Got Milk? Maybe You Shouldn’t

By: Malena Esposito

Bagels with cream cheese. Cheese and crackers. Yogurt with fruit. Milk and cookies. From the time that we’re young and ignorant, we are taught that we need to drink cow’s milk. “It makes your bones strong!” Mom says. Even your favorite celebrity is on a “Got Milk?” advertisement with a creamy white milk mustache. But have you ever stopped to consider how that glass of milk or slice of cheese got there in the first place? Do you ever think about what happened from the time it came out of the cow to the time it hits your lips? Rarely do we stop to consider this, because all our lives, we’ve been told that milk is “nutritious” and“good for you,” so why not drink it? But what if I told you that the information you’ve been fed for so long isn’t necessarily true? What if I told you that you don’t actually need cow’s milk at all?

It begins before the carton of ice cream is filled or before the cream cheese is spread. It even starts off before the cow is even born. Similar to humans, a dairy cow can’t produce milk unless it’s been impregnated, so what do you have to do? Impregnate it. But how is this done? First, a male bull has to have an electro-ejaculator implemented until semen is collected. Then, that semen is inserted into the cow with a long tube, called an artificial inseminator, confided in something the dairy industry likes to call a “rape rack.” Workers will also stick their hands up into the cow to condition the uterus for an increased chance of pregnancy. If this process is done correctly, a baby cow is born 9 months later. If not, the cow has to endure this process until it can produce a calf. 97% of newborn calves are ripped from their mothers and kept in crates to prevent it them from drinking their mother’s milk within 24 hours of being alive.

But what a lot of people don’t understand is that animals feel pain too. A cow’s bond with her young is very strong and affectionate, just as any mother-child bond is. She can cry out for several days in search of her baby, but her tears and weeping are ignored, all for a slice of cheese. If the baby is a male, it’s throat is slit and he’s one of as 21,000,000 cows killed each year and sold for veal since the dairy industry has no need for him. If the baby is a female, she’s raised to be a milk machine, kept in a cage and living off of an artificial milk replacer for the first three months of her life. Then, at twelve months, starts the process that mom had to go through. And the process never stops, because cows have to continuously be impregnated in order to keep lactating. This leads to exhaustion and premature aging, as well as mastitis. Mastitis is a medical condition in which a female’s breast tissue becomes swollen, inflamed, and often infected. Because of this condition, a cow’s milk is also infected with blood and pus cells. Not to worry, though, it gets filtered out anyways! Kind of… sort of… not really. In Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, 400,000 somatic cells are legally allowed in every millimeter in milk. And in the United States, 750,000 cells are allowed!! And in Brazil, a million cells! These somatic cells are really white blood cells, just like the gross white stuff on top of a zit waiting to erupt. I guess another name for it would be… pus! This doesn’t even include the measureable amounts of pesticides, dioxins, and antibiotics the cows consume. But go ahead and keep eating your ice cream. And once a dairy cow can no longer continue after being so physically and emotionally deprived, she collapses and is given the title of a “downer cow.” Yet another medical condition, downer cows refer to those who can no longer stand for themselves, which can be caused by nerve damage, weak bones and muscles, gut diseases, and dislocations. Since they can no longer rise, they have to be taken off the farm by any means necessary to be killed for beef. Methods include forklifts, cranes, or by dragging by the neck. Downer cows are often around four or five years of age, but since that’s the age milk production decreases in cows anyways, they’re slaughtered and sold for burgers anyways. The natural average lifespan of a dairy cow is 20-25 years, so these animals are living one-fourth to one-fifth of that. The average lifespan of an American is about 75-80 years, so the human equivalent is dying in between the ages of 16 and 20. How’s that for “life is short”?

I haven’t even gotten started on the negatives effects of consuming dairy. Does it calcium and protein? Yeah, sure, but what about acne, weight gain, and cancer? Or the fact that three-fourths of the world is lactose intolerant? Cow’s milk contains naturally occurring growth hormones, such as IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor) that are intended to turn a baby calf into a 1,500 pound male bull or a 1,000 pound female cow into roughly the span of two years. Baby cows gain about 2 pounds per day, or 470 pounds in eight months. Now imagine what that’s doing to your body. When humans consume milk, it causes excess sebum oil to pump out of your skin’s oil glands. These skin cells can also multiply and stick together, and in addition to the sebum oil, can cause your pores to clog up. The inflammation can also make breakouts more prone to redness and pain. In a study done by Boston’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, researchers found that those who ate the National Dairy Council’s daily recommendation of three servings of dairy were 35 percent more likely to gain weight. Primarily looking at milk intake, the study consisted of twelve thousand children across the nation. Those who consumed more of such products gained more weight than those who didn’t, whether it be from skim milk, whole milk, or skim milk, or even butter or cheese. Over the past 15 years, more researchers have conducted a correlation between dairy consumption and increased cancer risk. Over the course of eleven years, Harvard Physicians observed nearly 20,000 men, concluding that eating two and a half servings of dairy servings per day made them 34 times more likely to experience prostate cancer as opposed to those who had less than half a serving. Ovarian cancer can also be linked to galactose, which is the simple sugar produced from lactose — the milk sugar found in yogurt, cheese, and milk. After comparing dating from 42 countries, scientist Ganmaa Davaasambuu discovered that the “ingestion of natural estrogens from cows” may be connected to breast and testicular cancer, as well as prostate cancer. To a lesser extreme, consuming dairy can also cause chronic inflammation, LDL cholesterol levels, calcium issues, and digestion problems. The high acidity of dairy causes calcium to build up, making arthritis and inflammation more prone to occur, while high LDL levels (a.k.a. the “bad” cholesterol) make heart disease more likely to occur. The body can only absorb up to 600mg of calcium a day, and in 2005, the Harvard Nurses’ Women Study found that milk doesn’t even impact bone density. Over the course of 18 years, 72,000 women were studied, and it was concluded that those who drank more milk didn’t “have any positive effects on protecting bones from fracture”. The lactose in dairy even causes digestion problems due to how it agitates the gut line, leading to infrequent and sometimes painful bowel movements. This leads me to my last drawback of consuming dairy — lactose intolerance. Dairy is filled with the milk sugar, lactose. The two simple sugars that make up dairy is galactose and glucose. As infants, our bodies are able to produce lactase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down dairy products. However, as we age, we lose this enzyme, causing the consumption of dairy to not agree with our digestive systems.

Now, what about the age-old argument that “we need milk”? Well, hopefully, after reaching this point of the article, your opinion on that statement has changed. However, we do need calcium, vitamin D, and protein, but thankfully, there are plenty of nutritious plant-based sources and dairy alternatives available. A cup of unsweetened almond milk is filled with healthy unsaturated fats, contains about 30 calories, less than 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 35% more calcium than a cup of milk. To compare, a cup of whole milk contains saturated fats and cholesterol, with a whopping 150 calories. Calcium can also be found in green vegetables such as kale, spinach, lettuce, and broccoli, as well as soy milk and tofu, chickpeas, and navy beans. Vitamin D is available as easy as stepping outside into the warm sunlight, eating mushrooms, or drinking fortified plant-based milk. As for protein, there are endless amounts of plant-based sources: Chickpeas, pinto, adzuki, black, lentils, great northern, white, kidney, and fava beans; Whole grains such as amarath, quinoa, oats, wild rice, millet, and brown rice contain protein; Soy products like edamame, tempeh, and tofu; chia, flax, hemp, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds; nuts and nut butters such as cashew, almond, hazelnut, and peanut; soy, rice, oat, cashew, almond, and coconut milk. And due to the ever growing non-dairy industry, you won’t be missing any of your favorite products. Vegan cheeses, yogurts, milks, butters, coffee creamers and even ice creams are all available thanks to brands like SoDelicous, Daiya, Follow Your Heart, EarthBalance, and Silk. You don’t have to make the transition overnight, either. Maybe start by having almond milk creamer in your coffee or enjoying non-dairy Ben and Jerry’s for dessert. Help yourself and the animals by going dairy-free. Your body will thank you.