As a child, I thought dairy was the only reliable source of calcium available for humans past infancy.
I've now realised just how sad that is.
The dairy industry is an absolute giant in the world of advertising. I can name several dairy campaigns just off the top of my head - "Got Milk?", A2 Milk (lactose-free milk that isn't meant to cause "tummy problems" in children - I'll elaborate more on this campaign later on), Fairlife's "more calcium, more protein" campaign... the list goes on. Many dairy campaigns label dairy as a necessary food for strong bones and teeth. Many dairy campaigns also come labelled with pictures of smiling, happy cows surrounded by luscious green fields. Unfortunately, this isn't reality. It's far from it.
As all vegans probably know, milk production causes immense suffering for dairy cows and their offspring. If you didn't know, the male children of dairy cows are almost always stolen from their mothers and disposed of soon after birth. In most cases, they will be killed or sent away to be made into veal or beef. This is because male calves are useless in the dairy industry, and spending money to keep them alive would result in a loss of profits. Female calves will generally end up in the same horrific situation as their mothers - forcefully impregnated and made to give birth again and again in order to keep producing milk. After three or four years, when they have passed their "use-by-date", these dairy cows will also be slaughtered. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)
"As all vegans probably know, milk production causes immense suffering for dairy cows and their offspring."
I've seen many dairy advertisements over the years. In school, we were encouraged to drink cow's milk. It's commonly offered in school canteens. A lot of dairy advertisements target young children and parents, highlighting how calcium is needed to maintain strong bones and teeth. This, of course, is true; but these ads play out as if cow's milk is the only reliable source of calcium. Other, similar advertisements target older people, insisting that increased dairy consumption will prevent osteoporosis.
It's upsetting that so much misinformation is spread around, especially when it's aimed at children. As a child, I firmly believed that I needed to drink milk, and I certainly wasn't the only one who felt that way. Many people believe that dairy is a necessary part of a balanced diet - a belief set in stone by an abundance of misinformation.
The health benefits of dairy are debatable. Some say it's great for you, others say it should be avoided at all costs. Some say it prevents osteoporosis, some say it causes osteoporosis. It's hard to know who to believe. We can, at the very least, infer that cow's milk isn't actually meant for human consumption - it's cow's milk after all, and human babies are supposed to be weaned off milk soon after infancy. Mammals produce milk to feed their young - cows do it, goats do it, and humans do it. Human milk is intended for human babies, just as cow milk is intended for cow babies. It's a simple concept to grasp, but for some reason, cow's milk has made its way into the average human diet.
The dairy industry is hell for cows. I won't go into too much detail about dairy production here, but the succinct reality here - dairy production nearly always results in death. I didn't realise this when I was a vegetarian (most news sources won't reveal this information) but now, after a lot of research, I know. I know I don't need to drink milk anymore. I know I don't need it for calcium. There are so many options out there - drinking a mother cow's milk (or any other animal product, for that matter) is completely unnecessary.
There are many calcium-rich alternatives to cow's milk that are healthy and tasty. Best of all - plant milk production doesn't require stealing from a mother who needs it to feed her babies! The list is extensive: soy, almond, rice, oat, coconut and hemp milk are some popular plant-based varieties. Soy milk, for example, contains 25mg of calcium per 100 grams.
"There are many calcium-rich alternatives to cow's milk that are healthy and tasty. Best of all - plant milk production doesn't require stealing from a mother who needs it to feed her babies!"
It's a shame that dairy is seen as necessary part of our diets by so many people. At least now we have access to the right information. While dairy is a great source of calcium, it's definitely not the only option out there, and it's also not the best option out there. If you care about the well-being of cows, it's best to ditch dairy and fill your diet with some delicious, calcium-filled veggies!