Why no to Animal milk and Milk
The Old Cow
close friend of mine is expecting her first baby, and
like most new mothers, she wants to give her child the
best start in life. She asked me to talk with Dr Neal
Barnard, a respected physician who has spoken at India's
most prestigious medical schools. His advice was simple:
Be sure to breast-feed the baby. There are compelling
health reasons for avoiding dairy-based formula. Upon
hearing this, I was reminded that when we don't
interfere with animals, we're better off
In earlier times, mothers never
considered NOT breast-feeding. After all, breast milk
comes ready-made, needs no heating and doesn't cost a
dime. Then, a hundred years ago or so, European women
who wanted to avoid this natural method of nurturing
new-borne hired 'wet nurses' to do it for them. When
nursemaids went out of fashion, enterprising
businesspeople set about convincing women that formula
made from cow's milk could supply all necessary
nutrients. These entrepreneurs, who are more interested
in profits than in healthy babies, have been
particularly successful at persuading poor, uneducated
women in developing countries to stop doing what's
natural – even though natural is best--and feed their
infants formula instead. The tragedy is that many poor
women still believe this and mix a little bit of
powdered formula with sewage-contaminated water,
unknowingly giving their babies life-threatening
diarrhea – one of the top killers in poor nations.
Now, says Dr Barnard, scientific studies prove
that dairy-based formula is not the best choice. The
American Journal of Nutrition last year reported a link
between the consumption of dairy products and Type I
insulin-dependant diabetes (also called juvenile-onset
diabetes). The protein in dairy products, including
infant formula, is also the number one cause of food
allergies in children, according to the American Academy
of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. As if that's not bad
enough, dairy products have been linked to sudden infant
death syndrome, leukemia, asthma, recurring chronic
bronchitis and obesity.
Breast-fed babies sleep
better at night because they are rarely plagued by
colic, that terrible period of daily crying that can
make even the calmest parents frantic. And, reports The
Journal of Pediatrics, breast milk offers natural
protection against ear infections. Recent studies even
show that breast-fed babies may have higher IQs than
babies fed dairy-based formula!
advises that babies who can't be breast-fed for some
reason should be given a soy-based formula, as it
contains none of the milk protein that causes health
As if dairy-based infant formulas
weren't bad enough, many parents switch their babies to
whole cow's milk at 12 months and unwittingly set them
up for a lifetime of health problems. Many children
raised on cholesterol- and saturated fat-laden milk,
paneer, ice cream and curd are already showing symptoms
of heart disease – a top killer of adults – by the time
they are six years old. One epidemiological study found
significant levels of cholesterol and fat in the
arteries of most children under the age of five.
But even though most people have been taught
that children must eat dairy products and animal flesh
in order to grow up strong and healthy, the truth is
that children raised as vegans, who consume no dairy
products, meat or eggs, can easily derive all the
nutrients essential for optimum growth from plant-based
sources, i.e., legumes and pulses (which are high in
protein), vegetables, grains and fruits. Most vegan
children will also be protected from heart disease and
certain cancers later in life, says Dr Barnard.
The proof is in the pudding. A colleague of mine
is raising three vegan children. They are strong,
healthy, active kids who swim and play football and
tennis. They've never been plagued by ear infections,
allergies or any of the conditions associated with dairy
Mother's milk is also best for baby
cows, but they rarely get to taste it. Modern,
'efficient' dairies are all over India now. In them,
calves are taken from their mothers when just days old
so that the milk meant for them can be sold instead.
Bull calves go, wide-eyed, off to slaughter immediately.
Females suffer the same fate as their mothers – they are
kept pregnant but never allowed to nurture their calves
for more than a few days before their hearts are broken.
Yet anyone who's seen a newborn calf suckling
while his mother grooms him with her rough tongue,
gently, lovingly pushing him this way and that, knows
that this is natural, the way it should be. Could you
imagine a hungry calf suckling a giraffe? Of course not.
Then why do humans insist on consuming the milk of
If you know someone who's
expecting a child, share this information with her. It
is the best gift you could give the baby – and the baby
2. Cow's Milk - What is
Cow's milk is a liquid secreted by the mammary glands of the
adult female cow to nourish her young calf until weaned. Before the
cow can produce milk, in common with other species of mammal, she
must first become pregnant and give birth.
The Modern Dairy
Modern dairy farming has become an intensive industry. To produce
maximum milk yields, dairy cows are pushed to their physiological
limits through a combination of selective breeding, high-protein
feeds, and the latest technology. Along with the production of pigs,
chickens and eggs, milk production has become just another factory
Specialist breeds of dairy cow suited to local conditions have
largely disappeared from our countryside. The high yielding and
highly bred Holstein-Friesian, the ubiquitous black and white cow,
now makes up 90% of the European's (EU) dairy herd. Herd sizes have
increased as dairy production has become concentrated on fewer and
Milk yields have increased dramatically. In the 1940's, cows were
producing an average of 3,000 liters of milk per cow per year. By
1983/84, average milk yields had increased to 4,940 liters, and by
1995, over 6,300 litres per cow per year were being achieved. The
strain of higher milk yield can lead to serious welfare problems
such as increased mastitis, lameness, and infertility. The average
milking life of a cow has steadily decreased. A cow's natural
lifespan could be 25 years. Most modern dairy cows are sent for
slaughter at about 5 years old, after only three or four lactations.
As the UK Government's own welfare advisory body puts it:
"Forcing a cow to produce excessively high quantities of milk and
thereby causing metabolic stress which leads to early culling is
also an important welfare issue."
Distress to Young Calf
The harsh reality is that to produce milk, a cow must have a
calf. To maximize production, each calf is taken from its mother
within 24-48 hours of birth. Calves would naturally suckle for 6-12
Separation is a distressing process as mother and calf form a
strong maternal bond. Dairy cow husbandry expert, Professor John
Webster described the removal of the calf as the "most potentially
distressing incident in the life of the dairy cow". Webster points
out that "the cow will submit herself to considerable personal
discomfort or risk to nourish and protect her calf". Examples of this are cows
that have escaped and traveled several miles to find their own calf
after it has been sold on to another farm.
A proportion of female calves are selected as "herd
replacements". Reared for the cowshed, these usually spend their
first 6-8 weeks of life confined individually in narrow pens. Taken
from their mother, and unable to interact meaningfully with their
fellows, these calves suffer behavioural deprivation, which can
affect them for life. Alternatively, calves may be reared in groups.
With either method, calves are usually fed by artificial teat or
The young calf is particularly vulnerable to disease. To help
boost the calve's immunity, it is essential that they receive
colostrums, the mother's first milk, which contains extra nutrients
and antibodies against disease. However, calves born to mothers with
long, pendulous udders can have difficulty locating the udder. Each
year, about 170,000 calves die within their first month of life.
Scouring (diarrhea) and respiratory infections are common killers.
Calves can be subjected to a range of painful mutilations. Male
calves have traditionally been castrated. In the UK, three methods
are used; a rubber ring or other device is used to restrict the flow
of blood to the scrotum within the first week of life; so-called
"bloodless castration" by physically crushing the spermatic cords
and surgical castration, both usually carried out within 2 months of
birth. All three methods cause acute pain. Under these conditions,
there is no legal requirement for an anesthetic to be used or a vet
to be present.
Calves are often disbudded to prevent their horns growing, or are
dehorned in later life. Both procedures are painful and stressful.
Disbudding involves applying a heated iron to the horn buds of young
calves up to about 2 months old. If carried out within the first
week, the law does not require an anesthetic to be used. Dehorning
involves cutting off the older animal's horns using a saw, horn
shears or cutting wire, and cauterising the exposed blood vessels.
Mercifully, an anesthetic is required by law.
Some female calves are born with one or more extra
(supernumerary) teats, which are often removed using surgical
The modern dairy cow has been bred to be so specialized for milk,
rather than meat production, that male calves of the pure dairy
breed are perceived by many farmers as not being worth rearing for
meat. These pitiful calves were those exported from the UK to be
reared in cruel veal crates on the European continent. Half a
million calves about 2 weeks old were transported over long
distances to be reared in a system so cruel it was banned in the UK
The live export trade in tiny calves was stopped in the 1990's,
due to BSE fears and the worldwide ban on British beef and calf
exports. Instead, a Government scheme, the Calf Processing Aid
Scheme, paid farmers to have these calves killed when just days old.
This scheme was terminated in 1999. Male calves - the unwanted
by-products of the dairy industry - continue to be treated like
disposable waste rather than as sentient beings. All too often, they
are likely to face an early death. Government advice for killing
calves on farm is that "a free bullet or shotgun are preferred
The veal crate is a narrow, solid-sided wooden box in which
calves are unable even to turn around, let alone exercise, for the
4-6 month rearing period before slaughter. The UK banned narrow veal
crates in 1990 and the EU has now agreed to ban this system by 31st
December 2006. Under these new EU rules, calves must be housed
either in groups or in individual pens that allow the animals to
turn round. Minimum iron content and fiber must be given to all
calves over two weeks old.
The Suffering of the
A cow's milk production is caused by the birth of her calf. To
maximise production, the modern dairy cow is made pregnant again
whilst lactating. She will bear a calf each year until worn out and
sent for slaughter. Most dairy cows are inseminated artificially.
She will have her first calf when 2 years old. She will continue to
be milked for 10 months - but will be made pregnant again in the
third month. Only during the final few weeks of this pregnancy will
she be dried out and her overworked udder given a rest. The amount
of milk produced by the cow in peak lactation is more than 10 times
the amount that the calf would naturally drink.
The industry's quest for higher milk yield has imposed great
stress on the dairy cow's metabolism. So great that she no longer
has the natural capacity to keep up with her over-producing udder.
To keep pace, the cow's natural food of grass and herbs is
supplemented with high-protein concentrated feeds based on grains,
Soya and fishmeal, which can result in increased gut and foot
Professor John Webster, in The Welfare of Dairy Cattle, states,
"The amount of work done by the cow in peak lactation is
immense...To achieve a comparably high work rate a human would have
to jog for about 6 hours a day, every day." The Professor sums up
the situation in saying, "The modern dairy cow may be compared to a
highly tuned racing car designed to run as fast as possible on very
high grade fuel. As with Grand Prix cars, the results are, at best
spectacular but at least unreliable and at worst catastrophic."
The price of high milk yield can be seen in the serious
welfare problems in dairy cows...
Mastitis is a painful udder infection that occurs in all dairy
herds. Some 35-40 incidences of mastitis are found per 100 cows. The
bacterial infection causes inflammation and swelling of the udder,
which can become hard and hot with an abnormal discharge.
Antibiotics are injected into the teats of affected cows to treat
High-yielding dairy cows are prone to Ketosis, a condition that
usually occurs in early lactation. It is brought on by the cow's
metabolizm having to work too hard to sustain milk production. This
causes the cow to metabolise her own body fat to make milk,
resulting in excessive amounts of ketone bodies in the liver. Dairy
cow expert, Professor Webster states, "Humans with ketosis and liver
damage feel extremely unwell and we may reasonably assume the same
Lameness is a painful and serious animal welfare issue. The rate
of lameness in the UK dairy herd is believed to be 55 cases a year
for every 100 cows. High-yielding cows are more vulnerable to
lameness due to the metabolic strain they are under. Another
important cause of lameness is the fact that cowsheds built 25-35
years ago were designed for traditional breeds. The longer-bodied
Holstein-Friesian that now make up the majority of the EU dairy herd
are too long for their cubicles. Their back legs are all too often
standing in the dunging passage, where the soles of their feet can
soften and crack, allowing infection to enter.
Not content with dairy cows pushed to their physical limits, the
genetic engineer has come up with the milk-boosting hormone, Bovine
Somatotrophin (BST). BST is a genetically engineered version of the
cow's own growth hormone. It is designed to increase milk production
by a further 10-20%. Thankfully, BST has been banned for use or sale
in the European Union (EU). However, the EU ban does not apply to
imports of dairy products (e.g. ice cream) and meat from countries
such as the USA where BST is used.
BST is administered by injection and can cause serious health and
welfare problems. These include increased mastitis (a painful udder
infection), tender and long-lasting swellings at the injection site,
and digestive disorders.
Encephalopathy (BSE) in Cattle & Humans
Intensification of the dairy industry causes great suffering to
both cow and calf. Through the disastrous practice of turning
natural herbivores (cattle) into carnivores by feeding them meat and
bone meal, intensive farming has also precipitated Bovine Spongiform
Encephalopathy (BSE) or "Mad cow disease". BSE is an infectious and
incurable disease that attacks the brain and nervous system of
cattle. The UK has the highest level of BSE in the world, with over
179,500 cases confirmed to March 2001. There is now official
recognition that BSE may never be eliminated altogether from the
BSE belongs to a family of prion diseases, several of which can
affect humans. The most commonly known disease in this group among
humans is Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease (CJD), a rare and fatal form
of dementia. In 1996, scientists discovered a new strain of CJD that
occurs predominantly in younger people, known as variant CJD or
vCJD. The most likely origin of vCJD is believed to be human
exposure to the BSE agent, for example, through eating infected
beef. As of March 2001, 95 cases of vCJD had been discovered in the
UK. Like BSE in cattle, vCJD in people is always fatal.
Dairy Farming & Meat
Production - the Link
It is a prerequisite for milk production that cows are kept
pregnant. To fully maximize profits, farmers use dairy cows as
breeding machines to produce calves for the beef industry and to
replace the dairy herd itself. And at the end of her short life, the
worn out dairy cow is sent for slaughter. Under measures designed to
control BSE, her body will be destroyed. Clearly, the belief that
animals are not killed so that humans can drink cow's milk is a
The business of killing farm animals has become concentrated into
fewer and larger slaughterhouses. This means that animals are
transported over long distances on their final journey. These
unnecessarily long journeys are implicated in the dramatic spread of
the latest outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease.
At the slaughterhouse, cattle are held in a stunning pen where
they are stunned using a captive bolt pistol. They are then shackled
by the leg, and their throats slit. After the blood has drained
away, the animal's body is dismembered.
Other Systems - Organic
Some of the basic principles of modern dairying are also found in
organic milk production: continual pregnancies, unwanted offspring
13th April 2001
3. DAIRY FOODS AND HEART DISEASE
A CHALLENGE TO THE DAIRY
It is widely accepted that saturated fats raise cholesterol and
increase risk of heart disease. Official dietary guidelines across
the world recommend that no more than 10% of calories should come
from saturated fats. In the UK, dairy foods contribute about 20% of
total fat intake and over a third of saturated fat; in the USA,
dairy foods contribute about 15% of total fat and 30% of saturated
fat. Saturated fat from dairy foods alone amounts to 5% of total
calories - about half the recommended maximum intake.
The message to cut dairy fat to promote good health is clear, but
rather than accepting and working with that recommendation the dairy
industry has chosen to put profit above health and keep on pushing
dairy fat into the food supply. When consumers voted with their
wallets against milk fat by switching to lower-fat milks, the dairy
industry responded by recycling the fat back into them by other
routes (cheese, cream, ice-cream and convenience foods) and charging
them twice for the privilege. The success of the dairy industry in
recycling its unwanted fat is shown by fact that the amount of fat
and protein supplied by dairy products other than butter has
remained remarkably constant in both the UK and USA for the last
four decades despite whole milk sales plummeting.
Based on a study of 80,000 women over a period of 14 years,
Professor Walter Willett observes that "replacing 5% of calories
from saturated fat with unsaturated fats would reduce the risk of
heart attack or death from heart disease by 40%." In other words, if
the 5% of total calories currently coming from dairy products as
saturated fat were replaced by largely unsaturated fats such as
olive oil and nuts and seeds, a very substantial decrease in heart
disease would be expected.
The UK Dairy Council, however, makes a concerted attempt to
undermine this health message with claims such as:
"There is a growing body of evidence ... that milk itself does
not raise blood cholesterol."
"Compelling new research has confirmed that regular milk drinkers
do not increase their risk of heart disease."
These claims are echoed by the US National Dairy Council Handbook
of Dairy Foods and Nutrition (2000) which goes so far as to claim:
"Findings to date do not support blanket recommendations to
preferentially decrease intake of animal fats such as milk fat to
reduce the risk of heart disease or other major chronic diseases.
Rather moderation in total fat intake, from both animal and
vegetable sources, is recommended."
It is tempting to dismiss the dairy industry claims as mere
wishful thinking, but in the interests of clarity as to the health
implications of a dairy-free diet we
have chosen to challenge these claims head-on. The Vegan Society, of
course, would like to see the dairy industry disappear for animal
welfare and environmental reasons as well as for health reasons, so
in that sense we are not unbiased either. However, in the interests
of exposing the truth about dairy foods and health we are offering
the UK Dairy Council, and indeed its US counterpart, a right of
reply on our website and in a future issue of our magazine. We will
give them every opportunity to engage in an open debate - if they
Claim No. 1: Dairy
products are necessary to provide enough calcium to prevent
osteoporosis, regardless of adverse effects.
Calcium is a very good thing, but increasing calcium intake from
500 mg per day to 1500 mg per day will add less than 90 mg per day
to the calcium retained by most adults, and less than 50 mg per day
for the 10% of adults with the lowest calcium absorption, who are at
particular risk of osteoporosis.
Other aspects of diet are
equally significant. 10 g of salt per day will subtract about 70 mg
per day from retained calcium by increasing calcium losses in urine
whereas 4000 mg of extra potassium from a diet rich in vegetables,
fruits and other unrefined plant foods will add 60 mg per day to
retained calcium by reducing calcium losses.
Vitamin K is especially important in promoting healthy bones and
reducing calcium losses, particularly in postmenopausal women.
In other words, relying on calcium alone to prevent osteoporosis
is like fielding a football team with only strikers and no
Dairy products are not the best source of calcium as they cause
calcium losses at the same time as providing calcium. A third of the
calcium absorbed from milk and more than two thirds of the calcium
absorbed from cheese is wasted in this way. In contrast, green leafy
vegetables such as kale and spring greens provide plenty of well
absorbed calcium while at the same time reducing calcium losses.
Our prehistoric ancestors obtained abundant calcium from plant
foods while dairy products are a recent and unnecessary innovation.
A diet based on Vegan Society recommendations will have abundant
amounts of calcium and potassium along with plenty of vitamin K - a
key nutrient for bone health which is notably missing from milk but
plentiful in green leafy vegetables.
A comprehensive review of relevant research can be found at
Dairy products are an exceptional source of calcium, but relative
to recommended intakes they are an equally exceptional source of
saturated fat. The recommended maximum daily saturated fat
consumption on a 2000 kcal diet (typical for many women) is 22g.
1000 mg of calcium from dairy products comes with 17g of saturated
fat somewhere in the food supply while a 1000 mg of calcium from
cheddar cheese comes with a stunning 30 g of saturated fat. The
dairy industry charges as much for reduced-fat milk as for any other
milk creating a cheap source of unwanted and unhealthy fat which is
pumped back into the food supply, thus negating any benefit to the
population as a whole.
Claim No. 2: Dairy
products are beneficial for heart health despite raising
The "compelling new research" indicating that "regular milk
drinkers do not increase their risk of heart disease" refers to the
study by Andy Ness and others published last year entitled "Milk,
coronary heart disease and mortality." Like the study by Willett
cited earlier, this study measured some aspects of diet and
lifestyle and observed subsequent mortality but it involved less
than a tenth of the number of people in Willett's study.
The authors observed a statistically significant reduction in
deaths from heart disease with increased consumption of milk as a
drink (11% for the medium milk group and 32% for the high milk
group) before adjustment for risk factors, other than age. This
relationship remained largely unchanged after adjustment for other
risk factors, but was found to have a 1 in 10 chance of being a
random observation - in other words it ceased to be statistically
On the other hand, in Hu and Willett's study of US nurses, the
fully adjusted risk of heart disease in those consuming two glasses
of whole milk per day was 67% higher than for those consuming no
whole milk, with less than a 1 in 10,000 chance that the increased
risk was a random observation. This study observed no significant
effect from skimmed milk.
Both studies are subject to the criticism that it is difficult to
adjust for all related characteristics of individuals freely
choosing their own diet and lifestyle. It is even more difficult to
persuade people to make long-term changes to their diet according to
specific instructions, so observational studies such as those cited
are often the best evidence available. However, this is not the case
for milk and heart disease.
There was a common but misguided belief in the 1950s that high
dairy ("Sippy") diets were good for ulcers. Some doctors assigned
most of their ulcer patients to high dairy diets while others made
little use of such diets. Thus a unique experiment on the effect of
assigning individuals to high dairy consumption was created.
A 1960 study on the Sippy diet compared mortality in ulcer
patients in the UK and USA depending on whether they had been
assigned to the "Sippy" diet or not. Ulcer patients on the Sippy
diet were compared both with ulcer patients on other diets and with
other patients in terms of the percentage showing heart attacks
(myocardial infarction) on autopsy. The results were striking:
Ulcer patients on Sippy diet
Ulcer patients on other diets
Patients without ulcers
In the UK the chance of the differences between the Sippy groups
and each of the other groups being a random finding was less than 1
in 20 and in the USA it was less than 1 in 100. The study thus
provides uniquely strong evidence that high dairy intake
substantially increases risk of dying from a heart attack.
The dairy industry also advances two indirect arguments for milk
being protective due to non-fat components, namely calcium and B12.
There is good evidence that increases in calcium intake work with
increases in potassium and decreases in sodium to reduce blood
pressure and reduce risk of stroke and heart disease. As noted
above, a healthy vegan diet provides ample calcium without the
dangerous saturated fat that goes with it in dairy products.
Milk is also a source of B12 and adequate B12 is essential to
avoid elevated levels of homocysteine - a major risk factor for
heart disease and overall mortality. Most nonhuman primates get
enough B12 from plant foods contaminated with soil and insects.
Modern vegans spare the insects and avoid the potential ill effects
of contaminated soil and are therefore advised to get at least three
micrograms of B12 from fortified foods or supplements daily. This,
along with plentiful folate and B6 from green leafy vegetables and
other plant foods, is sufficient to minimise homocysteine levels.
Once again, a diet following Vegan Society guidelines provides
everything humans need for health. Adding dairy products with their
accompanying saturated fat offers only disadvantages in terms of
Claim No. 3: Dairy
products don't actually raise cholesterol
The first two claims were flimsy and unsubstantiated but this
claim moves even further into the realms of fantasy. The US Dairy
Council Handbook provides 178 references in the chapter on "Dairy
Foods and Cardiovascular Health" and highlights a 1977 study by
Howard and Marks suggesting that milk consumption causes a
significant drop in cholesterol. It also includes several other
studies carried out around that time. Unsurprisingly, it completely
ignores a later paper by Howard and Marks which states:
et al. report that they can find no evidence that milk contains a
cholesterol-lowering factor as previously proposed by us. After
reviewing their evidence, our other published work, and more recent
unpublished results, we agree that such is indeed the case.
handbook also fails to mention the paper by Roberts et al. which
shows a 9% increase in cholesterol with one liter of whole milk per
day: to lose one key reference could be considered an accident; to
lose two is (at best) carelessness.
The addition of dairy products to a diet based on Vegan Society
recommendations will significantly undermine health. The dairy
industry is indulging in wishful thinking and selective citation and
recycling fat from low fat dairy products back into the food
promoting dairy foods as healthy, or
that we have got it completely wrong.
We welcome a debate to make the truth evident to all.
animal milk – Soya Milk, Almond Milk, Rice Milk, Tofu ( for Paneer),
Coconut Milk( casein free) .