Most people consider milk and other dairy products ethical, humane, and/or nutritious, but products made from cow’s milk are far from. Milk is an unnatural food for humans to consume. No other species drinks the milk of another species, or drinks milk past infancy and childhood. This happens for a reason. Milk is produced by all mammals to feed their young, not another species. Every species milk contains different enzymes necessary for that species young to develop correctly during infancy. The enzymes in a cow’s milk are not essential for human development during infancy and childhood, nor at any other time on our lives.The dairy industry, however, would live to make you believe otherwise. The dairy industry spends more than $300 million every year to convince people to drink gallons of milk and consume other dairy products. For the most part, it works. The U.S. is one of the highest consumers of dairy products in the world, despite the health risks involved with their consumption.
The most obvious risk involved with dairy products is the bovine growth hormones (BGH) they contain. BGH typically is used to increase a cow’s milk production by 20 percent. BGH milk contains a high level on the carcinogen Growth Factor One, or IGF-1. This particular harmful chemical can cause breast cancer in humans. Other risks result from health problems that artificial BGH causes cows. BGH injections increase sickness and drug use in dairy cows, including cystic ovaries and disorders of the uterus, which makes if extremely painful to give birth. Because of increased udder infections, it is more likely that milk from treated cows will be of lower quality – containing more pus and bacteria – than milk from untreated cows.
Milk from BGH-injected cows is more likely to contain dangerous residues of more than 80 different drugs, many of them antibiotics, used to treat sick cows. People who drink the contaminated milk receive small doses of the antibiotics it contains, and their bodies therefore become immune to them. The number of people deaths caused by antibiotic resistance is rising annually, and many medical experts are alarmed by the growing human health crisis posed by this drug resistance.
Doctors and dieticians have long known that high-fat foods, including dairy products, contribute to obesity. Milk and other dairy products have been shown to be a cause of heart disease as well as clogged arteries. Products such as cheese, milk, butter, cream, yogurt, and whey, are all rich in fat and cholesterol. Cow’s milk has more than double the fat that is in human’s milk because it is meant for calves, which typically double their birth weight within 47 days and way over half a ton in two years.
Probably the biggest misconception about dairy products is the connection to osteoporosis. Surprisingly, the consumption of dairy products has been linked to osteoporosis, the very disease milk is widely believed to prevent. Bone loss due to osteoporosis is not slowed or prevented by an increased calcium intake, but rather a decreased protein intake. Researchers at Harvard University, after studying 78,000 American women over a 12-year period, concluded “it is unlikely that high consumption of milk or other food sources of calcium during midlife will confer substantial protective effects against hip or forearm fractures.”
The study also showed that the participants who consumed more than 450 milligrams of calcium from dairy products a day actually doubled their risk of bone fractures. Foods high in animal protein, such as dairy products, leach calcium from the bones in order to buffer the acidic byproducts that result from the breaking down of excess protein. The high fat, excess protein, and high level of hormones also makes milk and other dairy products contributors to many forms of cancer, such as breast and prostate cancers.
In societies with little or no dairy consumption and other animal proteins, there is a low occurrence of osteoporosis. The U.S., Norway, and Sweden, where the consumption of dairy products are highest, have the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world. Countries like Japan and China, where dairy products and rarely consumed, have far less osteoporosis than the U.S.
Studies show that in up to 30 percent of insulin-dependant diabetes mellitus, (also known as juvenile-onset diabetes of Type 1 diabetes) removing dairy products from the diet in the first three months after birth could prevent cases. Bottle-fed infants are at almost twice the risk of developing respiratory illness during the first few years of life. Mental development is significantly better in breast-fed children, and the developmental benefits of breast-feeding increases with the duration of feeding. Breast-feeding children also decreases rates of death among infants, including Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Cow’s milk is also the number one source of allergies in children, and researchers have linked the consumption of dairy products in children to colic, autism, chronic ear infections, diabetes, acne, obesity, flatulence, constipation, mucus, and many other disorders.
After four years of age, most humans develop lactose intolerance, or the inability to digest lactose, the carbohydrate in dairy products. Their bodies can no longer synthesize the digestive enzyme lactase. Lactose-intolerant people who drink milk can experience cramps, gas, and diarrhea. Doctors estimate that nearly 70 percent of the world’s population is lactose-intolerant.
Consumption of dairy products can also affect those with asthma. 90 percent of those who suffer from asthma that were put on a vegetarian diet noticed a significant decrease in the frequency and intensity of their attacks. Dairy foods have also been implicated in congestive heart failure, neonatal tetany, tonsil enlargement, ulcerative colitis, Hodgkin’s disease, and respiratory, skin, and gastrointestinal problems. Dairy products contribute to nearly every disease, including those names and many others.
More than half of the 10 million dairy cows in the U.S. live on factory farms in conditions that are extremely inadequate and cause suffering to the animal. Dairy cows are treated as nothing more than milk machines. They are not allowed to naturally graze, but rather they are chained by their neck in concrete stalls for months. They are milked two or three times a day by milk machines and their udders are genetically modified to produce more milk.
The milking machines often give the cows an electric shock due to stray voltage. This shock not only causes them fear and extreme discomfort, but it can easily lead to death. If it not a rare occurrence for a dairy farm to lose several hundred cows due to electric shocks. Quite often, the cows get cuts and injuries from the milking devices, leading to infection. If left untreated, infections can easily be spread to other cows, or even lead to death, although if treated, antibiotic contaminant residues may be in the milk sent to the grocery stores. Many times the animals’ udders become so painfully infected they actually drag on the urine and feces covered cement ground.
In order to keep producing milk, female dairy cows are kept constantly pregnant by artificial insemination. A drug called prostaglandin is used on cows in order to make them go into heat within days of giving birth so that they can almost immediately be impregnated again. When her calves are born, females are saved to become dairy cows, and males are chained inside crates so cramped they cannot even turn around for 16 to 20 weeks, only to be killed for veal, and the milk meant for them in consumed by humans. Their four stomachs are also used in cheese making because they contain rennin, an enzyme used to curdle milk.
In nature, cows typically live between 20 and 25 years, but a genetically altered dairy cow forced to produce more milk than naturally intended is useless for milk production after four years. When a dairy cows milk production dwindles, they are sent of to slaughter to end up in the burger you ate for dinner.
Not only are large dairy farms detrimental to the animals and the health of humans drinking and/or eating the byproducts, but also to the environment. Cows produce more than 120 pounds of excrement a day, equal to that of two dozen humans. In areas with large amounts of factory dairy farms, such as California, where 1/5 of the country’s supply of milk comes from, thousands of square miles of underground water has been contaminated by cow manure.