It’s about 3 weeks on from our original 30 day Vegan Challenge – and we are still following a vegan lifestyle. We didn’t struggle on the challenge much at all but I am finding myself starting to crave raw fish and cheese! I used to love both of these before I cut them out of my diet. I figure that’s never going to go away, the choice to “go vegan” has been for many reasons – not one of them has been taste related.
So with that in mind, I thought it was time to remind myself of a few reasons why I have chosen this lifestyle…tackling dairy first, so in no particular order:-
- Calcium…What Calcium??
So for years we have been sold the idea that milk and it’s friends cheese, yogurt etc.. are a great source of calcium for humans…which I was blown away to find out is actually wrong. If you want a good source of calcium then drinking milk is the last thing you should be doing.Milk contains calcium, that’s a fact. However you are not going to see any benefits from that. To simplify a complicated process – milk puts your body into an acidic pH state. Whenever your body goes into this state it needs to be neutralized, which is done by drawing the necessary minerals from your blood, muscles and bones. In your bones, this is calcium phosphate, therefore drinking milk has the opposite effect of strengthening your bones! This is why osteoporosis is much more common in western countries where dairy is a large part of the diet.
- It’s Baby-Cow Growth Food!
I’ve stolen the above heading from my favourite quote from a doctor in the documentary ‘Cowspiracy’. Definitely worth watching if you are interested in nutrition, regardless of whether you eat a plant based diet or not. Essentially the Doctor describes the purpose of cow milk is to turn a calf into an adult cow as quickly as possible – that’s what it’s MEANT for, it’s laced with everything it needs to make this happen, including hormones (hello man-boobs!). So unless you are a baby cow, it’s really not the drink for you!Also, we are the only species that drinks another animals milk – when you think about it,it’s kind of weird! And why only cow or goat milk…can you imagine drinking dog or rat milk? ew! Why is dog milk any different from cows milk?
- Cow-Rape and Calf-napping!
So here’s the welfare part of the discussion (you knew it was coming – it’s a vegan blog after all). So to counter the argument ‘but the cow doesn’t die’ and ‘but cows make milk anyway’…no they don’t die producing milk and yes they do produce milk naturally. However in dairy farming, there is a tremendous amount of suffering on the cow’s behalf and they only produce milk when they have a calf. So how do farmers manage to get their cows to produce milk all year round? Simple – they artificially inseminate them (a fair assumption to make is that this is against their will) and when they give birth they remove the calf from them, usually after 1 day. This put’s an extreme amount of stress on both cow and calf both physically and mentally. Cows are extremely maternal, and the screams they make when a calf is taken away from them are awful (youtube if you would like to hear this). The calves are then a by-product – female calves share their mothers fate and become dairy cows, male calves become part of the meat industry.In a natural environment a cow can live over 25 years. Dairy cows live 4-5 years because their bodies are so exhausted they can no longer produce milk (10 out of 12 months are spent producing milk, which includes during the next pregnancy)…then they enter the meat industry.
- It Contains Pus!
Due to a number of factors including the conditions they are kept in and the frequency in which they must produce milk, dairy cows frequently have mastitis which is an inflammation of the udder. Again a simplified version – you milk an infected cow…you are going to get pus with that milk. Pasteurization I hear you say – well that’s just warming up the pus…yum! Pasteurization does not remove pus from milk!
- It’s Addictive
Casein is a milk-protein and obviously therefore found in dairy products, this protein triggers the opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors are linked to pain reward and addiction. So why is the thought of giving up cheese so hard?…because it is literally addictive! 1lb of cheese is made from 10lbs of milk, so cheese has concentrated amounts of casein…making it a tough thing to ditch!
I don’t think it would be surprising to anyone to say cheese isn’t great for you, it’s full of saturated fat! I’m not going to explain why that’s bad – a google search should be able to give you more and better information than I can. So cutting out dairy isn’t all bad – it means that you are cutting out food that isn’t great for you in the first place anyway.
- Lactose Intolerance
Approximately 75% of the population is lactose intolerant, whether they realise it or not! All species that drink milk wean off it, which is why as we get older most of us no longer produce the enzyme that breaks down sugar in milk, making us intolerant. Our natural state is to be lactose intolerant however some of the population have a mutated gene (LTC gene) which enables them to process lactose…most of us do not. Undigested lactose in the intestines can cause, diarrhea, bloating and gas! You might ignore these symptoms as they are not fatal or debilitating – this doesn’t mean you aren’t intolerant.
Watch Cowspiracy and tell me that dairy is sustainable! This documentary seems to be far reaching, and I hope it has the intended effect. I can’t do this subject the same justice as this documentary…it really is worth investing 90 minutes of your time.
- It’s in EVERYTHING
It’s so difficult to cut out, it gets put into so much food, supermarket shops can be a nightmare. During my 30 day challenge I could not find a naan bread in Tesco without milk in it! Quorn also suprisingly contains milk!? (but has recently brought out two vegan products at last!). Some crisps have milk in, some bread has milk in, the list is endless. It has encouraged us to eat more fresh and less processed food though, which is only a good thing!
- Annoyingly….It Tastes Great
Another thing that sucks about dairy…is it tastes great…I WANT to eat cheese, I WANT to drink milk, yet all the reasons above hold true. In conjunction with this point I have tried several vegan cheese and hated them all with one exception. The Vegan Pizza Co. have vegan cheese on their pizza which tastes amazing, just like ‘normal’ cheese to me – I did ask them what they used but they were unfortunately very secretive with their answer, so the search continues!
If you are interested in more information this is a great lecture on why we shouldn’t eat dairy – it really is worth watching to the end.