Eavesdropping on the Tube yesterday, I overheard an alarming fact that made me almost choke on my strawberry yogurt smoothie. A girl was telling her friend how she’d recently given up cows’ milk, after finding out “it’s full of pus and blood and all sorts”.
Hoping she’d made it up, I launched a full-scale Google investigation as soon as I got home. Alas, it does appear to be true – PETA has an entire campaign about it.
The problem seems to be this: because they are farmed so intensively, dairy cows get mastitis, a painful udder infection which creates loads of pus. Around a third of dairy cows will have the infection at any one time, so a lot of it ends up in the milk we drink.
There can legally be up to 400 million pus cells in every litre of milk in the UK. It also contains antibiotics and growth factors given to the cows, and since a dairy cow spends most of its life pregnant, it’s full of cow hormones.
I’ve always thought of milk as one of the most natural and healthy foodstuffs there is, and vital for strong bones and all that jazz. But the more I think about it, the stranger the idea of drinking milk sounds. As Heather McCartney (patron of the Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation) says:
“No other mammal drinks milk after weaning – and certainly not the milk of another species. Would you drink the milk of a cat, dog or elephant?”
It’s not just veggies and treehuggers who are anti-dairy. Some medical practitioners say it has health risks too.
The ethical implications are also massive. PETA’s Milk Sucks website says:
“Male calves, the “byproducts” of the dairy industry, endure 14 to 17 weeks of torment in veal crates so small that they can’t even turn around. Female calves often replace their old, worn-out mothers, or are slaughtered soon after birth for the rennet in their stomachs (an ingredient of most commercial cheeses). They are often kept in tiny crates or tethered in stalls for the first few months of their lives, only to grow up to become “milk machines” like their mothers.”
I’m still looking into it – there are bound to be some good counter-arguments – but in the meantime I’m going to have a go at cutting dairy out of my diet.
I do eat an awful lot of yogurt and cheese so it’s going to be tricky. I’ve already invested in some soya milk: the unsweetened version tastes like crap, to be honest, but the sweetened version is a bit more drinkable.
It ruins a cup of tea, mind. So let’s see how long I last…….