Why I Stopped Eating Dairy

Why I Stopped Eating Dairy

Vegan brownie sundaes from the Chicago Diner! How good do these look?!?

Hello peaceful pals! Today’s post is all about why I decided to give up dairy. As some of you may know, I was a vegetarian for two years before going vegan. Without looking too far into it, I told myself that dairy was okay because a dairy cow isn’t actually killed for the milk, and I was only against killing animals, not using them. I now disagree with my past self on both accounts: the dairy industry actually does kill cows, as we’ll see below, and it’s inextricably linked with the beef industry. In addition, now I see all animal exploitation as wrong, whether or not it actually kills the animal. Today’s post will explain why I decided to stop eating dairy and how the dairy industry exploits cows. We’ll also look at the environmental and health impacts of dairy.

Whether you’re in the process of going vegan (if this is you, definitely check out my top 10 tips for new vegans post!) or you’re just starting to think about cutting down your dairy consumption, I hope that you’ll find this post informative!

Why cut out dairy?

Well… so many reasons! Let’s start with the ethical.

Many people don’t realize that in order to be able to produce milk, a cow must have a child. Dairy cows are impregnated via artificial insemination via machinery known as “rape racks”. After the cows give birth, they are afforded less than a day with their babies. When female cows are born to dairy cows, they will become dairy cows themselves. When male calves are born, they are moved to tiny crates where they are unable to move around, not allowing proper muscle development. They are then killed within a few days of birth to be eaten as veal. After a dairy cow’s child is taken from her within a day of birth, a process which is traumatic for both mother and child, she is immediately milked via milking machines until she cannot produce milk anymore. At which point she is impregnated again via the rape rack, and the cycle begins again. This will continue until she physically collapses from exhaustion due to overmilking, at which point she is sent to slaughter. The life of a dairy cow is so taxing that dairy cows, who have a natural lifespan of 20-25 years, only live 3-4 years.

(To see actual footage of what happens to dairy cows and other animals used by various industries, I highly recommend the film Dominion.)

Environment

Consuming dairy means contributing to violence. Most people believe that it is moral to reduce violence wherever possible, so an extension of this innate morality would require abstaining from dairy consumption. Abstaining from dairy is great for the environment too! Here are a few of the ways the dairy industry harms the environment:

  • – 19% of the global water footprint of animal agriculture (2,422 billion cubic meters of water per year, one fourth of the global water footprint) is due to dairy production. Water is primarily used used to hydrate and feed cows and clean floors and milking equipment.
  • – Dairy significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change. Cows produce between 250-500 litres of methane per day through flatulation, and methane is a greenhouse gas 28-36 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
  • – Dairy cows produce copious amounts of waste, which emits greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide and contributes to water pollution and eutrophication. Livestock in the US produces 116,000 pounds of waste per second. Per second!
  • – Dairy production requires a lot of land. Each cow used in dairy production requires 2-5 acres of land. This figure takes feeding into account, as growing feed for livestock is one of the main reasons dairy production is so inefficient and harmful to the environment!
  • – For more general facts about how animal agriculture harms the environment, please check out my why vegan post! It’s referenced with over 100 sources, most of them peer-reviewed studies and government/NGO reports.

Health

Finally, the health reasons I gave up dairy! The dangers of dairy consumption have come to light in recent years, and you probably know at least several people who don’t consume dairy for health reasons or because of allergies. Even if you’re not diagnosed as lactose intolerant, chances are that dairy is negatively impacting your health, and some impacts won’t manifest until years down the line. Here are a few studies highlighting the negative impact of dairy consumption:

We’ve tricked ourselves into believing that cow breast milk is beneficial, even necessary, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Cow’s milk is the perfect drink for a baby cow: it is meant to grow a small calf into a 1000 pound cow. We’re not baby cows, and so we don’t need the growth hormones and saturated fat in cow’s milk.

But what about calcium?

We’ve all heard that calcium is necessary for strong bones, and that dairy consumption is the “best” way to get calcium into the diet. The dairy industry has been launching “Got Milk?” and calcium campaigns for decades, but don’t buy into the hype. As we’ve seen above, dairy consumption may actually compromise joint integrity: the countries with the highest rates of dairy consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. Another study looking at both dairy consumption and calcium supplementation found that neither were found to increase bone density or reduce the risk of bone fractures.

Dairy is definitely not the best way to get your calcium in. If you are concerned about calcium, here are the main plant sources:

  • – Legumes such as black beans, chickpeas, or tofu.
  • – Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, collards, kale, mustard seeds, swiss chard, and others.
  • – Seeds such as poppy, sesame, celery, and chia seeds.
  • – Fortified plant foods such as orange juice, apple juice, or plant milks such as almond milk.

You can remember the pneumonic “greens and beans” when thinking about calcium sources, because leafy greens and legumes are the best ways to get more calcium into your diet! I also love this article and infographic from Plant Proof, and this article from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that go in-depth on how to prevent calcium deficiency and why plant sources are superior to cow’s milk for getting calcium in.

Today’s post was jam-packed with information, and I hope it was informative. If I have you convinced, then definitely stay tuned for Thursday’s post – hint – it’s going to be all about HOW to stop consuming dairy. And as always, please reach out to me for questions, comments, support, etc. I’m here for you!

Do you consume dairy? Why or why not? Any reason I missed? Let me know in the comments!

PS check out Why Vegan and the Most Impactful Resolution You’ll Make this Year

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Maille O'Donnell

Welcome to Green and Growing! I started this blog to share my passion for ethical and sustainable living. I hope this can be a place you come to for sustainable lifestyle inspiration, and vegan tips, tricks, and recipes.
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