Like most vegans, I wasn’t one my whole life. As of now, I’ve been vegan for over twelve years. Six years before that I was a vegetarian. I had made the decision to become vegetarian because I didn’t want to support the violence that was inherent in the industry that killed animals for food. I made the decision not based on health, or concern for the environment, but on ethics. I thought adopting vegetarianism was “good enough” in not supporting the problematic dilemma of taking of a life when it really isn’t necessary to do so. I hadn’t thought then of going vegan. To me at the time it seemed like a step that was more rooted in a sense of purity than anything else. I had deluded myself into thinking that the animals used in the dairy and egg industry were somehow better taken care of, that they didn’t have to be killed to get what we wanted from them. How wrong I was.
Later I learned things that I hadn’t known before, which made it all too clear that the cycle of violence and exploitation is just as prevalent in the dairy and egg industry as the meat industry. I was ashamed and disappointed that I allowed myself to be duped by an industry that presented a wholesome pastoral image of how animals were cared for, when the reality behind the industries was a lot crueler and bloodier than I had ever imagined. After being educated, I could no longer in good conscience support those practices. As a result I made the choice to become vegan, back in 2000, and have not regretted for a single second my decision. In the years since, I have been continually exposed to more evidence that solidified and confirmed the ethics behind my choice.
I offer to you, whether you are vegetarian or not, some of the same information that you may not know about the dairy and egg industry as part of twelve reasons I’ve complied of why reconsideration in supporting them is necessary. Do not feel bad if you do not know many or even any of these points; there is a reason this information is kept hidden from the public discourse–the industries know that if the greater public really knows what goes on, the demand for their products will drop. If you have an ethical concern for animals, then please read through the Dirty Dozen on why vegetarianism is sadly not enough in order for you to live in accordance with your values.
1. Cows don’t just “give” milk.
The average consumer of dairy thinks that cows “have” to be milked, that they just produce it all on their own, so we’re really just doing them a favor by using their milk. It is a testament to how well-hidden the truth of the dairy industry is that people don’t think to question something that is contradictory to a simple biological fact: cows produce milk for their calves. In the dairy industry, cows are kept constantly impregnated to keep milk production going, producing up to ten times more milk than she would naturally. They are impregnated by means of artificial insemination, confined in a “rape rack” (that’s the industry term), and when the cows give birth, the calves are immediately taken away from their mother. When you consume any milk product, there is a calf that is denied the ability to nurse his/her mother.
2. The dairy industry supports the veal industry.
Once the cow gives birth during one of a number of continual pregnancies, the mother cow and her calf will both scream, calling out to one another, while the baby is taken from her. Afterward, the mother will bellow for days upon days, calling out for her baby. If the calf is male, he gets shipped away to a veal producer. The male calf will call out for his mother, for roughly his entire 14 week life-span, spent immobile in a small crate, until he is slaughtered. Other calves not destined for veal are slaughtered for pet food or for their skin to produce leather–or if the calf is female, raised to become another milk machine.
A calf being constrained in a veal crate
3. The dairy industry supports the meat industry.
Because of the rigors and demands imposed on her, the life of a dairy cow is short. Even though cows naturally life 20 years or more, most cows are sent to slaughter as soon as their milk production drops, usually at about 3 or 4 years of age. These “spent” cows end up as hamburger meat or as other “lower quality” meat in your grocery store. Even cows used for dairy from so-called “humane” farms end up at the same slaughterhouses as cows from concentrated farming operations, where there are absolutely no protections in place, where the intensive speed of “processing” means many are not verified as having been killed and thus get gutted and skinned while still conscious.
4. The egg industry is now linked to the Canadian seal slaughter.
After the European Union has banned importation of seal products from Canada, the Canadian seal industry has found a new customer. The egg industry is attempting to improve the fatty acid lipid profile of eggs by feeding blubber from the Canadian harp seal hunt to egg-laying hens.
5. Exploitation is the industries’ business model.
The dairy and egg industry (like the meat industry) spend a significant amount of money to soothe the buying public into thinking that as an institution, they care about the welfare of the animals. But with making a profit as their motive, animals are just seen as disposable commodities, a mere means to an end. Animals are considered as pure numbers, and if they fall short of a cost/benefit analysis, then it is the animals that suffer the consequences.
In a recent example of such a coldly-calculated outcome, the dairy industry trade group Cooperatives Working Together (CWT)–comprised of members such as the National Milk Producers Federation, Dairy Farmers of America, and Land O’Lakes– had from 2003 and 2010 more than 500,000 young cows slaughtered under their so-called “dairy herd retirement” program. They did so in a concerted effort to reduce the supply of milk, and thus inflate the price. Another recent case also involved egg producers who were encouraged to reduce their flock size to reduce egg supply and inflate the price, all part of a program that was disguised as an animal welfare initiative based on the use of a misleading label on egg cartons.
Research shows that cows and chickens have a strong, complex emotional life, feeling pain, fear and anxiety and also worry about the future just as we do. All cows and chickens have unique individual personalities and desire to live free. But what are considered legal standard agricultural practices would be considered unlawful animal cruelty if it were to be done to a dog or cat. Branding and tail-docking are done to cows used for dairy, hens used for egg production get de-beaked, and it is a common practice to starve them in order to force them to molt, which increases egg production. Even on operations that advertise their products as “humane,” “organic,” “free-range,” etc., animals are often denied basic care; for example, if cows’ udders become infected from frequent milkings, which often happens, many farmers deny them medicine, because if they medicate the animals, they won’t be able to sell the milk as organic. If an animal gets sick or injured, often they are just killed rather than to have to spend money on medicine or veterinary treatment. And as soon as their production drops, then they aren’t allowed to live out the rest of their natural life, but instead are slaughtered.
Breeding, confining, using, and killing these individual beings denies them of a full, long life that nature intended for them.
6. For egg production, 50% of all chicks are killed.
Hatcheries breed all the chickens destined for egg-production. Trays upon trays of chicks are hatched in incubators–not a single one will ever see or experience the warmth of their mother. Male chicks hatched there have no economic value. Hatcheries dispose of all male chicks, either tossing them in the trash and letting them suffocate to death, or they grind them up alive. 250 million male chicks are ground up alive or suffocate in hatcheries every year. Even farms that advertise “humane,” “free-range,” “cage-free,” or “organic” eggs obtain their chicks from hatcheries. Hatcheries also supply chickens for the burgeoning urban backyard chicken movement. You cannot attain an chicken used for egg-production without supporting this mass slaughter.
Male chicks having been tossed into a hatchery dumpster
In addition, at all farms, both large-scale and small-scale, all hens used for egg-production are killed when their production declines, typically within two years, as feeding these worn-out individuals cuts directly into profits. Often the bodies of “spent” hens are so ravaged that no one will buy them, and they are ground into fertilizer or just sent to a landfill. Hens can live for ten years or more if allowed to live free of exploitation and slaughter.
Baby male chicks are tossed alive into trash bins
7. Dairy and eggs are a feminist issue.
The vast majority of the animals raised and used in the dairy and egg industry are female. The same worldview that allows for the domination of men over women is also responsible for the mass institutional control of female farmed animals. There every aspect of a female’s life is controlled. Female cows are continually kept pregnant, impregnated forcibly, have their babies taken away from them, and killed for food. Female chickens are kept alive for only as long as their egg production is optimal. And every female farmed animal (both ones raised for dairy/egg operations and for human consumption of their flesh) has their reproductive systems controlled by a profit-driven industrial system designed to view them as mere commodities rather than as individuals. In any struggle to make a world more equitable from one dominated by a male-centric worldview, addressing how animals are subjugated is as much a feminist issue as any.
8. The dairy and egg industries misrepresent their products.
The industries surrounding dairy and egg production and the manufacture of products from them controls government policy and media discourse, and therefore, public perception. They operate in much the same manner as the tobacco industry did 30 years ago to hide the true costs of their products.
These lobbies are very large and powerful players within government, heavily contributing to House and Senate candidates, who then craft legislation that benefits the industries. The government also supports these industries with price supports and subsidies.
These dairy lobbies are also very cozy with the medical profession so licensed nutritionists constantly bombard us with “drink milk” and “cheese is good for you” propaganda.
Animal production claims and pictures on the cartons all serve to “educate” the consumer about “organic” milk, “free-range” eggs, and the like. Marketers know that contented animals in the field are what consumers want to see, which is why these images are plastered on cartons across the country. But these are just marketing tactics, as the requirements that allow such labels are extremely lax. High-density housing is still allowed to be called “free-range” and “cage-free,” often with the same noisy, smelly, and unsanitary conditions of conventional factory farms. The “organic” label does not govern the living conditions of the animals, but rather on their feed given to them. And there is no standard that regulates the use of “humane.” Through suggestive packaging or using misleading language the dairy and egg industries make the public feel good about what they buy and not question the true exploitative nature of those industries.
9. Cow’s milk is not natural for us.
We are the only animal species that continue to drink milk after we are supposed to be weaned. And we are the only animal species that drinks milk from other animal species. The reason we continue to drink milk well past the period we are supposed to is because we have allowed ourselves to remain addicted to it. Milk (and milk products like butter, ice cream, cheese, and so on) contains casein, a protein that has an addictive calming effect similar to morphine. This is an evolutionary trick to ensure babies continue to drink it to get the nutrition their mother provides, as well as ensuring a bond between the baby and mother. Then as the baby achieves a level of maturity to allow them to eat solid food and develops an interest in foods other than milk, the process of weaning starts. They usually lose the ability to digest lactose as they reach adulthood.
The majority (more than 60%) of the world’s human population is lactose-intolerant, meaning their digestive system simply cannot digest lactose, the main sugar in milk. This is proof enough that humans are not meant to drink milk past infancy (especially from other species).
10. Cow’s milk is not healthy for us.
Milk is Mother Nature’s “perfect food” …for a calf… until he/she is weaned. There’s nothing in milk that we cannot get from plant-based sources. Calcium, the number one nutrient for which milk is considered necessary, can be found in greater amounts in dark leafy greens. Consider that the calcium that the cow uses to build bone strength is obtained from plant sources. Plant sources that supply calcium also have a large amount of magnesium, necessary for the body to absorb and use the calcium. Most of the calcium in cow’s milk basically passes through unused because the milk has insufficient magnesium content for the human body to use. Cow’s milk has only enough magnesium to absorb around 11% (33mg per cup) of calcium.
Because of its high protein content, milk is sometimes thought of as “liquid meat,” but all that protein, in concert with other proteins, can actually leach calcium from the body. Excessive protein in the body creates an acidic environment (in the blood), which the body counteracts by extracting calcium to neutralize it, over the long term resulting in osteoporosis or stone formation. Countries that consume high-protein diets (meat, eggs, milk and dairy) have the highest rates of osteoporosis.
Dairy is a major contributor to obesity. In whole milk 49% of the calories are from fat; in “2%” milk 35% of the calories are from fat; Cheddar cheese has 74% fat content; butter is 100% fat. The cow’s milk protein lactalbumin has been identified as a key factor in diabetes.
Whenever cows are forced to produce more milk, they become more susceptible to udder infections called mastitis. Mastitis is a condition which can increase the amount of cow’s pus which ends up in the milk. Mastitis is treated with antibiotics, used in both a systemic and preventative basis, with many veterinarians mixing up their own antibiotic cocktails. Of the many commercially available antibiotics, only 4 are tested for their presence in milk. The presence of bovine growth hormones given to cows to increase milk production (like recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or rBGH) in the cow’s blood stimulates production of another hormone, called Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1, or IGF-1. It is IGF-1 that is directly responsible for increasing milk production. IGF-1 promotes cell division, but excessive amounts can cause out-of-control cell growth — also better known as cancer.
In the U.S., ONE cubic centimeter (cc) of commercial cow’s milk is allowed to have up to 750,000 somatic cells (also called “pus”) and 20,000 live bacteria, before it is kept off the market. There are also allowable amounts for feces, blood, and bacteria. Pasteurization happens for 15 seconds at 162 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, the recommended procedure to sanitize contaminated water is to boil it (212 degrees F) for several minutes.
Milk is mixed together in large tanks; one gallon of milk can come from up to a thousand different cows. Because of this it would only take 1 sick and diseased cow to infect thousands of gallons of milk.
According to the February 2005 print edition of Hoard’s Dairyman (Volume 147, number 4), the self proclaimed “National Dairy Farm Magazine,” 89% of the cows used for dairy in the United States are infected with the leukemia virus.
Each bite of hard cheese has ten times whatever was in that sip of milk, because it takes ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese. Each bite of ice cream has 12 times the amount of milk, and every swipe of butter has 21 times whatever is contained in the fat molecules in a sip of milk.
The cumulative effect on those who consume cow’s milk and dairy includes obesity, heart disease, cancer, allergies, digestive problems, diabetes, asthma, desensitization to antibiotics, behavioral problems, Crohn’s disease, migraines, eczema, insomnia, and more. Add to that the effects from the constant ingestion of dioxins, herbicides, pesticides that get passed into milk, which wind up getting stored in human fat, and it simply means that milk is not healthy by any measure.
“Milk and many components of milk (butterfat, milk protein, calcium from milk, and riboflavin) … were positively related to coronary heart disease mortality for all 40 countries studied.”- Circulation 1993;88(6):2771-2779
” ‘But doctor, what will happen to my teeth and bones if I stop drinking milk?’ Nothing – nothing that wouldn’t have happened anyway”. - Frank A. Oski, MD, Former Director, Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
11. Eggs are also risky.
Salmonella is a constant concern with eggs (with one outbreak in 2010 requiring the recall of half a billion eggs).
Regular consumption of eggs has been found to be linked with an increased risk of heart failure and strokes (due to the high cholesterol content), and an increased risk of developing the more lethal form of prostate cancer.
Much of the protein contained within eggs that is touted as a health benefit actually becomes indigestible after being cooked. Animal proteins also contain more methionine, an essential amino acid, than plant proteins. However, excessive amounts of methionine become toxic as it breaks down into homocysteines; in the 1990′s homocysteines were identified as key factors in heart attack deaths.
The nutritional benefits many people claim for eggs, including iron, protein, phosphorous and vitamins A and D, are in plant-based foods that do not have the high cholesterol and fat content of eggs.
12. Dairy and egg production result in massive consumption and pollution of the environment.
Where there are animals, there is animal waste. There are around 9.2 million cows used for dairy in the United States. Each cow used for dairy ingests around 330 pounds of feed and water (around 50 pounds of food and around 280 pounds or 33 gallons of water) per day. Allowing for the “optimal” dairy production of 55 pounds of milk per day (about 6 gallons, over ten times what Mother Nature designed the cow to produce) that means that what remains becomes around 275 pounds of urine and feces per day, per cow, for a daily total of 2.53 billion pounds of pollution. That means 923 billion pounds per year of untreated pollution entering our streams, rivers, lakes, and drinking water systems, euphemistically called “agricultural runoff.”
The result of this “agricultural runoff” is millions of fish being killed, and is the main reason why 60% of America’s rivers and streams are classified as “impaired”. In states with concentrated animal agriculture, the waterways have become rife with the bacteria Pfiesteria piscicida. In addition to killing fish, pfiesteria causes open sores, nausea, memory loss, fatigue and disorientation in humans. Even groundwater, which takes thousands of years to restore, is being contaminated; the aquifer under the San Bernadino Dairy Preserve in southern California, for example, contains more nitrates and other pollutants than water coming from sewage treatment plants.
One dairy farm with 2,500 cows produces as much waste as a city with around 411,000 residents. There are many other problems associated with the large amount of animal manure being produced, including dangerous gases, waterborne diseases, and acid rain.
Like all mammals, cows pass gas. And owing that their compartmental digestive system is rather inefficient, it leads to the creation of more gas. Cows used for dairy release more than a billion pounds of methane gas into the atmosphere each year, and as a “greenhouse-intensive food,” it is a major contributor to the global climate change that is manifesting now.
Many people recognize that water is a precious resource, however, more water is used in the production of dairy and eggs than the equivalent amount of crops grown for human consumption. Water is used not only for the animals to drink, but also to grow the crops that the animals eat. Simply cleaning out dairy and egg operations uses vast amounts of water—according to the EPA, a dairy operation that utilizes an automatic “flushing” system can use up to 150 gallons of water per cow per day. There are about 336 million hens used of egg-production in the US. It takes about 120 gallons of water for a hen to produce one egg. By contrast, it takes 13.8 gallons to grow and produce one orange, and only 3 gallons of water to produce one tomato.
By any measure, animal-based agricultural operations consume a vast amount of ever-more-precious resources and is a major contributor to the pollution of the planet. Any discussion about arresting our environmental impact on this earth will be for naught if we do not acknowledge the key role our demand for animal-based agriculture (animals raised for dairy/eggs as well as those for meat) has on the potential future viability of our environment.
13 (Baker’s Dozen). Many cheeses aren’t even vegetarian.
Most cheeses contain rennet. Rennet is a complex of enzymes manufactured in mammalian stomachs, and is used in the production of cheeses to separate milk into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). Rennet is extracted from the inner stomach linings of slaughtered young, unweaned calves. These stomachs are a by-product of veal production. While there are vegetarian forms of rennet, animal sources are still commonly used, and there is no labeling requirements to state their source. So many cheeses are essentially made from mothers’ milk mixed with the pieces of stomach from their dead babies.
What to use in place of dairy and eggs:
It is important to know that you are not “giving up” anything when you decide not to consume dairy and eggs anymore. You can still enjoy sumptuous desserts, mouth-watering treats, and even your favorite recipes simply by using vegan versions of the things you’ve grown up being used to. And you can rekindle a sense of adventure in discovering new kinds of delicious food. The only thing you would be giving up when you decide not to use animal products of any sort is the support of cruelty and ethical dissonance. More and more products come out each year, and are becoming more widely available, so even your regular store will likely have a few products you never realized were there all along.
Ener-G Egg Replacer – Tapioca starch used as a replacement in baking
Substitutes such as bananas, silken tofu, ground flax seeds, apple puree, and more can be used in baking. There are many vegan recipes out there for egg-centered dishes like deviled eggs and omelettes. Any vegan cookbook will have at least a few recipes, and a multitude of them can be brought up with a simple web search.
Soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and more can be easily substituted for animal milk. These non-dairy milks are widely available under numerous brands, and each brand comes in different varieties, including vanilla-flavored, chocolate-flavored, low-fat, and unsweetened. They all have differing tastes, so feel free to experiment. Dairy milk in recipes can be substituted with (unsweetened) soy milk with no compromise to structure or taste (rice milk tends to be thinner). If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can make your own soy milk; even easier is making almond milk. So Delicious and Wildwood make coffee creamers as well.
Butter and margarine
Earth Balance makes spreads and sticks.
Spectrum makes spreads and shortenings.
Smart Balance makes spreads (not all varieties may be vegan).
Shedd’s Willow Run Soybean Margarine sticks, one of the oldest brands of soy margarine, and by many accounts, the best.
Recipes calling for melted butter in baking or pan-frying can easily be replaced with an equal amount of oil (such as canola or safflower). If you’re adventurous, here’s a recipe for vegan butter that stands out because it is designed from an understanding of the chemical properties of dairy butter.
Cheezly from the UK, a variety of flavors in blocks and slices.
Daiya shredded vegan cheese perfect for pizza or tacos. Many consider them the best. Also available in large blocks.
Dr. Cow – Organic, creamy cheese in “Aged” flavors
Follow Your Heart – soy-based Vegan Gourmet cheese blocks come in Monterey Jack, Mozzarella (it melts and is great on pizza!), Cheddar and Nacho
Parma! Vegan Parmesan – made from walnuts and nutritional yeast, comes in a shaker bottle (great sprinkled on pasta, salads, and popcorn). Comes in Original and Chipotle Cayenne
Road’s End Organics – Chreese packets of instant sauces are great for mac ‘n’ cheese (Cheddar, Mozzarella, and gluten free Alfredo and Cheddar); they also make a Nacho Chreese Dip in mild or spicy flavors
Sheese soy-based “gourmet” cheese from Scotland. Blocks in Cheddar (smoked, chives, medium and strong), Edam, Cheshire, Gouda and Mozzarella. Creamy style in Cheddar, Chives, Garlic & Herb, Mexican and Original. Great for crackers, and for wine/cheese events
Teese – Vegan Cheese in blocks of Mozzarella and Cheddar. Also, Vegan Cheese Sauces in Nacho and Cheddar
Tofutti – Soy-Cheese Slices in Mozzarella and American
Vegan brand – soy-based cheeses: Vegan Grated Topping is a great Parmesan alternative; Vegan Singles, Rice Cheese Singles, and Vegan Chunk Cheese are all available in a few different flavors
Dr. Cow – Cashew nut cream cheese
Follow Your Heart – Vegan Gourmet cream cheese is creamy and organic
Sheese – creamy style comes in original flavor and others like in Garlic & Herb and Chives
Tofutti – “Better Than Cream Cheese” in French onion, herbs and chives, garlic and herb, garden veggie, and plain
Trader Joe’s – Dairy Free Cream Cheese Alternative
Vegan brand – Classic Plain and Chive & Garlic
Nancy’s Soy Yogurt – cultured soy yogurt (the only brand that carries a plain flavor, useful for cooking/baking)
Silk Live! – cultured soy yogurt
So Delicious – coconut milk yogurts
Trader Joe’s cultured soy yogurts
Wholesoy soy yogurts, also makes drinkable soy yogurt for those on the go
All of the above brands come in a multitude of flavors.
Follow Your Heart – Vegan Gourmet sour cream alternative is also organic
Tofutti – Sour Supreme and non-hydrogenated Better Than Sour Cream
Earth Balance – Original, Organic, and Olive Oil
Follow Your Heart – Veganaise vegan mayonnaise (refrigerated) — my personal favorite! Also comes in Grapeseed Oil, Expeller Pressed, and Reduced Fat
Miso Mayo – Soy/miso mayonnaise available in Spicy Red Pepper, Garlic/Dill, and Original flavor. Great for sandwiches.
Nasoya – Nayonaise vegan mayonnaise
Spectrum – Light Canola Mayo, also available in squeeze bottle
Coconut Bliss – Organic coconut milk ice cream
Double Rainbow Soy Cream – Soy ice cream in a few flavors
Rice Dream – Rice milk ice cream, available in many flavors, both in pints and novelties (bars, bites, and pies)
So Delicious – So Delicious soy, coconut, and almond milk ice cream, and Purely Decadent soy ice cream in many flavors. Also has sorbets and ice cream sandwiches and bars
Soy Dream – Organic soy ice cream both in pints and sandwiches
Tofutti Cuties – Ice cream sandwiches in many flavors
And there are many recipes on the web to make not only homemade versions of dairy-free alternatives like sour cream and cheese, but also other items normally thought of needing dairy to make, such as vegan crepes, omlettes, alfredo sauce, cheesecake, quiche, souffle, and more. Just put in the word “vegan” in any recipe search and you’ll be surprised at the number and varieties to experiment with!
Dairy and eggs are not necessary for us and is ethically problematic, and in light of the evidence against its use — and with the amount of vegan alternatives available — the only question remains is how soon can you make the switch? The animals are looking to you to help them.