I’ll admit, I used to love cheese just as much anyone (there are lots) who has ever made the claim that they could never become vegan because they “just love cheese too much.” I, too, thought it was delicious: with crackers, sprinkled over soups, on PIZZA, literally all kinds all the time. I was a veritable cheese monster.
But then I was slapped in the face by a bit of reality and learned the cold, hard truths about the dairy industry. I won’t go into it in this post, but you can read truths about the dairy industry and the humane myth here and here.
In processing what I learned I could have done what a lot of people do: allow cognitive dissonance to somehow assuage the terrible feelings evoked by learning the truth, tell myself that I support only happy cows on small “humane” farms, or just turn a blind eye and choose not to care. Because, after all, it is a choice.
Instead, I made the decision to stop consuming dairy products right then and there. Sure, my initial motivation to give up dairy was because I realized that dairy cows endured an arduous and difficult life, and are treated cruelly, but also because I realized that I was still contributing and perpetuating other industries I had thought I opted out of: veal and meat, in particular.
As time went on, however, I was slapped in the face again when I experienced an awakening paradigm shift that would restructure my entire foundation of values and the way I live my life: animals are not OURS to USE. Period. Plain and simple. All animals have intrinsic value by virtue of being alive. They have their own interests. They feel pleasure and pain. They want to live. What right do I have to interfere with that?
The answer is that I don’t have a right. Just because our intellectual and physical superiority grants us the potential to exploit and exert power over other beings doesn’t mean we should. In fact, I would think it holds us to a higher expectation: Humans have a duty to care for and act as stewards for all animals, particularly those we domesticated. We are also responsible for ensuring that we live in a way that is sustainable so that all beings, now and in the future, can live happy and healthy lives. Beyond that, in places like the United States where it’s possible to consume a delicious and healthful plant-based diet, their flesh is not ours to consume, their hides our not ours to wear, and their milk is most certainly not ours to drink.
Conventional wisdom in our culture mandates that humans are the most important beings on Earth and, as such, are entitled to anything they wish. This means that some animals are treated as mere resources for us to exploit. Their only value is measured by what that they provide us in terms of sustenance, clothing, and entertainment.
Rejecting the status quo is hard. It requires your entire world view to change and will likely contradict a lot of beliefs you once held. In addition, it will force you to to accept that conveniences/privileges you once took for granted (walking into a restaurant knowing that there will definitely be something on the menu for you to eat. Never feeling ridiculed or isolated simply because of what you eat) will be harder to come by. You’ll be surprised that people will react negatively to your choices and you will be made to feel crazy and extreme. You will feel, at some point, isolated and lonely because of the choices you make.
And so, it’s no surprise that it’s even harder to help others come to the same conclusion. Some are more resistant than others, but I stress that this doesn’t make them bad people.
Our culture is very much to blame in framing the notion of animal use as normal from the moment we are born into this world. I have been asked whether or not I will give my child a choice to be vegan or not. To that I reply, were you given a choice to eat meat or not? The person asking the question normally doesn’t know what to say. Or, I’m given a response that is a clear indicator of cultural norms – something like “but eating meat is the normal thing to do.”
In my opinion, helping someone realize that eating meat is a choice just as much as being vegan is a choice is a step towards lifting the proverbial veil from their eyes.
When it comes to vegetarians who don’t consume meat for ethical reasons, I am perplexed as to how they continue to consume dairy.
But then I remember that, not too long ago, I was one of those people. I spent YEARS as a vegetarian happily consuming all sorts of dairy products. I should patiently help others learn what I didn’t know and assure them that they will never, ever, look at cheese or ice cream, or any other dairy product they once loved, the same way ever again.
When asked if I miss cheese I can honestly and emphatically answer “NO!”
I don’t miss it because I know the pain and suffering that went into it both physically, and mentally.
Dairy requires inflicting emotional trauma on another being
For arguments sake, let’s pretend that there was no physical trauma involved in dairy farming.
So, with no physical harm it’s okay to consume dairy then, right?
Firstly, as noted above, animals are not ours to use exclusively as resources. The milk a female cow produces is for her calf, not for us. Also, a dairy cow essentially spends her entire life pregnant. Now, I’ve never been pregnant, but I’m willing to bet you ladies wouldn’t want to spend your whole life in various stages of pregnancy and birth. AMIRITE?
Secondly, even without physical trauma, there is still mental and emotional trauma.
An alarming number of people don’t realize that dairy cows actually have to give birth to produce milk – they’re not just walking around producing milk out of the blue. So that humans can use their milk –which is super disgusting if you think about it. The milk they produce is to help baby COWS grow into BIG COWS. more on that below– their baby calf is stolen from them. In some cases it’s immediate, in other cases it’s within a few days; however, it is always traumatic to both calf and mother when the moment they are forcibly separate inevitably comes. Cows are intelligent beings who form strong social bonds with one another. Mothers and calves form exceptionally strong bonds and don’t want to be separated. In fact, mother and baby will sorrowfully call for each other after having been separated. If you think there is no cruelty in that you are misguided and unwilling to accept complicity in this abuse.
Also, the dairy industry supplies cows to the veal industry. When male calves are born, many are removed from their mothers and confined to a small space until they are slaughtered for their soft, tender meat. Ugh. Shameful. So, even if you choose not to eat veal you are still making it possible…
You Don’t Need Milk, Silly!
Let’s now consider the fact that we have been raised to think that milk is the best source of calcium for humans. We’re even told in school, as part of the food pyramid (now the Healthy Eating Plate) that consuming milk and other dairy products is important and necessary. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, this has all been masterminded by the dairy industry: A business who wants to make money and is doing so by cleverly convincing (successfully) all of us that we NEED milk to survive.
But. Consider this:
… The majority of humans naturally stop producing significant amounts of lactase – the enzyme needed to properly metabolize lactose, the sugar in milk — sometime between the ages of two and five. In fact, for most mammals, the normal condition is to stop producing the enzymes needed to properly digest and metabolize milk after they have been weaned.
Our bodies just weren’t made to digest milk on a regular basis. Instead, most scientists agree that it’s better for us to get calcium, potassium, protein, and fats from other food sources, like whole plant foods — vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and seaweed.
(Dairy: 6 Reasons You Should Avoid it At All Costs: Hyman, Mark, www.huffingtonpost.com)
If you need further proof, please consult this Harvard Study which illustrates that there are plenty of other plant-based calcium sources, and also makes possible connections between dairy and certain diseases.
Other studies show dairy is the cause of a host of allergies, inflammation, and other things like IBS. It also just goes to show that milk isn’t the “best” or only source of calcium we need to live healthy lives. So, again, if we can get the nutrients we need without hurting anyone, why would we?
Milk is like gross, man
Don’t you find it the slightest bit strange that we are the ONLY species who not only consumes milk after we should have weaned, but consumes the milk of ANOTHER SPECIES! This is bananas. This doesn’t happen “in the wild,” which is so often the non-vegan argument for eating meat. So why on earth would we drink cows milk? I think most people would blanch at the thought of consuming human breast milk into their adulthood. I ask people this all the time and they are invariably grossed out. When I compare it to drinking cows milk they’re really not sure what to say… It’s so entrenched in our culture it is seen as perfectly normal. But, I would think consuming milk from OUR OWN SPECIES would be less disgusting than consuming the secretions of another. Guess I’m wrong?
So I know that was a bit of a rant. But, hey, some times a girl just has to get stuff off her chest.
I know the truth stings. So, please, by all means: roll your eyes, feel guilty, get angry, get defensive even, call me names, call me “extreme” or weird or “just another crazy animal rights person” and let it all ruminate in your mind… But, ultimately, after you’ve done that – I’d like you to try to give up dairy.
I want you to give it up forever, but I’ll accept a thirty day challenge. If you are still here to talk about it after 30-days, I’d like you to consider giving it up for good! Tell me how it goes and if you need any help, advice, or suggestions for substitutions!
Read the entire Huffington Post article cited above here