We are conditioned our whole lives to believe that milk is good for us, and that it’s essential to our diets. Between all the advertisements, promotions, and doctors, almost everyone is pushing milk as a healthy beverage vital for proper nutrition. We assume that all of this is true, and so most of us begin drinking cow’s milk as soon as we are weaned from our mother’s milk. Since becoming vegan and doing research on the meat and dairy industry, I’ve come to realize how wrong all of this is. Not only morally wrong, but chemically and biologically wrong.
Let’s first think about how it is biologically wrong for us to be drinking milk from a cow. So we are born, and almost immediately begin drinking milk from our mother. This breastmilk is perfectly designed to have all the nutrients and calories to sustain life, and help us to develop. We drink our mother’s milk, the person that gave us life. Cow’s milk, on the other hand, is not from our mother; it’s from a different mammal. In fact, it’s milk that comes from a mammal that gives birth to a 825 lb. baby. A calf is typically weaned from its mother’s milk between 7-8 months of age, as are humans. But we as humans continue to drink cow’s milk. Humans are the only mammal that continues to drink milk after infancy, and we also are the only animal that consumes milk from another animal. We don’t see dogs drinking milk from a cow, or cats drinking milk from a dog. It’s not biologically normal.
When we are born we have an enzyme in our bodies called lactase. This enzyme is to help us digest the sugars in our mother’s milk, lactose. As we age, our bodies no longer need this enzyme, due to us weaning off of breastmilk and consuming other foods. So chemically, our bodies are not made or fully capable of digesting milk our entire lives due to the decreased production of lactase. This is one of the reasons why lactose intolerance is so prevalent, people have lost the enzyme/ability to digest the sugars in milk.
“But milk is the only way you can get calcium.” This is a common question that comes with an argument against drinking cow’s milk. This is completely untrue; calcium can be found in hundreds of different plant-based foods. Not only that, but the calcium in milk (especially when pasteurized, which is required in many states) is barely absorbed in the body. Yes, there is nearly 300 mg of calcium in a cup of milk, but there are many studies that show that very little of it is absorbed. Aside from absorption, milk actually has been shown to cause us to LOSE bone mass. “Drink milk for strong bones” is a common phrase we all hear growing up, but because of the acidity in milk, calcium stores are depleted when we drink it.
Although dairy is an entire “food group” on the USDA MyPlate, that doesn’t mean that it is good for us. The dairy industry pays big bucks for that spot on the updated Food Pyramid. The USDA includes dairy, and pushes it because they get paid by the dairy industry to do so. The government spends about $30 billion dollars in subsidies for animal products, encouraging meat and dairy farmers to produce as much as possible. Unfortunately, the government spends barely any money to subsidize farmers that grow fruits and vegetables. The government and the USDA are on board with promoting animal products because that’s how they can make money; not because it’s good for us.
It has become socially acceptable to drink cow’s milk, and we have distanced ourselves so much from the actual process of drinking milk from a cow’s nipple it almost makes me sick to think about it. We just see milk in a jug at the grocery store, we never think once about how we are drinking from a cow’s udder, just like a baby calf. Cows produce milk for their babies, but in order for us to drink cow’s milk it has to be taken from a baby calf, which is often killed, or pumped with hormones to “grow” big enough to then be slaughtered and used as meat.When we drink cow’s milk, we are drinking milk that doesn’t belong to us.
We don’t think about this, because we don’t have to see it, hear about it, or even process it. Really, whether you like animals or not, this is wrong on all levels. Most everyone doesn’t want to look at photos of where their milk actually comes from, but at the end of the day it comes from a tortured, hormone-pumped, sick, depressed, unhappy animal. It took some research and a little common sense to make me realize how wrong I was for not only drinking cow’s milk, but for financially contributing to the dairy industry. Whether or not you believe in drinking cow’s milk, the way it is generally obtained is enough reason to stop buying and drinking it. I can get protein, calcium, and nutrients from other sources; there is no need for me to be drinking cow’s milk and contributing to that type of cruel, money-obsessed industry.
Maybe all of this is a little graphic, or a little disturbing to think about, but it’s all true. Often times vegans get a bad reputation for forcing our opinions on others, or being hateful, or judgmental, but most of us just want to inform people about why we are vegan. Sometimes it takes some daunting photos, or images to make us really think about things, and open our eyes to the truth. Being educated and informed on what we’re putting into our bodies is something we should all be concerned with.
Dairy is something I cut out of my diet nearly a year ago, and I am so happy that I did. I feel so much better, both physically and mentally, because I’m not putting something into my body that I’m not supposed to. Giving up dairy is easy, and definitely worth it! Do your body a favor and go dairy free!
For more information on the dairy industry, check out this link!
For some dairy substitutes check out these websites: http://dairyfreecooking.about.com/od/techniquessubstitutions/tp/Cooking-Substitutions.htm