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The Dark Side of the Dairy Industry
How many times have your parents told you to drink your milk? How many advertisements have you seen encouraging you to drink more milk?
Now, on the flip side: Has anyone ever told you not to drink milk?
Milk: it’s the doctrine of the century. Everyone everywhere is saying that you’ve got to drink milk. If you say that you don’t like milk, don’t believe in it, don’t want it for whatever reason, you get the “milk rant”: “Oh, but cows need to be milked, and if you don’t drink milk, you’ll get osteoporosis and trace mineral deficiencies and...” (Wrong! But I’ll get to that later.) But no one ever seems to rant about the “dark side” of milk. I’m talking about where it comes from, and what it can do to your body.
One day, I went on a private tour of a dairy farm so that I could get some solid evidence that the dairy industry was wrong. (There was a lot of information on the Internet, but my friends and family said that it was all a lie.) The farmer was nice enough, but he seemed blind to what he was doing.
The first thing I saw in the barn was a lot of cows, overcrowded with metal gates and machinery. The farmer used a little vehicle that shot of some stuff that looked like sawdust into the cows’ faces. Apparently this was their “food”. He showed me a chart that listed all the ingredients. The main ingredient was corn, which isn’t what cows would naturally eat—they’re supposed to eat grass. Then we went over to a place where there were some sick cows in stalls. One of the cows had “milk fever”, which is what cows get when their bodies cannot produce enough calcium to yield milk for their calves.
Meanwhile, I was starting to feel like I couldn’t breathe. I was panting through my mouth, and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. I don’t have asthma or hay fever, but there was something in the air that just made it feel heavy...
Next we moved over to the place where the cows were milked. They were being ushered around a pit surrounded by “milking machines”. The farm helper attached these machines to the cows’ udders and explained that they created a vacuum, which sucked the milk out and down through tubes. There was no bonding between cows and calves.
It’s important to note that the idea that cows have to be milked is a myth. Cows are mammals, and, like all mammals, they produce milk for their young. In dairy farm operations, the calves are separated from their mothers and bottle-fed the milk until it is time for them to be weaned. The cows do not keep producing milk forever, just as human mothers do not. Instead, they have to be repeatedly impregnated in order to keep the milk coming.
The saddest part of my trip was when I saw the calves. First, we passed by some separate stalls where about four calves were collared and chained to the wall. The farmer explained that these calves were being weaned—taken off milk. One of the calves had a strange growth on its head. The farmer did not explain, even when I took a picture of this calf. Then we made our way into a larger room with many pens, all containing several calves. This was where the calves were kept until they became fully grown. I recall wondering if they had ever breathed a gulp of fresh air—my lungs were screaming at me to go and get one.
On the car ride home, I started to feel nauseous, and I have a feeling that this trip was the cause of my mysterious three-day illness that followed.
There is the argument, of course, that humans need to drink cows’ milk to be healthy. I can verify this as false. Milk is produced for baby mammals who are too young to feed themselves. After they reach a certain age, mammals usually become intolerant to milk. A very long time ago, there was a mutation that occurred within humankind that allowed us to be able to drink milk for life. Some people still are unable to drink milk in significant quantities—they’re lactose intolerant. So while most of us can drink cows’ milk, we don’t have to.
If you are still looking for a way to get calcium and other nutrients, rest assured. There are lots of food products that contain the same or similar nutritional content—minus the unhealthy fats and excess calories—as dairy products do. You can get soy versions of milk, cheese, ice cream, and yoghurt, and if you buy the right brands, they taste really good!
You don’t have to listen to me, of course, but you don’t have to listen to the propaganda spewed by the dairy industry, either. At least now you have more knowledge to help you make an informed decision!