For me, the most difficult food to eliminate when I became vegan was cheese. Throughout many of the years I was vegetarian, I believed that dairy was OK because the cows weren’t killed for it, and that it was an excellent source of calcium. And i just LOVED cheese, and couldn’t imagine living without it. It was years later that I became aware of the suffering dairy cows endure as milk-producing commodities.
As children we are taught that contented cows graze all day and give us milk. Not really true.
- The milk they produce is taken (stolen is probably the more appropriate word) from them at a great cost to the cows.They are kept in a constant cycle of pregnancy through artificial insemination and lactation and never experience the joy of caring for their young. Imagine being constantly pregnant or lactating, and never having a chance to nurture your baby!
- Cows are typically fed a diet that is unnatural – they are meant to graze, that is, eat grass. Instead, most dairy cows are fed grain which wreaks havoc in the stomach, requiring the consistent use of antibiotics.
- Their udders are often infected and a source of much pain. The udder infection (mastitis) results in pus in the milk. The dairy industry has developed a system known as the “somatic cell count” to measure the amount of pus in the milk, and milk with a count of 200 million per liter is not considered safe for the human food supply. The national average is 332 million per liter. Got Milk?… Got Pus?
- The life expectancy of dairy cows is shortened by 80% – dairy cows are “spent” (no longer producing enough milk to be cost effective) and slaughtered after 4 years, while their natural life expectancy is 20 years or more.
But I digress… What about being addicted to cheese? All animal milk contains a protein called casein which breaks down during digestion to release a host of opiates called casomorphins. So when people say they are addicted to cheese, they actually ARE! It is believed that the opiates in milk produces a calming effect on the infant, ensuring bonding and continued nursing so the baby gets all the nutrients it needs.
So now that you realize that you’re actually addicted to cheese (or yogurt or ice cream or milk – you name it), and simply can’t give it up yet, what about just making sure that the milk is organic and comes from happy cows? OK, that’s a bit better than conventionally produced dairy, but there are four points that you should check into before believing the media produced images of contented cows raised on bucolic farms:
- Do the cows eat grass only, or are they fed organic feed (grain)? Cows are fed grain for weight gain, so they produce more milk, and/or because there isn’t enough space for grazing. Grain is unnatural and results in chronic digestive problems.
- What happens to the baby calves? Calves are usually taken from their mothers within a few days after their birth, an extremely traumatizing experience for both mother and newborn. The grief stricken mother cow calls for her calf for days. Heartbreaking. This is done so the calf doesn’t drink the milk that is its birthright.
- What is done with the male calves? Male animals don’t produce milk, so about half the calves born on dairy farms are sold to be crated and raised for veal, only to be slaughtered several months later.
- What happens when the cow’s milk production decreases? Most dairy cows are slaughtered at age 4, when production slows down. It is rare to find a diary farm that allows “spent” cows to live their life until they die naturally.
If you are still feeling OK with the unnatural consumption of a product that is meant to turn an 80-lb. calf into an 800-lb. cow (humans are the only mammals on earth that drink the milk of another species after being weaned), then consider the health implications. In The China Study, T. Colin Campbell discovered a clear correlation between the consumption of animal protein and incidences of the what he calls the “diseases of affluence” – cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. He also cites studies that show that increases in the consumption of casein result in increased tumor development.
So how do you break your addiction? I did it cold turkey. I realized that I had “arrived” when I was at an event where there was a buffet with a huge cheese platter decorated with strawberries. None of the other food on the buffet was vegan, not even the salad! so I parked myself besicde the cheese platter and ate strawberries! I actually wasn’t even tempted to have a taste of cheese. This was about 3 weeks after totally eliminating dairy from my diet.
For me it was most helpful to repeat to myself, “I don’t eat that.” Somehow saying, “I DON”T eat ____” is much more empowering than saying “I can’t.” It indicates personal choice and has supported me every time I am bombarded with all the unhealthy choices that are found in the supermarket, deli or rest stops when traveling. Of course planning ahead helps. More about that in another post.
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Marilyn Chiarello, founder of A Taste of Light, is a certified raw vegan chef,educator and health coach. She offers a variety of services including health coaching, classes, dinner parties, consultations and presentations. For more information,visit aTasteofLight.com or contact her directly – Marilyn@aTasteofLight.com or 516-671-7037.
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