Ending a relationship can be heartbreakingly difficult especially when you love so many things about them, but when you know it's toxic and harmful to others, it's time to call it quits. Yes, cheese does have a way of making you feel light headed and lost for words when it arrives melted over thick dough and covered in pepperoni, but I assure you the feelings aren't mutual. Considering that 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant I’d say dairy doesn’t get along with most people on the planet. This intolerance comes from the inability to digest the milk sugar lactose because of a deficiency in the enzyme lactase, an enzyme that naturally diminishes as we grow and no longer need milk in our diet. You see, milk’s inherent purpose is for the growth of newborns, human milk for human babies and cow’s milk for cow’s babies. When we consume another mammal’s milk (a habit no other species does) well past childhood, our bodies react by becoming lactase persistent, an uncommon genetic mutation that allows you and me here in the developed world to eat dairy with the occasional bloating. Whether your opinion of eating dairy is a seemingly obvious ‘hell yeah’ or an obvious ‘hell no’ it has been shaped from years of government influence on health education, and science says otherwise. Dairy is wreaking havoc on not only your health but the environment’s too, here is five reason’s it’s time for a breakup.
1. Bone Health
If you hadn’t quite figured this out already, the government tells us what they want us to hear and a lot of it is udder (excuse the pun) bull. For instance, through the media we are told smoking is an incredibly unhealthy habit, and are shown time and time again the efforts of parliament to stop it. Yet behind the façade, their real motives are hidden - smoking contributes billions to the economy each year, why would they want us to quit? In a similar way, the dairy industry makes Australia $4 billion each year and accounts for 10% of world trade dairy products, why would they want us to quit consuming it? So they tell us the myth we’ve grown up being taught our entire lives; drinking milk = calcium = strong bones.
It’s the first reaction I get when I tell people I’ve stopped eating dairy, “but what about your calcium”? they shriek in horror. Well, FYI dairy products are full of animal protein which actually leaches calcium from our bones and although they do contain large amounts of calcium, how much of this is absorbed is a different story (only around 30%). Foods including bok choy, kale, broccoli, tofu, almonds and fortified orange juice are all rich sources of calcium and are highly absorbable for the body, without the hindrances of animal protein along the way. Like other minerals, calcium is found within the soil, absorbed by plant’s root and then eaten by the animal; so even though we are taught that milk gives our bones strength and structure, the earth is the real source of this goodness, not dairy itself.
The main reason I started reconsidering my relationship with dairy was my skin. And the way it had noticeably improved after only a week without it, was a clear indication that my body liked the decision. This is because of another couple, acne and gut health. Often what you put into your body, shows up the next day on your skin, as a reflection on your digestion. Seeing as dairy is hard for most people to digest in the gut, your body tries to eliminate it through the largest organ, the skin. Dairy is also the second most inflammatory food you can eat and is packed with a large amount of the natural growth hormone IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor) which greatly increases oil production. Although humans need IGF-1, we don’t need anywhere near the amount that’s in cow’s milk; that’s the quantity of hormone which helps grow an 80 pound calf into a 1500 pound cow within two years. This all accounts for clogged pores, inflamed skin and while I’m at it terrible digestion. Oh the joys of consuming something we were never purposed to in the first place, do your skin a favour and leave this bad-boy for some other cow.
Your relationship with dairy has a subtle but major way of messing up your hormones - by bringing way too many of its own in. Dairy naturally contains around 60 different hormones, including both estrogen and testosterone, which are our sex hormones. In case you didn’t know (and I’m really hoping you did), in order for a cow to make milk it has to have a baby, and a female cow who has just given birth contains 33 times the estrogen of a non-pregnant cow; so by consuming it you promote your estrogen levels to rise. At the same time they’re flying sky high, your testosterone levels are too. Milk also contains large amount of androgenic properties (these stimulate growth of male characteristic), given by the bull when impregnated. This obviously creates mass fluctuation in the already delicate balance of our hormones and can very often be to blame for mood swings, weight gain, acne and infertility. My advice, run! Some relationships do more harm than good.
If you’re still convinced dairy is full of goodness and far superior to many other foods, consider this: if you get your milk from the supermarket, it is most likely pasteurized (the process of heating and straining to increase shelf-life) and by doing so, most of its nutrients are destroyed. If you make the effort to buy raw whole milk instead it is, more often than not, highly contaminated. I’m talking pus, faeces, parasites, bacteria and viruses. Not exactly the sort of things that make healthy boys and girls, hey? Pizza, ice-cream, and even the milk in your morning coffee comes at a price to your health, but let me tell you where the real cost of the dairy industry is paid.
4. Environmental Footprint
Honestly, I think most of the time we hear the words ‘climate change’, ‘greenhouse gas’, ‘carbon footprint’, etc, we tend to switch off. By nature, we humans are pretty damn selfish and environmental welfare is not exactly high on the list for most of society. We all know we’re DOOMED anyway, aren’t we? It can be overwhelming when you hear a heap of statistics and don’t know how to solve the problems, so I’ve done the research for you. Here are the facts and the answer on dairy’s environmental footprint.
Emissions: 19% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions come from dairy farming (that’s about 3% of the national total emissions). Most of this is from methane gas (yuck!) but also includes nitrous oxide, ammonia, energy usage and electricity production, which all contributes to climate change.
Water: For every 1 litre of milk produced, a cow needs to drink 3 litres of water. That’s approximately 150 litres of water, in 1 day, for 1 producing cow out of 1.6 million total cows. This doesn’t include the thousands of litres needed to operate the process including growing feed, manure management and washing; these also often runoff and pollute water resources.
Land: As the demand for dairy grows, so do the number of farms. Livestock farming is the one of the main contributors to soil erosion around the world by deforestation for pastures and overgrazing of cattle.
By cutting out or even just reducing the amount of dairy you consume, you become an agent of change; allowing you to play a part in decreasing environmental crisis and contributing to a healthier world. It doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on all your favourite foods, there is an ever-expanding range of dairy free and calcium-rich products at the supermarket. Don’t be scared to leave dairy behind and try something new, there are plenty of better options up on the shelf.
5. Animal Abuse
Other than methane and manure, I’d like you to meet one last waste product of the dairy industry. This is ‘Bobby’, he is one of more than 450,000 calves who are slaughtered each year in Australia within 30 days of their lives. Bobby calves are surplus to dairy farms, some males are used for veal and some females destined to follow the footsteps of their mothers into this horrendous business. The thousands left over are sent straight to slaughter – born to die so we can drink their mother’s milk. After nine months of pregnancy, the calf is taken from the mother within 24 hours. Days later they can still be heard bellowing and grieving for their missing calf. Bobby’s aren’t even the beginning of the cruelty that goes on behind the dairy aisle – dehorning and tail docking without pain relief, forced impregnation every single year until they are no longer useful, untreated disease such as mastitis, electric prodding and ongoing breach of animal cruelty laws.
I left this reason until last because it changes the view of dairy consuming. It becomes no longer just about what is better for you, but what is abusive towards thousands of others. A matter about love, what is right and knowing when to end it.