Have You Really Got Milk?: Register column misses facts, sugarcoats dairy production

The story behind your glass of milk: Let’s put an end to the false tale about how the dairy industry treats animals” was a column printed in the Des Moines Register by Gina Gutierrez, a Register Opinion contributor, on Oct. 3. This is a reaction to that column.

I am a vegan who hates to tell the story behind a glass of milk; most of the time it brings me to tears just talking about it. However, I recently came across an article published in the Des Moines Register written by a fifth-generation dairy farmer that rushed anger through my body when I read it at first. But later it caused me to sit in front of my computer at this very moment to share my views on why it made me angry in the calmest way possible. 

I have came to the conclusion that this column was written as an opposing perspective against the vegan lifestyle and ideology because of the usage of a couple terms, assumptions and sarcastic questions that are directly related to veganism. 

Before I start diving into the cruelty that happens behind the doors of a dairy farm, I would like to quote some of the questions and points that were included by the dairy farmer columnist, which I’m hoping will make the point of this article even more clear.

The column actually starts off not very different from mine; it goes, “I am a dairy farmer who loves to tell the story behind a glass of milk,” then continues, “Every story about the food we eat is important,” which I couldn’t agree with more, specifically this sentence being the sole reason of me writing this response. 

She then asks questions that are commonly used by vegans and answers them; excuse me, I meant attempts to answer them. Such as, “Have you ever heard that humans are the only species that drink another species milk after infancy?” She then responds, “Actually, there are a lot of things that humans do. That’s not necessarily the point this question is often intended to raise. People who say this usually aren’t trying to engage in thought-provoking small talk. Instead, they often have an agenda to shut the dairy industry down.” 

Correct, there are a lot of things humans do. For instance, shooting up schools, raping one another, discriminating … but just because they happen, that doesn’t mean they are justifications to what is being done, right? 

Well, she goes on. “Don’t these milk-hating folks know about cats.” Yeah, they have four legs, a tail and whiskers right? They’re pretty cute n’ all. But jokes aside, this question actually made me laugh. Assuming I’m the milk-hater, I feel the responsibility to answer this question. I’ve actually had a cat growing up, and the one thing I was strongly not allowed to do was feed him cow’s milk. Contrary to common belief, actually not very common apparently, cats normally don’t go around sucking milk from cow boobs unless there is some sort of human interaction involved, which, in this case, would be giving the milk to the cat. Of course, there are reasons for this:

•Cows produce milk for their young. 

•Cats and cows are different species.

•Like the 65 to 75 percent of the world’s human population, the majority of cats are also lactose intolerant, which means, they do not have the enzymes to digest the lactose in milk. 

So, no, you shouldn’t be feeding cow’s milk to your cat. 

She then goes on and talks about the benefits of milk, saying, “It is loaded with nutrition,” and “High-quality proteins, fats and carbohydrates; plus nutrients such as calcium, potassium” and “Aids in human growth and development,” and, I saved the best ones for the last: “Milk is one of the healthiest things you can consume” and “Children may benefit the most.”  Really? 

I mean, beneficial for children? I can handle other claims, but we are talking about cow milk being the No. 1 cause of food allergies amongst infants and children proven by published studies, including one from the American Gastroenterological Association. Number 1. 

The majority of humans already start producing less lactate when they are around the age of 2. Now, please remind me, around what age are babies done breastfeeding? 

Mentioned above, 65 to 75 percent of the world’s population suffers from lactose intolerance, that means, most of the people who are reading this right now are familiar with the awful symptoms that occur after they drink cow milk: bloating, vomiting, headaches, cramps, diarrhea and constant farting. That is your body telling you to stop, and that it’s enough. 

Let’s talk about the rates of osteoporosis while we’re at it. America ranks among one of the top countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis; why? Surprise, surprise… because we are also one of the top countries with the highest rates of cow milk consumption. 

A Harvard Nurses’ study found that those who drink two or more glasses of milk have higher risks of broken bones than those who consumed a glass or less.

Again, medical study after study has proven that cow’s milk actually robs the calcium out of our bones; animal proteins produce acid when they’re broken down, and correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t calcium known to be an amazing acid-neutralizer? 

T. Collin Campbell, a professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University, states, “The association between the intake of animal protein and fracture rates appears to be as strong as that between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.” 

There is enough proof supported by studies from around the world that is enough to fill up an entire dairy farm. If we have the option to pick from seven different plant-based milks, without any of the harms listed above, with more nutritions, better taste and none of the harms listed above, why don’t we? If this is how harmful dairy is for human and cat bodies, then why is dairy still being promoted? 

Money.

After the obvious health benefits we’ve just covered, she then talks about what frustrates me the most; the welfare of the animals in her farm. She even says, “I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I’d possibly want to come back as a dairy cow on my family’s farm.” 

Now, I’ve never been to her farm, but there are a couple realities that I don’t think anyone can deny. Even if she treated her cows like angels from above, which I highly doubt, not every dairy consumer in the world buys their dairy products from her. That would simply be impossible, so talking on the behalf of a huge, in fact, one of the biggest, industries with a hell lot of economic benefits is simply, dare I say, absurd.  

Allow me to state the cycle of a cow’s life that is involved in the dairy industry, including factory farms since that’s the source of most milk products. 

Cow’s are 

Forcibly Impregnated

A cow in a dairy industry is no more than a machine to meet the wants of humans. Like all mammal mothers, cows produce milk to nourish their young. Therefore, cows are forcibly bred to exist each year to produce milk that is meant for the calf, but is given to humans. The process happens by locking or tying the cow to a small enough place before the artificial insemination happens. The animal is locked or tied so it doesn’t escape because an intelligent animal, a cow in this case, will not be pleased by getting raped. When the cow is tied up, a dairy farm worker will approach her from behind, and put his/her hand, including most of the arm as well, inside the cow’s anus to inject the semen with a machine that is called the “rape rack” by the dairy industry itself, while the animal tries to save herself from that situation.

The Separation of Calves from their Mothers 

The economy can’t support feeding the calf and humans at the same time. Therefore, with an average of the first 24 hours, calves are separated from their mother’s without being able to feel the comfort of a mother and being able to drink the milk that was meant for her/him because, for the dairy industry, letting the calf drink his/her mother’s milk is waste of money. 

Imagine having your baby separated from you within the first couple days. That is exactly how these emotional, intelligent, sentient beings feel. Many studies have shown that this causes distress in both the mother and calf. There have been many cases of mothers crying after their young for days. 

Meanwhile, the young are locked away someplace else being fed everything else besides what they should be. If the calf is female, she is raised to be like her mommy, a slave for life till she is useless, which is about the time she’ll be sent to a slaughterhouse. Males are not useful for the dairy industry, so they are usually sold into the veal industries, where they are locked up in tiny crates with not even enough room to turn around, to keep their flesh tender.  After just a few miserable months of life, they will be killed with others. 

Dehorning

The female calves start off their first season by getting dehorned. Dehorning is a procedure in which humans use saws, sharp wires, hot irons, guillotine dehorners or chemicals to remove the cows horns. If you didn’t know already, this procedure is done when the cow is wide awake and fully conscious. Yes, cows feel pain, and this process is very painful as we can understand from thousands of film footages of cows crazily trying their very best to escape the situation. 

Milk Machines

When not on a dairy farm, a cow can live up to 20 years. However, a cow in a dairy farm is lucky to see the age of four and afterwards is sent to a slaughterhouse under the label “low-grade” meat. Before being sold, the cow will be attached to machines, sometimes non-stop for days, producing 4.5 times more milk than what is healthy for her body and what she would for the calf. This means four years of rape, torn away from your calves and tons of infections, pus and blood that will end up in the milk you produce, which humans will later put in their cereal. The most frequent “sickness” is called mastitis and is very commonly seen in dairy cows. It is a painful inflammation in the mammary glands and is known to be the most cited reason to send cows to slaughter. 

However, in her column, she proudly says she loves her animals. I’m sorry, even if you don’t do any of the things I listed above, which like I said, isn’t possible. You send them off to slaughter when their time is done, so you do not have the luxury to say you love these sentient individuals even if you’re doing nothing else but sending them off to slaughter, or do you give each and every one of ’em a kiss before packing them into trucks under extreme conditions and pretend it makes you money? 

It isn’t just the welfare of animals or health of humans either, although they’re both very important things. The dairy industry clearly fits into animal agriculture, which means it causes a lot of harm to the environment. 

Seriously though, what about the environmental facts? Animal agriculture is the leading cause of air pollution, water pollution, green gas emissions, ocean dead zones, species extinctions, deforestation, climate change, world hunger and many more destructions of mother nature I can even think of. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations revealed that animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of all of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. 

If something is this unhealthy for many aspects of life, then why do we keep consuming? Are our taste buds more important than a being’s life? I know it’s tough, but we have to know the story behind what we put in our bodies. The animal agriculture industry is a business, and it’s all about demand and supply, which means the system works as long as you pay for it. 

Shifting your hand to the next shelf on the same aisle is all it takes to help these animals. Yes, you can do it. Yes, it is that easy. Animal products are not healthy for the human body, and this has been proven countless times for any of us to ignore. You can live a better, healthier and a longer life only by picking the plant-based version of what you’re eating already. I believe in you. GO VEGAN. 

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