Dairy industry ads portray milk as the perfect food ? full of calcium and other important nutrients vital to good health. Television airwaves and popular magazines are flooded with ads featuring celebrities happily fashioning the famous milk mustache. Commercials promoting dairy products feature "happy cows" and herds gleefully whistling in open, sunny pastures. However, the industry's distorted propaganda masks the shamefully cruel conditions endured by dairy cows and their unfortunate offspring.

Truth or dairy

Human's bodies have no inherent need for cows' milk. We were not designed to drink the mammary secretions of other animals, yet humans are the only animals who drink another species' mother's milk. Indeed, just as dogs' milk is intended for puppies, rats' milk for baby rats, and humans' milk for human infants, cows' milk is for calves.

Cows produce milk for the same reason that humans do ? to nourish their young ? but calves born on dairy farms are taken from their mothers when they are just one day old and fed milk replacements so that humans can have the mother's milk instead. In order to keep a steady supply of milk, the cows are repeatedly impregnated on what farmers often call "rape racks." Several times a day, dairy cows are hooked by their udders to electronic milking machines, which can cause the cows to suffer electrical shocks, painful lesions, and mastitis. Most spend their entire lives standing on concrete floors; others are crammed into massive mud lots.

Although cows would naturally make only enough milk to meet the needs of their calves (around 16 pounds a day), genetic manipulation, antibiotics, and hormones are used to force each cow to produce more than 18,000 pounds of milk a year (an average of 50 pounds a day).

In order to further increase profits, Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) is now being injected into cows to get them to produce even more milk. The hormones adversely affect the cows' health and increase the rate of birth defects in their calves. BGH may also cause breast and prostate cancer in humans, causing several countries in Europe to ban its use.

Cows have a natural lifespan of approximately 25 years and can produce milk for eight or nine years, but the stress caused by factory farm conditions leads to disease, lameness, and reproductive problems that render cows worthless to the dairy industry by the time they are four or five years old, at which time they are sent to the slaughterhouse.

Cruelty in a crate

Few consumers realize that veal is a direct by-product of the dairy industry. In order for dairy cows to produce milk, they must be impregnated. While female calves are slaughtered or added to the dairy herd, many male calves are taken from their mothers when they are as young as one day old and chained in tiny stalls to be raised for veal. The confinement is so extreme that they cannot even turn around or lie down comfortably.

Many veal calves are deliberately kept anemic to produce light-colored meat, which fetches a higher price in restaurants. Their liquid-based, iron-deficient diets cause numerous health problems. Motherless and alone, they suffer from ulcers, diarrhea, pneumonia, and lameness. After three to 18 weeks of this deprivation, they are trucked to the slaughterhouse.

Doesn't milk "Do the body good"?

Not only is dairy the product of immense suffering, it is also a health hazard to humans. Dairy products contain no fiber or complex carbohydrates and are laden with saturated fat and cholesterol. They are contaminated with cow's blood and pus and are frequently contaminated with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. They are linked to allergies, constipation, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

The late Dr. Benjamin Spock, America's leading authority on child care, spoke out against feeding cow's milk to children, saying it can cause anemia, allergies, and insulin-dependent diabetes and in the long term, will set kids up for obesity and heart disease, America's number one cause of death.

Dairy products may actually cause osteoporosis, not prevent it, since their high-protein content leaches calcium from the body. Although American women consume tremendous amounts of calcium, their rates of osteoporosis are among the highest in the world.

Conversely, Chinese women consume half the calcium (all of it from plant sources) and have scant incidence of the bone disease. A Harvard Nurses' Study of more than 77,000 women found that those who consumed two or more glasses of milk per day had higher risks of broken hips and arms than those who drank one glass or less per day. A professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University said, "The association between the intake of animal protein and fracture rates appears to be as strong as that between cigarette smoking and lung cancer."

What can I do?

Ditch dairy! There are delicious vegan alternatives to nearly every dairy product widely available at health food stores and many supermarkets. Try soy, almond, or rice milk in place of cow's milk. Instead of ice cream, try frozen desserts like Soy Delicious, Tofutti, Rice Dream, fruit sorbets, or ices.

For more information, tips, and recipes, order your free Vegetarian Starter Kit today at ChooseVegetarian.com or by calling 1-866-VEG-TIPS.

Mercy For Animals (MFA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit Ohio animal rights organization that believes non-human animals are irreplaceable individuals who have morally significant interests and hence rights, including the right to live and not be caused suffering. MFA is dedicated to promoting nonviolence towards all sentient beings through public education campaigns and demonstrations, undercover investigations, and open rescues.

Mercy for Animals, PO Box 363, Columbus, OH 43216

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