Cows are gentle, interesting animals. They don't advertise anything unless someone spraypaints a slogan on their sides. The California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) has done almost everything short of that in its increasingly bullish efforts to push consumers in the direction of the dairy case. For the last few years, it has bombarded the airways with frantic attempts to boost sales of cow's milk, even running negative ads against its opponents, à la the race for the presidential nomination. But cow's milk is neither good for the human body nor good for our friends the cows, as consumers are realizing in spite of all the industry's misleading attempts to make them think otherwise.
Despite the factory-farming regimen of drugs and genetic manipulation used to increase milk production -- which have left Betsy looking more like a tractor-trailer than a cow, rendered her lame, and given her an often painfully infected udder -- according to the USDA, per capita consumption of cow's milk has been steadily decreasing since the 1990s. It seems that more and more Americans are becoming aware of the negative health and animal welfare implications of drinking cow's milk and are switching to soy, almond, and rice milks (or other plant-based beverages -- there're even oat and hemp milks now) to enjoy with their cookies and cereal.
In an attempt to stop this healthy new trend, the dairy industry has begun a frontal assault on any milk that didn't come from a cow's udder. One national dairy trade group is so rabid about the situation that it has tried to get the Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of the word "milk" for these increasingly popular products, despite the common use of terms such as "soy milk" and "coconut milk" over many generations.
Now, the CMPB has launched a new campaign asserting that "real milk comes from cows." Besides annoying nursing mothers, this ad blitz -- coming from the same people behind the failed "got milk?" ads -- fudges the facts about dairy products' effects on both humans and cows. So PETA designed an ad of our own to be run near CMPB's headquarters, reading, "'Real Milk' Comes From Real Sick Cows."
Here's why we can say that: Up to half of all cows exploited in milk production suffer from a painful udder infection called "mastitis," which may cause pus to end up in milk, and around the same percentage is believed to possibly be suffering from lameness caused by being kept on hard concrete floors and in filthy conditions.
PETA's most recent dairy-farm investigation -- at Adirondack Farms, LLC, a milk supplier to Massachusetts-based Agri-Mark, Inc., which makes Cabot and McCadam cheeses -- found cows with bloody vaginal prolapses that were covered with pus and feces. The cows were left to endure this sickening condition, untreated, for almost three months. And in order to increase milk production, workers injected cows with bovine growth hormone, which contributes to mastitis (for which cows tested positive virtually daily).
All this is in addition to other findings, such as the fact that a manager thrust his arm deep inside a cow's rectum to "rake" out feces before artificially inseminating her with a "gun," another standard practice on dairy factory farms, and that cows were subjected to the din of blaring music while being beaten for failing to realize that they were not going in the desired direction, which got another cow electro-shocked in the face repeatedly. To produce milk, a cow has to give birth, so cows on most dairy farms are repeatedly artificially inseminated, some on what the farmers themselves call a "rape rack." The cows' calves are torn away from them within hours of birth, causing extreme distress that leaves some mothers bellowing after their lost babies for days.
Considering that dairy products have been linked to heart disease and cancer, it's no surprise that almond milk sales increased by a whopping 79 percent in 2011. Real nutrition comes from soybeans, almonds, rice, and other healthy vegetable sources, not from a cow's udder. Fortified plant-based milks are delicious and contain all the calcium, protein, and vitamin D of dairy products but with none of the cholesterol, lactose, hormones, or cruelty found in cow's milk.
And if anyone is concerned about bone health, studies have shown that consuming cow's milk not only provides no protection against bone fractures but may also even increase one's risk. According to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, active adolescent girls who consumed the most calcium, primarily from dairy products, had more than twice the risk of bone fractures of active girls who consumed the least calcium. In other words, rather than gulping down sugary chocolate milk after a workout, as the dairy industry would have you do, drop some almond milk, fruit, and kale into a blender for a delicious calcium-packed power smoothie, then get your vitamin D by exercising outdoors, and you'll be much better off.
So, while the CMPB tries to scare consumers away from healthy and humane plant-based milks, people might just be starting to realize that drinking the breast milk of another species not only hurts animals but also is a rather weird, entirely unnatural, unhealthy habit that we need to break.