The Myth About Milk


Pramoda Chitrabhanu

Jain Meditation International Center, New York


Since our childhood we have been made to believe that milk gives nourishment and is good for the bones. Yes mother's milk is good. But who says we need milk of other animals for the rest of our life. Even the animals do not drink other animal's milk after weaning away from their mother�s milk. Then why do we continue drinking milk? Is it necessary or are we doing it out of habit and conditioning.


Do you know that the glass of milk on your table is meant for the innocent calf? How would you feel if your child were denied its mother's milk? We never try to relate such problems with the animal kingdom. As though they are meant for human exploitation, we continue abusing them. The milk that we drink comes from the cows and buffaloes that are tortured, tormented, and abused in every way. How can we talk about non-violence (Ahimsa) when there is violence in our living? Isaac Singer the Nobel peace prizewinner once said, "How can we ask mercy from God if we cannot give mercy to others." We will only get what we give. If we give joy to others we will get joy but if we give pain, we will only get pain in return.


So let us find out the real story behind the milk industry and learn about the horrifying conditions under which the cows are being milked. The following is an excerpt taken from the book "Heads And Tails" by Menaka Gandhi where she explains the fate of cows. This happens in India and also in the other parts of the world where cows are exploited and badly abused.


"A continual flow of milk is extracted from the dairy cow only by subjecting her to yearly pregnancies - starting from the age of two and each lasting nine months. After giving birth she will be milked for 10 months - but will be impregnated with semen during her third month and for the remaining seven months she will be milked when pregnant. She has only six to eight weeks between pregnancies. She will be milked twice or more times a day and the average Indian cow used in the Indian milk industry gives five times as much as she would have in the Fifties as she has been genetically bred for bigger and softer udders.


In order to give higher yield, the cow is fed concentrated pellets of Soya bean and cereal (which could have fed a great many more people). But even then the demanded production of milk outstrips her appetite and she starts breaking down body tissue to produce the milk. The result is an illness called ketosis.


Another illness that she contracts early is rumen acidosis induced by large helpings of quickly fermented carbohydrate, this disease leads to lameness. Most of the day the cow stands tied in a narrow stall in her own excrement and udder infections like mastitis, (a painful inflammation of the udder), step in. This long suffering, sick cow is kept alive by antibiotics, hormones and other drugs-all of which come to you in the morning milk.


Each year 20 percent of these dairy cows are taken out due to infertility or disease. These are then starved to death or sent by truck to the slaughterhouse to provide beef for those that see nothing wrong in eating it. Milk production is very closely allied to the meat trade. No cow lives out her normal life span. She is milked, made sick and then killed.


What happens to the child, the calf? All the calves are separated from their mothers after three days. If the calf is a healthy female, it is put on milk substitutes to become a dairy replacement in two years. The male calves are tied up and left to starve to death which usually takes a week of intense suffering. Some are stuffed into trucks one on top of the other and sent to the slaughterhouse illegally to be killed for the veal that people eat in restaurants, which is also illegal. Some are sold to the cheese industry to have their stomachs slit (while alive) for rennet, the acid that is extracted for cheese making. A few are selected as bulls and kept in solitary pens for the rest of their lives for artificial insemination. Sometimes, when they are old, they are left on the streets of a city, to wonder around till a truck hits them (I should know: In one week, I have picked up eight dying bulls).


What is the basic nature of a cow? To devotedly care for her young, quietly forage and ruminate and patiently live out her 20 odd years in harmony with nature. She is not a four-legged milk pump who is to be orphaned, bred, fed, medicated, inseminated and manipulated for single purpose - maximum milk at minimum cost.


Have you seen the aged old Indian dairy custom phookan - which is illegal by law but which is practiced on thousands of cows daily? As soon as the cow's milk starts getting less, a stick is poked into her uterus and manipulated causing her intense pain in the belief that this stress will lead to a gush of more milk in the udder. This custom causes sores in the uterus - think about it, women - but what does it matter when the cow is at the end of her milk-giving life any way and due to be either tied up and starved or to be thrown into a truck with 40 others and taken to the butcher?


There is this belief that dairy products give a lot of protein and iron. Most people who consume a lot of milk, specially vegetarians, in North India the people who believe that milk and paneer are a protein substitute for meat, have been found to have iron deficiency causing anemia. Milk not only provides no iron - it actually blocks its absorption. Vegetables are the best source of iron for instance 50 gallons of milk are the equivalent (in iron content) of one bowl of spinach.


But what is the point of eating green vegetables if your single glass of milk is going to prevent the absorption of iron that you get from them? Listen to your body. Have you noticed that when you fall even slightly sick, the body feels nauseated at the thought of milk, that doctors recommend that you give it up till your are well? That is because after the age of four a large percentage of people lose the ability to digest lactose, the carbohydrate found in milk. The results often are in symptoms of persistent diarrhea, gas and stomach cramps. (As far as protein is concerned, milk gives the same amount as most vegetables and less than some vegetables). A human being's total protein requirement is 4-5 percent of this daily calorific intake. Nature has arranged her food in such a manner that even if you live on a diet of chappati and potatoes, you will still get more than that amount!


The alternative to dairy products is Soya milk that contains vitamin and tastes as good (or bad). It makes excellent dahi, paneer, ice cream, butter, cheese and milk chocolate, vegetable margarine and plain calcium tablets-which cost much less than milk.


Milk is an unnecessary theft. Do you think that a calf would benefit from your mother's milk? No it wouldn't. So how will you benefit from its mother's milk? Most of Southeast Asia and the Middle East don't touch the stuff and rightly so. All studies have shown that Asians have the highest intolerance to lactose. In India we have been sold the idea by concentrated western advertising over the last so many years. "Nature's most perfect food" is far from that-it is the equivalent of a placebo, and a dangerous one at that. And, more importantly, apart from harming yourself, every glass of milk that you drink, every ice cream, every pat of butter, ensures that enormous cruelty to a gentle animal and its offspring goes on."


Here it seems appropriate to mention one thing more and that is the ignorant practices of using milk and it's by-products in the temple ceremonies and rituals. The practices of bathing the statues (abhishek) with milk, offering sweets to the Gods made of milk as part of the rituals have creeped in the temple, polluting the very sanctity of the place and the environment. It is a violent waste to let all this milk go down the drain where it becomes the breeding place of ants and bacteria. These kinds of practices must stop and the original way of bathing (abhishek) with clean and pure water should be maintained.