17 Sep Why I Quit Consuming Dairy
Dairy consumption is a sleeper item in the whole diet issue and hasn’t received much attention in environmental circles. Of the 1.3 billion heads of cattle worldwide, 320 million are in India where cows are mostly allowed to live out their natural lives and beef consumption is not very popular. India has 600 million vegetarians who consume dairy on a routine basis. Thus dairy cattle form a substantial segment of the cattle population that is currently impacting land use changes throughout the world.
Cows have a natural lifespan of around 25 years, but dairy cows in the US are slaughtered after a lifespan of 4-5 years and beef cattle after a lifespan of 13-16 months. There are four main reasons for a dairy cow to be sent to the slaughterhouse:
1) the cow did not get pregnant,
2) the cow developed a hoof infection ( usually due to standing in its own filth ),
3) the cow’s milk production decreased, or
4) the cow’s udder ruptured during mechanized milking or got infected.
Such dairy cows are labeled as “spent”. Spent dairy cows are bought by slaughterhouses in order to supply the processed beef industry (think hamburgers), while beef cattle are usually reserved for steaks. Through such ruthless slaughtering policies and through the use of chemical enhancers, the milk productivity of dairy cows in the US was made to quadruple between 1960 and 2000.
Though Indians revere cows and do not slaughter them, they seem to have no such compunction about slaughtering buffaloes. A friend of mine is on the Animal Welfare Board in Hyderabad, India, and she told me about this slaughterhouse that she had to inspect to certify that it was meeting regulations. While she found that the slaughterhouse was following the rules correctly, she came back from her inspection and promptly became a vegan. This was because that one slaughterhouse was killing 500 buffalo mothers every day, just because they stopped getting pregnant!
Thus, the dairy industry becomes a source for the beef industry. If the beef industry did not process all those “excess” dairy cows, there would be a lot more cattle on the planet, overgrazing and devastating forest land. Therefore, if I accept dairy consumption as normal, I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in opposition to beef consumption.
Dairy cows have very little muscle but very prominent udders as they are bred to produce milk – for their calf. However, the calf is separated from the mother within one day of its birth so that the milk can be appropriated entirely for human consumption. Studies show that cows and calves respond more intensively and in a prolonged manner (high heart rates, bleating) when separation is delayed beyond the day of birth and that this effect is worse when they can see or hear each other after separation. If the calf is male, it is usually housed in pens and nurtured for 3-4 months in order to supply the veal industry. If it is female, it can expect to grow up to become a dairy cow like its mother.
When I watched the buffalo clip, it struck me that if I separate a cow from its calf, it might want to do to me what those buffaloes did to the lions. That lent some urgency to my decision to quit consuming dairy.
Within a month after I stopped consuming dairy, I became lactose intolerant. Now, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach if I ever accidentally consume any dairy product. In contrast, my energy levels are way up when I’m on a strictly plant-based diet, thereby doubly reinforcing my decision to quit dairy consumption.