When people first start out on their veg journeys, whether they make the initial decision for health or ethical reasons, they often eliminate meat from their diet long before they consider getting rid of dairy. Over and over again we hear, ‘Oh, I could NEVER give up cheese!’, and almost as prevalent as the ‘Where do you get your protein?!’ question is, ‘But how can you get calcium without drinking milk?’ So I’d like to tackle the question, why is it important for new vegetarians to take a hard look at their consumption of dairy – for health and animal welfare reasons?
Within the animal liberation movement, milk is critiqued extensively for its inherent violence. Within the dairy industry, the lives of sentient individiuals are objectified and their bodily functions are controlled and exploited for profit. Animals are literally and figuratively milked for money, spreading nothing but disease and misery.
Why is milk an issue?
Cow’s milk is widely regarded as healthy and wholesome. From a very young age, most people are taught that milk is a good source of calcium and that high levels of calcium are vital for strong, healthy bones. Calcium IS an important part of a healthy diet, but is milk really all it’s cracked up to be? A Harvard study shows that a large percentage of our population is lactose intolerant. This is likely because, similar to other mammals, we are meant to drink our mother’s milk only until we are old enough to eat solid foods – and our bodies are expected to lose the ability to digest milk by five years of age. With more than half of the world’s population unable to effectively digest milk, it is incredible that the dairy industry has successfully spread the myth that milk is a complete and necessary health food.
Not only is milk not necessary – it’s bad for us. Whole milk is high in saturated fats (about 65%), which makes drinking it a contributing risk factor for heart disease. Studies have also shown that milk consumption is linked to ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
Milk is quickly losing its credibility as the perfect health food. With recent research revealing the health risks associated with dairy consumption, it is imperative for people to look for alternatives. Adequate amounts of calcium can be easily procured by including leafy green vegetables and legumes in our diet.
“Research tells us that we are far better off getting calcium without the cow – and that goes for protein as well,” says Lani Muelrath, Vegan Mainstream’s Health & Fitness Expert. “You can absorb a greater portion of the calcium found in a cup of kale, than that in a cup of cow’s milk – while happily bypassing the cholesterol and saturated fat found in the latter. The positive correlation between dairy consumption and protection from osteoporosis that we’ve been led to believe simply doesn’t exist. As for protein, cows’ milk is designed to double the weight of calves in 47 days – in contrast to human infants who double their weight in 180 days. More protein does not translate to better.” Read more here: Perils of Dairy.
But it’s not only humans who are suffering from dairy consumption. Many people who become vegetarian for ethical reasons don’t realize the cruelty associated with the dairy industry. Next week, in Dying for Dairy: Part II, I’ll talk about the ethical case for giving up dairy.
Please share this article with your non-veg friends! Every time we plant a seed it has the chance to grow…