I often meet people who haven’t eaten meat for years but still eat dairy, or omnivores who say, ‘ooh I couldn’t give up cheese.” So what is it about dairy that is so addictive and why should we all be eating less or none at all?
Milk contains casein which is concentrated in cheese production. It also contains casein fragments called casomorphins which are morphine-like compounds. When you consume the opiate molecules in dairy they attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics attach to, so yes you are physically addicted to cheese! Why? Milk rewards the baby for nursing!
I get that dairy tastes good, but there are some great alternatives out there and some very good reasons not to eat it at all. It’s time you kicked that dairy habit!
Dairy Is not a food group
Many countries have removed dairy from their ‘plate’ or ‘pyramid’ because it doesn’t contribute to human health. In fact, why would eating the milk from another species possibly encourage health?
Dairy proteins trigger inflammation, by encouraging the release of antibodies. Often when asthmatics stop consuming dairy, the constriction of the tiny muscles in the airways diminishes and their asthma attacks stop. The same can be said for digestive issues, ¾ of the population are lactose intolerant or sensitive (lactose tolerance decreases as we get older) which can result in tummy upsets, bloating and diarrhoea.
Dairy contains a substance called IGF-1 (Insulin like Growth Factor 1) which helps to make baby calves into cows pretty quickly. Great if you’re a cow. Not so great if you have cancerous cells in your body (IGF-1 can accelerate their growth) too.
There is now a known link between dairy and breast and prostate cancer specifically and is linked to conditions such as allergies, sinus and ear problems, plus milk consumption is linked to the autoimmune disease type 1 diabetes. If your child inherits the genetic susceptibility, bovine milk proteins can instigate the immune system to attack and destroy the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, resulting in a lifetime of insulin injections, reduced mortality and possibly other associated conditions.
Additionally, unless your dairy is organic, the milk will contain antibiotics and hormones. Every type of milk contains a healthy portion of pus as cows are given antibiotics consistently to either treat or ward off mastitis (hence the pus). Hormones are given continuously to keep the cow producing milk.
Cheese is loaded with calories, high in sodium, with more cholesterol than a steak…not exactly a health food!
Dairy is exceptionally cruel
Think your milk comes from Daisy the cow living her best life in a green field frolicking with her young? Think again. Most dairy cows spend their four years (by this time they are sent off to be hamburgers as their bodies are worn out) being roughly artificially inseminated every year, carrying the baby calf and then if it is male, she is separated from him moments after giving birth. Mother and baby are often seen to call for each other for days and weeks afterwards. He will then end up as a veal calf (another cruel industry) and killed shortly after or killed straight away as ‘surplus’ to the industry. Female cows suffer the same fate as their mother. The cows are given hormones to make them produce much more milk than they would normally, causing painful udders and mastitis and milked multiple times per day. They are dehorned (another painful process), they live in sheds with little chance to lead a natural life outdoors. As with all other farmed animals, cruelty and abuse is rife, with injuries and disease often overlooked, as to treat them would cut into the farmers’ profits.
There are approximately 264 million dairy cows living on dairy farms around the world, producing an average of 600 million tons of milk against their will. From 1970 to 2006, the number of US farms with dairy cows dropped by 88% and cow numbers fell from 12 million to 9.1 million, yet the US population grew along with its consumption of dairy. Cows doubled up their milk production and the average milk production per farm increased twelvefold. The efficiencies that produced this growth meant more cruelty for the cows.
An environmental disaster
Factory farming plays a huge role in climate change and dairy farming is no exception, a fact which many large corporations and governments ignore.
A single dairy cow can drink as much as 150 litres of water per day. Just in drinking water that is 1,410,000,000 litres of water every single day used to hydrate dairy cows so that they can produce milk. Additionally, instead of dairy cows eating grass that they would normally naturally consume. On farms they consume different types of grains, corn and soy. Growing soy and grain takes immense resources when it comes to water. When soy is grown in countries like Brazil (the world’s largest second soy producer in the world), water irrigation systems are used to keep water the crops as many months see very little rainfall.
Water is a precious commodity on planet Earth.
Additionally, the crops grown to feed the cows are typically GMO and non organic, so pesticides and chemical fertilisers are used on the soil which degrades it further and in turn enables the soil to hold less water, so more water is needed as time goes on.
Cleaning the Farms
Factory farms are filthy. Imagine living with tens of thousands of people in extremely confined spaces and not being able to use a bathroom.
Factory farms get very dirty very quickly. The dirtier they get the higher the risk of cows becoming contaminated with bacteria and spreading diseases. Because of that, farmers have to keep the animals and facilities as clean as possible. Dairy farms can use upwards of 150 gallons of water per day per cow, including the water used for drinking and cleaning.
Each cow produces on average 37 kilos of waste each day. Multiply that by 9.4 million dairy cows in the US alone and you can see what kind of a problem we have. The waste from just 200 dairy cows produces as much nitrogen as the sewage from a community of up to 10,000 people. If not treated properly this waste can contaminate local drinking supplies and the soil. The excrement is full of hormones and antibiotics. When a farm closes, the land takes a very long time to recover.
It takes a lot of resources, water and labour to take care of manure properly. Because farms like to maximise profits, the handling can be an ecological disaster. The chemicals in the manure can plague native eco systems; local wildlife suffer dramatically as these toxins enter their food and water supply.
It’s all in the air
Toxic dust is often kicked up by tens of thousands of animals and can hover like a low lying cloud and spread for miles around. Many farmers suffer from respiratory illnesses because of the ammonia laden dust, as well as the people in the surrounding communities. The animals themselves suffer and become sick.
OK I Get That, But Isn’t Removing Dairy from My Plate Really Difficult?
There are so many dairy alternatives widely available now as well as the ones you can make yourself. Ice creams, milks, creams, cheeses, yogurt- there is a good non -dairy alternative out there that will suit you, your budget and your palate. All it needs is a little experimentation.
The reality of dairy farming is far from happy smiling cows on the side of cartons. It’s a lot darker and a lot more sinister. The dairy industry is destructive to animals, people and the environment.
While many people eat dairy because they think that no harm comes to the animal, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Cutting dairy from your life will prevent cows from the pain and suffering of living an enslaved life of misery. It will also do wonders for the environment and the communities that surround farms. And it will make you healthier and alleviate conditions. With so many reasons to stop eating dairy in 2021, my last question is, when will you stop consuming dairy?
Ally van de Pol is a Certified Healing Diets Coach