Dairy – and more specifically cheese – was once the reason I thought I could never be vegan. Yet dairy (and by extension cheese) was ultimately what made me become one. When I watched “Vegucated” and saw a newborn calf being dragged away from their mother so her milk could be used for human consumption, that was it for me. No cheese will ever be worth that sacrifice.
I became a vegan for one reason: to spare the lives of animals. And if that remained the only reason, it would still be enough. But since last year, when I innocently started on this path in what was just supposed to be a six-week trial run, I have discovered many more reasons to remain one. The title of a Fleetwood Mac song springs to mind in regards to that: Never Going Back Again.
During those first six weeks of cutting out meat and dairy from my diet (of which I lost 2½ pounds in the first 2 weeks from just doing that), I took that time to read up on veganism as I wanted to A) make sure what I was doing was healthy and B) to educate myself on the issues. I started with (and am still working through) the most famous and reputable books ever written on plant-based diets (see the “Reading” page for the list so far). It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had been fed – literally and figuratively – an awful lot of bull in my lifetime. No matter how angry I can get at the way animals are treated for food, clothing or entertainment, nothing makes me rage more than when those in a position of power and trust deliberately lie to the general public about the risks of what they are consuming.
Dairy, quite simply, is not good for you. Does it contain calcium, protein and potassium as we’ve been told in the ads? Yes. But that protein is an animal protein which also contains cholesterol and saturated fat. You know, the stuff that can lead to heart disease and diabetes. Plant protein, such as soy, contains no cholesterol and never will as cholesterol can only be found in animal products.
And yet, how many people in your life do you know that have been put on cholesterol-lowering medication but still consume dairy everyday? Are they deliberately disobeying their doctors? Likely not. Are their doctors deliberately trying to harm them? Of course not. What is more likely, based on the information that is being made available to us courtesy of the aforementioned powerful and trusted lobbyists in the dairy and pharmaceutical industries, is that doctors and their patients are as much victims of the accepted status quo as it relates to “good health” and simply don’t know any better either. Not because they are stupid, uneducated or unskilled (obviously) but because they are not completely informed. Unless a General Practitioner also happens to specialize in nutrition or reads up on specific studies relating to a plant-based diet, I don’t have faith that doctors necessarily have all the information required when it comes to presenting me with options that will best serve my overall and long-term health.
When I talked to my family doctor last year about eating soy, she made a face and wondered why I would want to eat it over meat. When my husband was in hospital earlier this year for appendicitis, the nurse asked if he had any dietary restrictions and when I told her he was vegan, she didn’t even know what that was.
To illustrate just how much shit the dairy industry is full of when they advertise to you, and how misinformed we have all been about the supposed benefits of milk, here is an excerpt from John Robbins’ book, Food Revolution. He devotes an entire chapter to the dairy industry’s enormously successful, “Got Milk?” campaign which started in 1993 (the chapter is aptly titled, “Got BS?”). The big selling point behind the campaign, besides the countless celebrities who posed with milk mustaches for it, was that milk was a necessary beverage in order to get enough calcium to grow and to develop and/or maintain healthy bones and teeth. It made claims that it prevented osteoporosis and lowered blood pressure.
Except it was bullshit.
There was never any evidence that milk did (or does) any of those things. To that end, here is the last paragraph of that must-read chapter:
“Have you noticed that the dairy industry bombards us with ads claiming milk products are necessary to prevent osteoporosis but never makes such claims on milk cartons? Why do you think the claims aren’t on the cartons? Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) won’t allow them! The ads are subject only to comparatively lax Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations, while the cartons are subject to FDA regulations that would require the statements to be backed up with facts.”
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! If it weren’t so tragic that the health of the western world is at stake with this misinformation, I’d be laughing even harder. So just to be clear: the “Got Milk?” ads that tell us milk is necessary for strong bones and teeth cannot be claimed on the actual product because it has never been scientifically proven to be true. What the fuck, dairy industry? And frankly, what the hell, medical community?
As a matter of fact, just the opposite has been proven. In Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s book, The China Study, which I’m still working my way through, dairy is a big topic (I’m almost at the section entitled, “Why Haven’t You Heard This Before?” which I’m sure will bring me to new heights of seething rage). The China Study is an incredibly famous and well-respected book. It was a twenty-year study that Dr. Campbell undertook with his team, comparing people who consume a “Western” diet consisting of a lot of meat and dairy to those living in rural China, who consumed very little. He then, over a period of years, compared everything from their cholesterol levels, cases of heart disease and heart attacks, cancer rates, mortality rates and more; he left no stone unturned. He studied and accounted for everything from genetics, environmental factors, race, colour, gender, you name it and then studied it some more. It is a remarkable book, one I will no doubt refer to often.
In Chapter 10, he talks about various diseases and conditions, Osteoporosis being one of them. I’m going to quote him directly since I really can’t say it any better myself (he cites all of his extensive sources in the book so I’m being a lazy-ass and just citing him):
“Americans consume more cow’s milk and its products per person than most populations in the world. So Americans should have wonderfully strong bones, right? Unfortunately not. A recent study showed that American women aged fifty and older have one of the highest rates of hip fractures in the world. The only countries that have higher rates are in Europe and in the South Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) where they consume even more milk than the United States. What’s going on?”
Well, it goes something like this, as explained further by Dr. Campbell:
“One possible explanation is found in a report showing an impressively strong association between animal protein intake and bone fracture rate for women in different countries.”
“These researchers explained that animal protein, unlike plant protein, increases the acid load in the body. An increased acid load means that our blood and tissues become more acidic. The body does not like this acidic environment and begins to fight it. In order to neutralize the acid, the body uses calcium, which acts as a very effective bases. This calcium, however, must come from somewhere. It ends up being pulled from the bones, and the calcium loss weakens them, putting them at risk for fracture.”
I don’t know about you but my head nearly popped off when I first read that. Even retyping it now, I am blown away. As if that weren’t enough, in this same chapter he writes:
“We have had evidence for well over a hundred years that animal protein decreases bone health. The explanation of animal protein causing excess metabolic acid, for example, was first suggested in the 1880’s and was documented as long ago as 1920.”
Are you starting to feel just a teensy bit cheated? Are you wondering why we are still seeing milk ads that promote strong bones when that is clearly not true? It’s scary to think that you’ve not been told the truth your entire life. There was certainly a sense of betrayal that came when I thought of all the faith and trust I had placed in doctors and government bodies over the years to at least provide me with some basic facts about my health only to find out that A) they don’t know the facts either or B) they do know but are protecting their own self-interests to the point of flat-out lying.
Neither scenario is particularly comforting.