Milk (and Other “Dairy”)
Milk is a product of animal exploitation, suffering, and killing.
Calves are separated from their mothers so their mother’s milk can be sold.
Calves are raised to produce milk or killed for their flesh (“veal” or “beef”).
Drink and use (in your recipes) the wide variety of delicious and nutritious vegan milk products made from plants such as soy, almond, rice, cashew, hemp, coconut, oat, quinoa, flax, hazelnut, and more.
What is milk?
Milk is, “[a]n opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.”¹
Where does milk come from? How is it produced?
Milk comes from mammals “for the nourishment of their young” such as from cows for the nourishment of their calves or goats for the nourishment of their kids. It is produced by the dairy industry through domestication and the systematic farming of cows by the impregnation of cows, the separation of cows from their calves, the milking of cows, and the selling of cows’ milk. After 4-5 years, the cows are replaced by younger more profitable cows and killed (or “culled” is the industry term), and their flesh is sold, as a standard industry practice. Milk is, therefore, a product of animal exploitation, suffering, and killing.
What happens to the animals in the dairy industry?
The female cows are used as resources for their milk for an average of 4.8 years before they are killed “because they are no longer profitable”² even though the “life span for cattle is reported to be up to 20.”²
The calves are byproducts of dairy production. The calves, both male and female, are separated from their mothers so their mother’s milk can be sold. The male calves are fed formula and raised until they are killed for their flesh (which we euphemistically call “beef”) although some of the male calves are kept and later used for their sperm for breeding purposes. The female calves are fed formula and raised until they are impregnated to produce milk. Then, they are used for their milk for an average of 4.8 years before they are killed for their flesh (“beef”) “because they are no longer profitable.”²
How many individual cows were being used as resources for their milk in 2012 worldwide?³
“…a sucking calf is sucking profits. He observes that after three weeks of age, a calf is drinking 30 to 60 pounds a day of mother’s milk.”- R. Daines, excerpt from article about interview with dairy farmer
Nonhuman animals value their lives, just like humans. Nonhuman animals are owed, based on sentience alone, the basic right not to be used as a resource. There is, quite simply, no such thing as “humane” animal use, be it for food, clothing, entertainment, testing, or any other use. Once you respect this basic right, you realize the root issue is not how we use animals but that we use animals at all. The root issue is not treatment; it’s use.
What about “humane” milk?
This question assumes that treating animals inhumanely is the root issue and conveniently ignores that using animals as resources is the root issue. This is a common but problematic mindset. It assumes that if we could find milk at a level of suffering we declare to be acceptable, it would be “humane.” But no unnecessary suffering is humane. And all animal uses result in some level of unnecessary suffering. When we are seeking out “humane” animal products that embody what we determine to be an acceptable level of suffering for animals, we are trying to alleviate our consciences, not their exploitation or their suffering. We have made the issue about us. But veganism isn’t about us. Veganism is about the animals and their basic right not to be used as resources by humans. Veganism isn’t about treatment; it’s about use. And because animal use is unnecessary, animal use is animal abuse.
Put simply, “humane” milk does not exist, regardless of how it is marketed. There is nothing humane about using a sentient being as a milk machine. “Humane” milk is not the solution. Seeking out “humane” milk is looking for the right way to do the wrong thing. Going vegan is doing the right thing. At the end of the day, someone who cares enough to seek out “humane” animal products (which do not even exist) cares enough to go vegan. Channel your care for animals into going vegan.
Do humans need to consume milk?
No. As the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said, “Milk and dairy products are not necessary in the diet and can, in fact, be harmful to health. It is best to consume a healthful diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fortified foods including cereals and juices. These nutrient-dense foods can help you meet your calcium, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin D requirements with ease—and without facing the health risks associated with dairy product consumption.”⁴
Calcium is found in green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, or collards, as well as in beans (see more healthful sources of calcium) . Because diets rich in animal products cause the body to lose calcium, a person on a vegan diet may need less calcium to stay in calcium balance.
– Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Not only are animal foods not necessary for optimal human health, many studies show animal products are detrimental to human health. Vegans get their nutrition exclusively from plants (and other nonanimal sources), and they do not miss out on flavor, texture, or variety. To the contrary, many vegans comment on how much more flavor, texture, and variety they enjoy after going vegan. Veganize your favorite meals; you will be amazed at how delicious they are!
Columbus and Tim are two of eight dairy calves rescued, from slaughter, by Willowite Animal Sanctuary in Victoria, Australia.
What should I do?
You should go vegan. Just as a human rights advocate would tell you that you should respect human rights, we will tell you that you should respect animal rights. And that starts with going vegan.
Using animals as resources is unjust, and milk production is part of that injustice. Milk production requires the exploitation of the female and male reproductive systems and the breaking of the mother-baby bond…all for products humans do not need to consume.
The ethical choice is to go vegan—to stop participating in and supporting the exploitation, suffering, and killing of animals for milk or other products humans do not need to consume or use. Indeed, if you care about animals at all, there is no choice but to go vegan. Instead of seeing going vegan as a limitation, see it as an expansion of your belief in justice regardless of species. See it as an opportunity to start living according to your own belief that hurting animals without necessity is morally wrong. Going vegan is not only the morally right thing to do, it is a moral obligation.
I refuse to exploit nonhuman animals anymore. I am vegan.
What should I consume instead?
Drink and use (in your recipes) the wide variety of delicious and nutritious vegan milk products made from plants such as soy, almond, rice, cashew, hemp, coconut, oat, quinoa, flax, hazelnut, and more. From milks and creams to cheeses and ice creams, there have never been more delicious vegan alternatives, both products and recipes, available as there are today!
There are delicious vegan alternatives to animal milk and other dairy products! But even if there weren’t or if they aren’t available in your area, taste pleasure is never a morally justifiable reason to harm animals. Let’s have fun and explore the copious amount of vegan milks, cheeses, butter, creamer, whipped cream, ice cream, and more! And there are recipes to make your own vegan alternatives.
For butter, many vegans use Earth Balance Vegan Buttery spread and sticks (soy-free option).