Monday, January 20, 2014

The Problem with Dairy

I went to the Rochester Area Vegetarian Society Meeting yesterday and heard Sherry Colb speak.  She wrote the book "Mind if I Order the Cheeseburger? And Other Questions People Ask Vegans."  The talk made me reflect on how I used to think about dairy and how those views changed, causing me to become vegan.

When I was kid, I hated drinking milk.  The taste repulsed me.  However,  I did like eating cheese.   Story books showed happy cows on family farms and it never occurred to me that producing milk was not something cows did naturally all the time.  Heck, I thought the farmers were doing them a favor by milking them so that they could be more comfortable.  Did you ever see those ads on tv that say happy cows come from California?  It shows cute cows frolicking in green pastures and cracking jokes with each other.   Well it took a while but I finally realized that cows only give milk just like human mothers and other mammals, because they have had a baby.  And this is when I started learning about the problems with dairy.

1. Lifecycle of a cow - In order to keep a cow producing milk, she has to endure being forcibly artificially inseminated by being restrained on a device that is sometimes called a "rape rack."  The cow is forced to go through cycles of pregnancy in order to keep her producing milk.  These cycles of pregnancy and lactation take a toll on the cow and it not profitable for the farmer to keep her after 4-7 years.  Keep in mind that the natural lifespan of a cow is 20-25 years. 

2.  Milk for the baby -  Just like a human mother, the cow is producing milk only because she had a baby and needs to feed her baby.  However, the farmer's goal is to sell this milk for profit and to accomplish this, they take the baby away from the mother.  According to Colb, just like human moms " cows produce hormones during labor and delivery that ordinarily cause them to bond intensely with their newborns...If left to her own devices the mother cow would nurse her baby for 9 to 12 months.  Cows bellow, sometimes for days  on end and behave in ways that plainly exhibit desperation and misery, including a lack of interest in eating and a tendency to pace around the area they last saw their calves.  Other cows in the herd, if permitted to do so, will often spend more time with and comfort the mother who has just lost her baby."  This is heartbreaking :(

3.  Disposable Male Babies - Colb uses this term because in both the dairy and egg industry, male babies are not needed.  They are a different breed than the male chicks and calves that are bred for meat and to maintain profitability they are killed.  I never even thought about this when I used to eat dairy and eggs.  Colb states that "male dairy calves, sometimes called 'veal calves', are slaugthered when they are anywhere from a few days old (when many still have an umbilical cord and attempt to suckle on workers' fingers while being readied for slaughter) to a few months old."  It is important to understand that veal is a by product of the dairy industry.   Similarly in the egg industry, I was shocked and saddened to find out that male chicks are thrown live and conscious either into a meat grinder, plastic bag (where they suffocate) or gassed.

These problems are just from the animal suffering point of view.  There is also the fact that all animal products, despite what we've been led to believe, are very unhealthy for us and raise our risk for obesity, heart disease, many types of cancers and diabetes.  The production of these animal products is also very unhealthy for the planet, contributing significantly to green house gases and using much of the grain produced as animal feed. 

Here are some great resources if you are interested in learning more:

Forks Over Knives
Engine 2 Diet
The China Study
The World Peace Diet
Meet Your Meat
Veganism Is Nonviolence

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