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Why the Dairy Industry Should Become a Feminist Issue

So, you’re talking about feminism and… cheese? What’s the link? 

All it takes is a little shift in perspective for the two to form a connection in your mind.

I grew up believing that dairy was an essential part of a healthy diet. From ‘Got Milk?’ adverts, tv commercials and even the standard (and incorrect) food pyramid that is taught in schools it’s hard not to believe these lies.

I was a vegetarian for nearly nine years because I was against animal cruelty. I drank milk, ate cheese, yogurt and all the rest because there’s no cruelty involved, right? The cows aren’t killed so what’s the problem?

When I found out one day that around 65% of the world’s population suffers from a lactose intolerance I began to think… Something isn’t right here. If milk is supposed to be “an integral part of a balanced diet” and a way to get “strong bones and teeth” then why is it making so many people sick?

Milk is composed of many hormones and nutrients that are specific for every species in order for them to grow just right. What we humans do then is essentially drink “baby cow growth formula”. The milk from cows is designed to fuel and grow a calf into a 1,000kg herbivore. Humans do not require the hormones found in bovine milk… We don’t want to become a 1,000kg animal. And sure, we evidently don’t grow to that size, but it makes you wonder what all these hormones are doing to your body?

Cow’s milk is the number one cause of food allergies among infants and children, according to the American Gastroenterological Association. Most people begin to produce less lactase, the enzyme that helps with the digestion of milk, when they are as young as 2 years old. This reduction can lead to lactose intolerance. Millions of Americans are lactose intolerant, and an estimated 90 percent of Asian-Americans and 75 percent of Native- and African-Americans suffer from the condition, which can cause bloating, gas, cramps, vomiting, headaches, rashes, and asthma. A U.K. study showed that people who suffered from irregular heartbeats, asthma, headaches, fatigue, and digestive problems “showed marked and often complete improvements in their health after cutting milk from their diets.”

Here’s where the feminist side of things started to creep into my mind. Milk is a bodily fluid produced by a female mammal during or after pregnancy to feed her offspring. Most of us probably grew up drinking milk from our own mothers. But, why are humans the only animal on the planet who, after their own mother has stopped providing them with milk, do they then begin to drink the milk from another species?

Calves awaiting slaughter

These are the basic, unavoidable facts about what happens to cows in the dairy industry”

  1. Female cows are artificially inseminated with bull semen to be impregnated
  2. Once their calf is born they are taken away to be killed (veal industry = dairy industry)
  3. The female cow is hooked to a milking machine as this process is repeated for the rest of her life

Let’s talk about number one for a second. If you class yourself as a feminist then you believe in the equality of the sexes and would agree that every female has the right to their own body, right? The artificial insemination of cows may not be classes as rape for a lot of people because “cows cannot be raped”. However, if someone penetrates your body and causes a pregnancy without your consent that is rape. If your body is unwillingly forced to go through the gruelling process of conception, pregnancy and labour it is blatantly unfair. The female body, regardless of species, is an amazing life-giving vessel and should not be exploited.

The artificial insemination of a dairy cow

Now, onto number two… the one that breaks my heart. No mother or child should have to face the emotional stress of being torn apart from each other. Maternal instincts exist within all mammal species and cows especially are sentient beings with different curious personalities. They care for their young and stick together in family units or ‘herds’ in the wild.

The below video shows the gut-wrenching separation of a mother and child. If you can watch this and still think the milk you drink is ‘yours’ then keep reading.

Finally, number three. The milking machines that cows are hooked to cause a great deal of pain. How would you feel if you had a machine attached to your nipples that essentially sucked the life out of you. (Quick fact: Wild cows can live up to 25 years, but dairy cows only 4-5 years).

The machines cause mastitis, a painful infection of the mammary glands. Now, if you are a mother and have had the misfortune of experiencing this then you will be able to relate in a way that I cannot. The mastitis creates pus and bacteria to build up in the udder. This is all sucked in through the machines that collect the milk we drink. Now, sure the milk is pasteurised, but last time I checked that was a cleaning process not a removal process. At least your pus is clean now.

A cow with an engorged udder

These are the reasons why I believe the dairy industry and all of it’s cruelty should become a feminist issue. The main other reason to be against dairy farming is the environmental impact – you can read more about that here. There are so many non-dairy alternatives I have not missed a single slice drop of milk or slice of cheese since I became vegan.

I believe in the equality of the sexes.

I do not believe in the enslavement of a living being for financial gain and profit.

I believe that rape is wrong.

I believe a mother should have the opportunity to live a safe, peaceful life with her child.

I believe that females and the amazing power of their bodies should be treated with respect.

I do not eat dairy because I am a feminist.



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