Thoughts on Milk
E emma smith

Thoughts on Milk

May 10, 2024 · cow · dairy · dairy free · ethical vegan · vegan

Where to begin on this unfortunately divisive topic.


How about- what it is.


The noun 'milk' is defined as an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.


Honestly that should do it right there- end of story. We all quit dairy after processing that information for half a second- dairy milk does not come from our own species and, despite being intended for a mammal's young, we take it for ourselves- often as adults. But I've also noticed that information alone isn't quite doing the trick. 

Because we see what milk is based on that definition, and we also see what it is for - or rather, who- female mammals' young. Female mammals may include, but are not limited to the following: rats, humans, polar bear, cows, squirrels, deer, and pigs.

So in keeping with the definition of milk- it would work like this: 


female rats would provide the milk they create to their young; 

female humans would provide the milk they create to their young; 

female polar bear would provide the milk they create to their young; 

female cows would provide the milk they create to their young; 

female squirrels would provide the milk they create to their young; 

female deer would provide the milk they create to their young; 

female pigs would provide the milk they create to their young. etc. 

Female animals, when impregnated, experience a hormonal change in which their mammary glands begin to produce milk in anticipation of feeding their young. Lactation encompasses this milk production and continues to the secretion for the milk from the breast. 

Interestingly, repeated impregnation is not necessary to continue producing milk- it is made possible through repeatedly milking an animal. This is why human mothers are able to provide milk to their offspring long after the offspring would need to rely on them as a source of food. This is also economically more efficient when milk is produced as a good for sale- the calf is involved minimally before being sent for slaughter, thus requiring less milk from his or her mother, and allowing more milk to be obtained for human consumption. 

However, the calf also provides a source of income, so it may be argued that repeatedly impregnating a cow is the most economically robust option. There are then two streams of income- the milk from the cow and the flesh of her offspring.

So first- we breed cows, artificially or through using a bull, to impregnate her, then we limit her time with her calf before separating them and continue to milk her so that she produces milk for humans. We do this on repeat until she becomes 'spent'. 

The thing is- we don't need to do any of this- and it isn't like this is a benevolent or even benign activity. Because- without even taking the inefficiencies with the resources required for cow's milk into account- we need to take something- or someone- into account first.


The cow. 


If we learn about the process of making dairy, and are open to exploring our empathy, we quickly discover that this is a process we would not want to be subject to.  


I wouldn't want to be impregnated against my will, only to have my child taken away from me and the whole process to happen all over again. Eventually- I'd be milked a lot first, though, for economic efficiency's sake. 

This may be a lot of information if you are new to the idea, so let's break it down- you'll quickly learn why we do not make anything with dairy at Zimt. 

Here is how milk gets made: 

1. Forced Impregnation: 

As we just learned, mammals need to be impregnated to produce milk, and cows in the dairy industry are no exception. These cows are usually artificially inseminated, which involves inserting a farmer's arm or metal rod into her rectum to position her uterus for insemination. This is obviously an invasive procedure and can be very painful for the cow. 

2. Separation from Young: 

Since the industry wants to keep as much milk as possible to sell, the calves which rely on their mother's milk for food are removed from their mother. This causes so much distress for both the mom and baby. The cow frequently calls out for her baby for days and the calf will often suck on anything remotely resembling where they would have gotten milk from their mom. 

Calves are either kept for veal- this is very typical for male calves. Here is an image of a veal farm- if you have driven through the countryside, you've likely seen these: 



3. Constant Milking

Dairy cows are milked multiple times a day, and without being to escape the process, which can lead to very sore and sometimes infected udders. When milk production is so intense, a condition called mastistis can develop, which is a painful infection. Many animals used in factory farming (when not organic) are frequently on antibiotics, which leads to a slew of other issues, including an increased potential of antibiotic resistance

4. Shortened Lifespan

Though who would want to extend a life of torture when there is no other option presented? One a dairy cow's milk production declines, she is considered 'spent'. This typically happens after only a few years, and she is often slaughtered at this point, as she is no longer considered economically optimal. In natural conditions, a cow can live for around 20 years, but in the diary industry, a cow is often killed when she is around 4 or 5 years of age. 

5. Slaughter:  

Like all animals raised for food, dairy cows ultimately face slaughter. This can involve long and stressful journeys to the slaughterhouse, as well as the experience of being killed. From the cow's perspective, this is a terrifying and painful end to a life of exploitation.


One important myth to bust before we get ahead of ourselves is this- the human demand for cow's milk, in any form, is not a request fulfilled through benign activities.

That is- demanding cows milk for our own consumption, and the ways in which we require it, is extremely detrimental to cows themselves. Even a few dairy farmers will admit this. 

Here's a comment I left on a dairy farmer's response to Earthling Ed's A Mother's Perspective


Dairy farmer reflects on his own industry



So whether it be in the form of a cheese platter, Greek yogurt, a splash of milk in your coffee, creamy Caesar salad dressing- or a dairy chocolate bar- the uncomfortable reality is- someone was tortured and killed for that. 


And because we know this isn't something you want to support- but that you do want to enjoy tasty creamy treats in all forms- we have a helpful guide for you- coming up in our next post!

In the meantime, drop us some of your favourite dairy free, vegan alternatives in the comment section below- so curious as to your faves!


Thanks for sticking through to the end- this makes you an exceptional human.



Emma of Zimt






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