The dairy industry has generally not come under the close scrutiny that meat has. Respected blogger and food ethics author Élise Desaulniers has undertaken the task to put it under the microscope in her latest book, Cash Cow: Ten Myths About the Dairy Industry. Originally written in French it has now been translated into English.
The book is dedicated to Jersey cow no. 67 and begins with the quote “There is probably more suffering in a glass of milk or an ice cream cone than there is in steak.” (Gary L. Francione, philosopher and legal scholar, 2008) She does not mince words. Desaulniers has recognized through her extensive research that not only is our consumption of cow’s milk unnecessary, but it is also causes lots of abuse and cruelty to these animals who demonstrate a great capacity for emotion and thought. Jumping off from there she has discovered that the dairy industry has marketed itself so well as something that is required for healthy living that it has managed to have many myths believed by the general public. Selecting ten of those myths, Desaulniers, using many different studies by different groups, proceeds to prove them all false.
We have been manipulated for decades and decades. Even if you think you know a lot about food and the ethics or science behind it Desaulniers will succeed over the course of the 139 pages of the book to teach you something you did not know. Cash Cow is a quick and fairly easy read (though you are getting a lot of information to digest), but she packs every page with things that will give you a clearer picture of the truth.
Nutrition is something that most humans, especially in developed countries, are concerned with. We base our decisions upon what we eat on the belief that fruits, vegetables and milk are essential to a healthy existence. Focusing upon the third food item Élise Desaulniers reveals how the dairy industry has worked hard to make us believe this even though it is false because they want to maintain their profit levels. Here in Quebec and Canada we love dairy. Many will understand if you decide to become a vegetarian, but once you move into veganism then you’ve lost a great portion of the population. Most cannot imagine a life without dairy and milk. If they were to read this book they would be shocked at how much about milk has been based upon lies or manipulation. Bottom line is that drinking milk is not, as Desaulniers says in the first chapter, “natural, necessary or normal.” What is worse is that milk consumption can led to quite a few health problems. The problem is that we don’t want to give up things we have held to be true for our entire lives. Plus because the monetary stakes are high, the dairy industry won’t give up their position without a big fight.
What you learn when reading this is frightening. That dairy cows only live four years because they are seen a profitable for only this period. They spend most of their lives indoors, are continuously artificially inseminated, kept continuously pregnant, are milked 305 days per year, have their calves taken away from them, and then are sent to slaughter at around the age of four. This abuse (there is no other way to see it) plus the fact that the enzyme that we need to digest milk – lactase – ceases to exist in humans once we cease to breastfeed makes the consumption of milk not make any sense. On top of that the differences between human milk (milk that is meant for humans) and cow’s milk (milk that is meant to make calves grow) is astonishing. The only natural type of milk we should be drinking is human milk. We are the only species on the planet that drinks the milk of another species. The cherry on top of this cake is the fact that milk is not the only or even best form of calcium that we can consume. There are many plants that provide more calcium and are easier to digest than milk.
Education is what is most important when it comes to any food or drink product. The more we know the better choices we can make. Desaulniers makes all the information involved as palatable as possible (because the thought of how dairy cows suffer just for milk is not pleasant) without seeming like she is lecturing the reader. She is just giving us the information and allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. Desaulniers just wants us to think about our food choices.