Dairy is Scary
Hey there VegiFam! We know it’s spooky season, and you’re probably celebrating Halloween one way or another (even if that means sitting alone and eating bagfulls of candy). You might have even watched a horror flick or two. We are here to serve up some facts and statistics about something even scarier than the Insidious franchise: The dairy industry.
It’s hard to hear, especially for those of us who love our cheese and yogurt. But, to be responsible consumers, we should know where our food comes from. Only then will we be able to be fully responsible for our decisions. Unfortunately, many cows don’t live the picturesque life on a farm with rolling hills that we’d like to think they do.
Dairy cows can only produce milk when they’re pregnant. So, female dairy cows are impregnated through artificial insemination when they’re young themselves, sometimes only fifteen weeks old. Once the mother cows give birth, their calves are taken away and the cows are hooked up to milking machines. The mother cows are under tons of stress from missing their calves, and constantly call for them days after giving birth. The milking machines are hooked up to the cows more than two times a day.
Cows who live on these industrial dairy farms are exposed to cruel conditions. Cows oftentimes receive genetic and growth hormones that help them produce more milk, and many of these growth hormones are banned in places like the UK and Canada but are still allowed in the US. Because of the constant cycle of giving birth and forced lactation, dairy cows’ natural lifespans are often cut by 25%. The forced standing and constant wear-and-tear on their bodies causes many dairy cows to be lame. Once the cows are no longer considered profitable, they are killed and either turned into pet food or soup because their bodies are too spent to be used for anything else. Even organic farms, which are supposed to be held to a higher standard, have been documented as treating their cows inhumanely.
On top of all the humane issues the dairy industry has, it has considerable environmental impacts too. Cows and their manure produce greenhouse gasses which affect climate change. Additionally, many factory farms ruin important ecological areas of our planet, like rainforests and wetlands because of their size. Farms consume a lot of water to produce feed for their animals while simultaneously contaminating waterways with pollution from manure, which causes ecosystem disruption.
Looking for a horror flick for Halloween weekend? We suggest some of these documentaries on the meat and dairy industry:
Got the Facts on Milk (Google Play and iTunes)
The Milk System (Netflix)
Farmaggedon (Amazon Prime)
Dominion (Free on Vimeo)
Can you ethically eat dairy?
Each day we’re presented with a series of choices, whether it’s to ride a bike to work or drive, whether to stop and pick up lunch or pack, or even what to wear. Each day we can decide to consume dairy or not to consume it.
An easy way to ensure you’re being ethical about your dairy consumption is to simply not consume it anymore and go vegan. And, if that’s your decision after doing your homework, we welcome you to the vegan family! Yay!
But…that’s not always practical. Sometimes we feel certain foods are tied to our culture and we’re unwilling to part with them, like homemade mozzarella to Italian culture and halloumi to those from Cyprus. Or, we just plain love to eat them. And that’s okay! But it means you might have a few more decisions to make.
First, decide how often you truly need to eat this food. Could it become a special-occasion food instead of something you partake in everyday? And, is it essential to other dishes you make in your house? For instance, could whip up a mean vegan mac-and-cheese without using any dairy product at all? Then, when you do decide to divulge in some dairy product, it could be higher-quality and more of a treat.
Being dairy-free most of the time is a commitment, and we’re proud of you for taking that step! Even if it’s swapping your regular milk for coconut milk or oat milk at the store, that’s still a fantastic way to reduce overall dairy consumption. When you do consume dairy, make sure it’s a trustworthy company, too. Do your homework on your local brands and be a conscious consumer. You’ll probably end up supporting more mom and pop shops, and you’ll get better tasing food in the long run too!
Reducing the amount of dairy in your diet isn’t just good for the planet and cows: it’s good for your conscience. Do you struggle with eliminating dairy? Or, are you a vegan who had no trouble at all switching to plant-based alternatives? Drop us a comment and let us know your dairy experience!