loses though, because their money supports a product whose production is responsible for reeking havoc on the environment, harmful to our health, and has come from an animal who has been treated in ways that most of us would find objectionable. We end up with a huge stain on our conscience when we pay other people to do things that we couldn’t do ourselves.
The American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics both agree that "well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets can satisfy the nutritional needs and promote normal growth of infants and young children." So if the experts on nutrition are saying that we don’t need dairy products, there is no reason to feed your kids dairy. The idea that milk from a cow is somehow good for the human body is a farfetched notion held together by the super glue of habit and tradition. It’s shaped our minds and formed our decisions for many years, due in large part to the massive efforts of the dairy industry. However, many studies are debunking this nutritional myth by showing that not only is cow’s milk not beneficial to our health, but there are potential health risks associated with consuming it. Steve Wynn said it best when he called it, “liquid cholesterol.”
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) states “…clinical research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones. A 2005 review published in Pediatrics showed that milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children. More studies have shown that consuming cow's milk not only provides no protection against bone fractures but may also even increase one's risk of getting osteoporosis. For example, according to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, active adolescent girls who consumed the most calcium, primarily from dairy products, had more than twice the risk of bone fractures of active girls who consumed the least calcium.
Similarly, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk. In fact, they found that those who consumed two or more glasses of milk per day had higher risks of broken hips and arms than those who drank one glass or less per day.
Also, according to a brand new study published by the Harvard School of Public Health, “Calcium is important. But milk isn’t the only, or even best, source” and “It’s not clear, though, that we need as much calcium as is generally recommended, and it’s also not clear that dairy products are really the best source of calcium….plus, dairy products can be high in saturated fat as well as retinol (vitamin A), which at high levels can paradoxically weaken bones.” How’s that for irony? Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate calls for us to limit our consumption of milk/dairy. Their nutrition experts claim this guide is based on sound nutrition research and not influenced by food industry lobbyists. That’s a nice change of pace for once.
If milk does the body so “good” then why is it that the countries that consume the most dairy are also the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis- and vice versa.
Humans are the only species that drinks another species’ milk….and the only species that drinks milk past infancy into adulthood. Think about that for a minute. So why has a substance that’s meant to fatten up calves quickly become so revered as a necessary staple in households around the world. Could it have something to do with the billion-dollar marketing campaign that the dairy industry has conveniently marketed to us (and schools, gov'ts, doctors, etc) , and the entanglement of the USDA with our government/schools. If it is calcium and Vitamin D that we’re all after, there are far better sources that don’t involve housing tons of animals in warehouses and destroying the environment. So if you’re still consuming milk and other dairy products, consider kicking the dirty habit. If you compare a carton of cow’s milk to any of the alternative non-dairy milks on the market including soy, rice, almond or coconut milk, you’ll find that in terms of calcium and Vitamin D, they all contain at least the same amount as cow’s milk, and in fact, many actually contain more. Plus, non-dairy milks are usually fortified with high doses of other important vitamins and nutrients including iron and B12. Other good, non-dairy sources of calcium include collards, bok choy, spinach, fortified juices, beans.
So that being said, why would you still want to consume cow’s milk? There’s really no excuse…other than you can’t get past your childhood experiences, and the brainwashing marketing ads that have been telling us for years that we need milk for our bones. That being said, I know how hard it can be to break away from the norm. It’s not easy to flip everything you know upside down. Parents especially want the best for their kids, so we’re relying on others, who we think are experts. As kids many of us have been raised on glasses of milk at dinner, and hunks of cheese for snacks, so it’s hard to envision giving that up. But habit doesn’t make right or truth, so do your own research about the dairy industry…don’t let the industry itself determine what your body does and doesn’t need.
Need help making the transition? Start by reading Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth about Cow’s Milk and Your Health by nutritionist Dr. Joseph Keon. In it, he unveils how we unwittingly sabotage our health every day by drinking milk, and he shows that our obsession with calcium is unwarranted. I also highly recommend a book written by the son of the founder of Baskin-Robbins, John Robbins, who wrote, Diet for a New America. Despite having grown up around an ice cream empire (including having an ice-cream shaped pool!), he now espouses dairy and advises everyone to avoid dairy.
Also, check out GoDairyFree.org and NotMilk.com for more resources.
Mother’s Day is the perfect time to show your support of all mothers. You can do this by ending your support of the dairy industry, which treats mother cows (and their babies) as commodities.
HAPPY Mother’s Day to ALL!