14 June 2012

TDIV Q&A: I’ve grown up thinking milk is healthy, can you change my mind?

Q: I’ve grown up drinking milk and thinking it’s healthy. Can you tell me some things that will help change my mind?

A: Naturally, milk is a liquid produced by pregnant mammals to feed their offspring until they are old enough to digest solid food. The milk produced has the exact nutrients required for each specific mammal to stay healthy and strong. A calf drinks their mother’s milk as they develop, until they are able to graze for food on their own. A baby human drinks their mother’s milk as they develop, until… they move on to cow’s milk. Wait what?

For countless years, cow’s milk has not only been pushed as healthy for human consumption but considered essential for a well-balanced diet. Moving aside from the fact that humans drinking cow’s milk makes absolutely no logical sense, cow’s milk is also not healthy in the slightest, and causes much more harm than good.   

1        Strong bones
      Cow’s milk is pushed for its high calcium and Vitamin D content, and said to be essential in providing strong bones for humans. While it is true that calcium and Vitamin D are good for bone growth, the risk factors in drinking milk far outweigh any vitamins and minerals that could be provided. In fact, studies suggest that milk actually leaches calcium from the bones due to acid content. While milk itself is not highly acidic, the amino acid Methionine found in milk can cause big problems. Humans naturally have Methionine in their DNA, but the problem occurs when too much is consumed.  Methionine contains sulfer, so when too much is introduced into the human system, the body must neutralize the acid, which causes calcium to be urinated, never absorbing into the bones.

2       Hormones       
      It is well known that dairy farmers pump growth hormones into cows to make them produce more milk.   They assure us that these hormones are completely harmless to humans… but are they?  The hormone infused into the cow’s system, and, in turn dairy milk, is called rBGH (or bovine growth hormone). This hormone causes increased activity in a natural-found hormone called IGF-1. When levels of IGF-1 are increased, it is proven to cause a highly elevated risk of cancer.

3       Somatic cells (A.K.A pus)
     When dairy cows are hooked up to machines and milked constantly, their udders begin to inflame and often become infected with staph disease, which can create a high number of somatic cells in the milk produced. Somatic cells are found to contain pus over 90% of the time. Dairy farmers use tools to gauge the somatic cell count in milk and make sure it’s safe for consumption, but be warned, there are certain levels of bacteria, pus, and blood that are allowed to be passed through while still following health guidelines. It is estimated that over one million somatic cells are in each teaspoon of milk.
      Casein is a protein found in milk, and said to have addictive properties. When digested, casein produces a chemical called casomorphine, a natural opioid peptide. In other words, when the natural chemicals used for creating a bond between calf and cow are consumed by humans, a frighteningly similar effect occurs. Humans have created a special attachment to milk, even as far as having intense cravings for it. Naturally speaking, does it make sense for a creature to crave another mammal’s milk? Does a dog crave human milk?
      Perhaps the most appalling factor in drinking milk is the cruelty behind supporting dairy farms. Cows are forced to be impregnated every year, then, after giving birth to a calf who is taken away within the first day, they are hooked up to milking machines and drained for endless hours every day. Dairy farmers feed cows growth hormones to produce more milk than they would naturally to increase profit margins. Before long, the poor cow who naturally lives a long life, dies young of exhaustion and malnutrition.
            Healthy alternatives
      There are so many healthier, less cruel substitutes for milk. Almonds, spinach, oranges, and soybeans are only a few examples of amazing sources of calcium, which is actually able to be absorbed into the bones. For a list of yummy milk alternatives, click here.

I could go on and on for days listing reasons why milk is unhealthy for humans, but the simple fact remains that once people open their eyes to the realities of what they are consuming, milking cows will be seen as a cruel, barbaric, and unsanitary human failure marked in history books. 

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/mr-blixt