I’ve never been very fond of milk. It gave me a bad taste in my mouth, accompanied by nausea. “Thankfully” I’m not the only one with these symptoms: about 65% of people worldwide have trouble with digesting lactose. In this blogpost I’d like to explain why I chose to stop consuming dairy. No milk, no cheese, no ice cream for me any more. But there are loads of plant based options nowadays!
“Dairy is part of a balanced diet”
From an early age, people are taught that milk is good for them. Milk gives you strong bones and makes you grow. And of course this is true: breast milk gives babies all they need. However, people are the only species that continue drinking milk after the period that breast feeding is needed. Why?
The guidelines on dairy consumption, as drawn up by the Dutch Health Council, recommends 1000 milligrams of calcium per day for adults. Consuming dairy products ensures that you get this amount easily. But, as Walter Millet, nutritionist at Harvard Medical School, points out: “The advice on dairy consumption is the fingerprint of the sector. What is good for agriculture is not necessary good for people” [source: eostrace.be]. And not for animals, I’d like to add. But more about that later on.
Economic motives were the basis for the first large-scale milk campaigns in Western Europe. When there was a surplus of milk, the production of it was not limited, but the export and own consumption were stimulated. Probably everybody knows the “Got milk?” add, where celebrities recommend drinking milk. In the Netherlands, we’ve got our own versions: “Milk is good voor everybody”; “Milk the white motor”; “Milk is a must. Milk is good.”
But is milk as good for you as claimed? Willet: “Those who consume a lot of dairy products do not just take calcium. There is a lot of salt in cheese, with a possible negative effect on blood pressure.” “Both cheese and semi-skimmed and whole milk contain saturated fats which raise the cholesterol levels and thus increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.” It might just be a big fat white lie that milk is good for us.
For en extensive (Dutch) article about the dairy industry and calcium, I would recommend reading more on eostrace.be
The suffering behind milk
Everyone knows the cliche picture that is presented to us more often than not. A few cows, freely grazing on a beautiful green meadow. A milkmaid with a nice checked apron milking a cow. After all, the cow has to get rid of her milk, right?
No. Surprisingly, few people know that cows do not always give milk. They’re not milk machines. Cows only lactate after they’ve given birth to a calf. Where are those calves, you ask? Well, they are usually separated from their mother immediately or at least after a few days after birth. See below the heartbreaking video of mother and child being separated
“Mother cows have been known to cry for weeks over the loss of their babies.”
But that’s not where the suffering ends. If the calf is female, she is eventually used for her milk, just like her mother was. She will be impregnated over and over again. Her calf will be taken away again and again, just as happened with her mother.
If the calf is male, he’s brought to the slaughterhouse.
And that’s where eventually all cows end. Perhaps the male calf is even better of than the female: he’ll suffer less. In the worst case, a cow will continuously be held pregnant for about four years, only for her milk. When these milk cows are exhausted, a ride to the slaughterhouse is what awaits them. Did you know a cow can reach the age of 20 years? These cows, however, will never live that long.
Why I think vegetarians shouldn’t consume dairy
The Dutch Vegetarians Association uses the following definition for vegetarian food and being a vegetarian:
“Vegetarian food is food that does not contain anything from a killed animal. This means that it contains no meat, fish, insects or poultry. In addition, there is no offal in real vegetarian food, such as gelatine or non-vegetarian rennet (in cheese) or other stuffed meat in food.
A vegetarian, then, is someone who does not eat anything from a killed animal.”
Calves are seen as the by-product of milk. Yes, a product. Not a cute little calf with a will to live, but a product. As if he or she is disposable. By consuming milk, you contribute to the killing of an animal. Although there’s endless discussion about what is and is not vegetarian, I have decided for myself that I no longer will use dairy products. Instead, I have found many great replacements!
Plant based milk
It may sound strange, and perhaps it will take some time getting used to it: plant based milk. The structure and taste of various types of plant based milk cannot be compared to animal milk, but it is pretty close. Cashew milk, for example, is just as creamy as cow’s milk. Unsweetened soy milk makes some great cappuccino’s, as you can see at the top of this article. Rice milk I find delicious in combination with chia seeds.
What about custard and yoghurt? There’s even a solution to that. Alpro has different varieties and flavors, all of them plant based. Even Ben & Jerry’s participate in the hype, with already three types of vegan B&J’s on the market. Yum!
Cheese is also available in all shapes and sizes. Wilmersburger is my favorite, but I also like Violife very much. Tesco has its own brand of vegan cheese. Even Ron, a big cheese lover, loves that brand!
The only thing we will never drink again is tiger nut milk. In Spain, Ron and I bought that once, just to try and see if it was good. What a horrible taste! We still drank it, but we’ll never buy that ever again.
Ditching dairy: benefits I noticed
The most noticeable difference was that my skin has become much calmer. I kept suffering from pimples, while – in my opinion at least! – I was far beyond puberty! Furthermore, I’ve noticed that I don’t feel bloated any more.
I have compassion for animals and this cannot be reconciled with the consumption of dairy products. My feeling of guilt has disappeared, along with the nausea.