As with most dietary questions, vegans are split on the issue of dairy products. It’s not a question of whether or not it is acceptable to eat dairy (for vegans of course, it isn’t) but the divide comes from the issue of why you shouldn’t eat dairy.
Some vegans won’t eat dairy for nutritional reasons, and some for ethical reasons.
There are plenty of nutritional reasons to avoid dairy, and there are a surprisingly high number of non-vegans who also won’t touch fairy for these reasons. A lot of people have an intolerance to lactose (even if it’s just a mild or minor intolerance) and that means they have trouble digesting it. This can cause inflammation in your gut, screw up digestion and make you feel bloated. Some also have a problem digesting casein, which is milk protein,
Add to that the fact that most cows these days are pumped up with hormones through their food, which can pass down into dairy products and into the foods you could be eating. I’m not personally convinced that taking in cow hormones is best for health, especially for weight loss.
On the ethical side, the main point is about the treatment of dairy cows. In some cases, dairy cows are forced to become pregnant regularly to maintain a high milk yield, and some are fed steroids to increase milk production.
There is also a pretty big ethical dilemma with the treatment of calves. There is usually little or no time spent between the calf and the mother. Calves are usually prematurely separated, and reared for veal production, beef production or as new dairy cows themselves.
The calves that become selected for veal production are often forced to live in tiny crates that don’t even allow them the space to turn around in. They are not granted any space, they can barely move or groom themselves and are force fed stock feed that is often laden with hormones, before being sent off to be slaughtered.
Veganism has sound ethical and health principles, and the abstention from dairy demonstrates this fully. For any non-vegans out there reading this, I don’t expect to suddenly make you a vegan, but hope that it might encourage you to think about where the food on your plate is coming from a bit more.
Photo by Murilo Cardoso