A recent article by a dairy chief executive describes an industry in crisis, stating that demand for milk products are falling. It blames health professionals for warning the younger generations away from dairy, and speaks of a new ‘three-a-day’ dairy campaign to be launched soon. This initiative will promote daily portions of milk, butter and cheese.
But hang on a minute: why are we being told yet again to ignore the experts? At the risk of stating the obvious, surely when it comes to issues relating to health, health professionals are the ones with the answers. NHS guidelines state to use butter sparingly, and warn against the high fat and salt content in cheese, so the idea of promoting these products under the guise of a health initiative seems a tad bizarre.
It’s not just high doses of saturated fat and salt which present a health issue – dairy also contains cholesterol, a fat-like substance which sticks to artery walls and increases the risk of heart disease and strokes. Cholesterol is only found in animal products, and is completely unnecessary in our diets, as our bodies produce all the cholesterol we need.
Contrary to the dietary advice all schoolchildren are fed, dairy is absolutely not needed for optimum health. Calcium can be found in leafy green vegetables, where absorption rates are often higher than in dairy, as well as fortified plant milks.
Given that this campaign is evidently not focused on improving human health, why the push for dairy? The answer is obvious. This is a campaign motivated by profit above all else, and its success would impact negatively on public health, the environment and the lives of countless animals.
The public have been understandably worried about the livelihoods of dairy farmers for some time. However, even if everyone became vegan we would still rely on farmers to grow our food. If dairy farmers switched to producing plant crops, instead of losing their livelihoods they could find a more stable and reliable income. All this aside, since when is it OK to justify an unethical practice simply because it provides jobs?
Because dairy is undoubtedly unethical. Cows don’t produce milk for no reason – just like humans, lactation comes as a result of pregnancy. The dairy industry profits from separating cows from their babies, and taking the milk intended for the calf. Contrary to what many believe, farmers aren’t being kind to cows by milking them.
Milk is obviously a failing industry. Sales of plant milk are going through the roof as consumers opt for plant-based versions made from soy, almond, coconut, hazelnut and more. Rather than fight this tide, dairy executives need to accept it and respond appropriately. Dairy runs at a loss, meaning that each dairy farmers’ income is heavily subsidised by the government. Rather than continue with this unsustainable use of public money, we could direct this money elsewhere – towards something healthier, more sustainable and less cruel.
Our younger generations are growing up more compassionate, and better informed about the impact their choices make on the world around them. Instead of listening to people who have a vested interest in dairy sales, we need to follow the trend set by younger people and switch away from dairy.