Milk: Cow Breast is Best…Apparently!

I received the following image in a text message from my sister:


Followed closely by this one:

Article 2

Both images are snippets from the same magazine, two pages apart.

The magazine is called Women’s Health and Fitness Australia (May 2012), and my sister stumbled upon it in a waiting room recently.

Here is the complete page of ‘Bulging Bevs’:


At first I just laughed at the absurdity.

‘Drinking milk is the most natural thing in the world-it’s about the first thing we do as babies.’

Yes, it is natural- for babies! Nothing controversial about that statement. However, the next sentence is incongruous: ‘And you should be drinking milk to ward off osteoporosis’. Are they suggesting that we should continue to drink human milk beyond childhood? Of course not. The suggestion to ‘consider skim milk in frothy [beverages]’ confirms that they are referring to cows’ milk.

Obviously, human breast milk is most natural for humans. However, the article appears to suggest that drinking cows’ milk is the most natural thing in the world’.

It also implies that drinking milk is ‘natural’ beyond babyhood. Surely, humans do not require milk beyond childhood? I have not seen adult mammals breastfeeding.

The magazine clearly has a ‘problem’ with human breast milk for adults – ice cream made from human milk is regarded as ‘too much’ (ie. over the top).

Milk from a bovine species with four stomachs is regarded as desirable in hot beverages, but the milk of a woman – a fellow human- is regarded as distasteful when used to produce ice cream.

It really is quite baffling!

Milk is a necessary form of nourishment for baby cows and baby humans. In conjunction with colostrum, milk is their first food. It is entirely natural for a baby to drink milk from his/her mother’s breasts.

Breastfeeding my daughter at 10 months old

Breastfeeding my daughter at 10 months old

But, if we accept that it is OK – natural, even- to consume milk beyond childhood, shouldn’t we at least consume milk that is biologically designed for human bodies? Human milk.

Why drink cows’ milk?

Lunch Time Cow Style(source)

Humans are a strange bunch!

The dairy industry has been very successful at convincing people that they need cows’ milk in order to obtain, and maintain, healthy bones.

It does not make logical, or biological, sense that human bone development is dependent on milk that a lactating cow produces for her calf. In fact, evidence suggests that cows’ milk consumption is harmful to human health.

Breast IS best for cows and humans. Cows milk for calves; human milk for human babies (and toddlers).

What about adults?

You don’t need any milk, let alone the breast milk of a cow.

You’re not a baby!

But if you do want to indulge in ‘infantile behaviour’, I suggest sampling the human milk ice cream with vanilla pods and lemon zest.

The only negative aspect is the exorbitant price.

Why do you think some people find the thought of consuming human milk distasteful, while happily adding cows’ milk to their coffee and cereal?


{A-Z:Veganism} D is for Dairy Industry

D is for…

Dairy industry.

Recently, I wrote about bobby calves. Today, I want to examine the messages that the Australian dairy industry disseminates to children, specifically primary school students.

What is the dairy industry telling school students about cows’ milk, and the lives of dairy cows and bobby calves?

To answer this question, I visited Dairy Australia’s website, Discover Dairy. Visitors to the site can explore sections aimed at students, teachers, and canteen staff. Apparently, Dairy Australia developed the section for teachers, in order to:

‘engage and educate teachers and students about the Australian dairy industry and the nutritious products it provides’.

Teachers and students are introduced to 3 ‘learning’ modules – Unbeatable Bones, Fuel for Life and Farm to Plate. Teachers are encouraged to ‘Discover Dairy with [their] students today!’.

The site includes lesson ideas and student activity sheets for primary school children covering subjects such as art, mathematics, English, and science & technology.

Fresian Cow


What is the industry telling children about the lives of cows and calves on dairy farms?

In the section aimed at students, I navigated to Games and Interactives. I imagine this is the most popular section for students. Lets face it, any self-respecting 8 year old would head straight there!

I viewed two ‘interactives’:

The Milk from Farm to Plate – What’s it all About? interactive has this to say about the ‘milk cycle’: ‘Milk is created inside the udders of dairy cows on the farm’. It then describes the pumps that ‘gently suck milk from the cow’. There is no mention of her calf.

This interactive provides the illusion that cows naturally or automatically lactate, that they need to be milked by humans. It fails to mention that cows lactate as a consequence of giving birth.

The second interactive is titled: How do Dairy Cows Make Milk?  It begins: ‘ How dairy cows make milk is really cool’. It then describes the four stomachs that cows possess – it is interesting. No doubt about that. But, I was left thinking: hang on! We (humans) are drinking the milk of a species with four stomachs?! It is truly absurd!

The interactive states: ‘Milk is stored in the udder until the cow is milked’ – as though the milk  is just waiting there in a vessel, for humans. For our convenience. It does not mention that the milk is produced for her baby. Children are not told that the cow’s baby would suckle many times throughout the day. There is definitely no mention of the fact that a cow’s udder can become painful and engorged, and that cows can suffer from mastitis. No, the milk is just filling up her udder, ready to be ‘gently’ sucked out by a machine.

Clearly, the ‘interactives’ only tell part of the story.

What about the 3 ‘learning’ modules?

I discovered a reference to calves in the module From Farm to Plate. In a section called Hand-Feeding Calves, it states:

‘After only 12 to 24 hours, calves are weaned off their mothers but are still given milk to drink. The first milk they are given comes straight from their mother and is called colostrum…The colostrum is milked into a bucket which is then transferred to a bottle with a very large teat on the end and fed to the calf’

This paragraph glosses over the severing of the maternal-calf  bond. The industry wants children to believe that life is good for a calf:

The calves soon learn to eat grass and often get to eat the best pasture on the farm to help them grow strong’.

Calves are denied a relationship with their mothers. They are fed from an artificial teat. They are only a day (or less) old. But, apparently, children should not be concerned, because the calves are compensated for this loss by having access to ‘the best pasture’.

There is no mention of male calves, shipped to specialist calf-rearing properties or slaughterhouses. The information gives the impression that calves have an idyllic life in a lush green paddock. Rather, a female calf will ‘grow up’ to be a dairy cow herself, and endure repeated pregnancies and loss of offspring.

peek a moo


In another location, I read this:

‘Male calves become bulls and are often sold’. 

The key phrase is ‘often sold’. Sold to whom? For what purpose? The use of ‘often sold’ implies that some are not sold. What happens to them? Dairy Australia asserts that bobby calves are the foundation of their industry, so why aren’t they telling children the truth about them?

In reality, bobby calves are not given high priority by the industry. A bobby calf’s only ‘use’ is his ability to initiate his mother’s lactation.

At 5 days old, calves can be transported, and the industry standard permits the withholding of milk from calves for up to 30 hours before they are slaughtered. They certainly aren’t sharing that information with children.

The module From Farm to Plate includes a section titled ‘How cows make milk’. Here, calves are mentioned in connection with milk production:

A cow only starts to produce milk once her first calf is born.’

The module states that:   

‘Most cows give about 25 litres of milk a day.’

The use of the term ‘give’ implies that cows are willing participants in their enslavement. Obviously, the milk is ‘taken’ or ‘stolen’. This misuse of language disguises the reality of dairy cows’ lives.

Under the heading ‘Milking Time‘, I was disturbed to read the following :

‘Milking time is an enjoyable experience for the cows for many reasons. Sometimes the farmer plays soothing music in the background to relax the cows. It is important that cows are kept happy because they need to be relaxed to produce their milk’ .

A ‘happy’ cow. (Source: Discover Dairy)

I wonder what style of music ‘keeps’ cows happy, and compensates for the loss of a baby? Mozart? Moby? Muse? Despite the assertion that there are ‘many reasons’ that milking time is ‘enjoyable’, no further information of this nature is provided. Perhaps they’ll start telling children that the gentle sucking of the machines is quite relaxing, and preferable to the constant suckling of a baby.

What is the industry telling children about dairy products?

Children are told that dairy is ‘fuel for life‘, and that they require 3 serves a day.

(Fuel for life? That is actually true. A cow’s milk is fuel for her calf; nourishment that is biologically designed to promote bovine life).

Children are encouraged to:

‘speak to [their] teacher or principal about adopting a healthy canteen policy that includes plenty of milk, cheese and yogurt on the menu’. 

Children are directed to ‘lead by example’ so that their friends will be:

‘slurping yogurt, slicing cheese, and sipping milk right along with you before you know it…Keep up the yummy fun!’

‘Yummy fun’ (Source: Discover Dairy)

I was surprised to read the following in a curriculum guide for the Picasso Cows program:

‘New research has found milk is a more effective drink than water to rehydrate active kids’.

A footnote is provided in the curriculum guide.* I imagine that this finding would be regarded as a boon to the industry. Time constraints prevent me from following up on the ‘new research’ at this stage. However, I find it difficult to believe that the lactation fluids of a mammal with 4 stomachs can provide ‘more effective’ rehydration of ‘active’ human children than water. Water is fuel for life!

So, why am I concerned about the information that the Discover Dairy web site promotes to teachers and students? 

Firstly, lets examine the stated role of Dairy Australia:

‘Our role is to help farmers adapt to a changing operating environment, and achieve a profitable, sustainable dairy industry’.

Secondly, lets look at the language that the industry uses about primary schools and school children.

In a curriculum guide for a national project called The Great Wall of Dairy, it states:

‘Primary schools provide an ideal channel to reach a large number of children aged 5–12 years’.

A captive audience!

 ‘Children are also developing their long term food consumption behaviours at this age so it is important to build healthy, positive eating habits while they are young’.

And who better to ‘educate’ them about positive eating habits than Dairy Australia?!

And this:

‘Educating children about nutrition and where their food comes from is important to establish positive attitudes and perceptions about the industry and the products it produces which they can carry into adulthood’. 

Clearly, children in classrooms are fair game for an industry seeking to advertise its products and ensnare lifelong consumers of dairy products.  Naturally, the establishment of ‘positive attitudes and perceptions about the industry’ would be hindered if young children were provided with factual information about bobby calves, rather than misinformation. A young child who has been unwittingly separated from her parents (such as losing sight of them in a shopping centre) would be able to identify with the fear and panic of a calf who has been separated from his mother.

I am opposed to school teachers being used as conduits to promote dairy products to students in their classrooms. I would not be impressed if my children were learning about calcium and nutrition from Dairy Australia.

Source: Discover Dairy

As mentioned above, Dairy Australia’s stated role is to achieve a ‘profitable’ industry. They do not develop learning modules, free classroom resources and national curriculum programs because they care about the health of Australia’s children. The industry is not interested in educating children about nutrition. The industry is interested in ‘educating’ children about dairy products. They are interested in maximising their profits. These programs, modules and resources are part of a marketing strategy.

Nutrition education in schools should not be driven by industries with vested interests.

Dairy: ‘A unique combination of bone-building nutrients’. (Source: Discover Dairy)

It’s unlikely that parents would give consent for their children to view television advertisements (during class time) that are designed solely to establish positive ‘perceptions about [an] industry and the products it produces which [their children] can carry into adulthood’.

So, why should we tolerate this covert form of advertising being conducted under the guise of ‘education’?


*Footnote cited by Dairy Australia – Volterman K et al. Children and Exercise XXVII: The Proceedings of the XXVIIth International Symposium of the
European Group of Paediatric Work Physiology 2011; Chapter 13: 101–105

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!


{A-Z:Veganism} B is for Bobby Calf

B is for…

Bobby calf.


Last Spring, at a children’s ‘story time’ session at our local library, the librarian excitedly informed the pre-school aged children that a special guest would be arriving soon. 

Within minutes, I heard squeals of delight and surprise from the children –I saw a calf. Her brown eyes were wide with what I could only interpret as fear, as she was half dragged, half carried into the room by another librarian. A strong stench enveloped the room as the calf lost control of her bowels. She was placed on a rug at the front of the room, in clear view of everyone.

I could not stop staring at her – how could anyone have thought this was a good idea?  The parents smiled and pointed, and the children wiggled about and gazed excitedly at the calf.  We sang songs (‘cows in the kitchen, moo, moo, mooooo’) and listened to stories that featured cows. I could hear a woman repeatedly saying to her children: ‘Look at the moo!’ (‘She’s a calf’, I wanted to yell).

I couldn’t wait for the session to end. The calf looked so miserable. She was only 5 weeks old. In a world kinder than ours, she would have been suckling from her mother. I wanted to stand up and shout ‘look at her beautiful eyes, look how peaceful she is – please stop eating cows!’ But I didn’t, of course. I looked around the room, seeking to make eye contact with another parent. Is there another vegan here? Does anyone else feel empathy for the calf?

The ’story time’ calf highlights the gap between the admiration that humans feel for the ‘cuteness’ of a calf and the ability to feel true empathy for her and her kin. No doubt, some of the children and parents that patted the calf’s soft head and commented on her beauty went home to a cheese sandwich for lunch, or perhaps a veal cutlet for dinner – and did not think twice about it.

That is exactly how the dairy industry wants it.

What is a bobby calf?

According to Dairy Australia, a bobby calf is:

  • aged less than 30 days old,
  • usually a dairy breed or cross, and
  • destined for sale or slaughter.

The ‘story time’ calf wasn’t a bobby calf – she was approximately 35 days old.  I don’t know where she lived or where she was destined. I didn’t ask because I was afraid that the answer would upset me. But I do know that she wasn’t with her mother. According to my world view, baby mammals should be with their mothers.

During pregnancy, a cow’s body nourishes her unborn offspring. At the birth of her baby, her body responds as nature intends – she produces colostrum and, later, milk to nourish her newborn.

On a dairy farm, humans remove (steal) the baby from her mother shortly after birth, severing the maternal – child bond forever.

She is not permitted to nurture the baby that grew within her body. Her body, her baby and her milk do not belong to her. She will never see her baby again. Worse, this loss will happen multiple times during her life on a dairy farm.

She does not choose this. She does not willingly give up her baby.


On its web site, Dairy Australia states: ‘Calves are the foundation of our industry and enable us to continue providing you with safe, high-quality, nutritious milk and dairy foods’ (my emphasis).  There is no doubt that the industry is entirely dependent on calves – cows do not lactate unless they are pregnant with, or have given birth to, a calf. Simply, the industry would not exist without calves.

So, what does the industry say about the removal of calves from their mothers?

A section on Managing Calf Welfare states: ‘ Calf welfare is improved by removing it [sic] from the cow within 12 hours of birth….’ Also, sadly, this: ‘Research suggests that separating cow and calf as early as possible reduces the stress on both as there will be minimal bonding between them’ (my emphasis). This statement would be ludicrous if it were not so callous.

I assert that within twelve hours of the births of my babies, I loved them with every fibre of my being. My body was physiologically primed to nurture them, and my heart was bursting with love and adoration. I am a mammal. Cows are mammals. It is not difficult to envisage that cows experience love and affection for their babies too.

In her book Domestic Animal Behaviour, Katherine A. Houpt discusses cow-calf bonding.  She states: ‘Contact between the cow and her calf for as brief a period as five minutes postpartum results in the formation of a strong, specific maternal bond. Cows groom their calves during the early postpartum period…Licking the calf occupies up to half the cow’s time during the first hour postpartum’ (my emphasis).

It is apparent that mother-calf bonding happens very soon after birth, within minutes (rather than hours). Clearly, the industry’s assertion that only ‘minimal bonding’ occurs within the early hours of a calf’s birth, is inaccurate.

Theoretically, there are two ways of looking at the relationship between cows and their calves. Which do you think is most likely?

1. Cows feel no connection to their babies; they have no desire to nurture their offspring, and they have no compulsion to nourish their babies with milk.

2. Cows have a deep bond with their offspring, one that resembles the bond that human parents have for their offspring. When that bond is severed, they grieve and experience distress.

Cows are not inanimate objects.  Their behaviour and actions suggest that they do have affection for their offspring.

Holly Cheever, Veterinarian, shares a remarkable tale of a dairy cow that actively hid her newborn calf to prevent a farmer from removing him from her care. Sadly, despite the pleas of Cheever and the tenacity of the mother cow, the farmer removed the calf. He was destined for a veal crate.

If we accept that a cow has a ‘strong, specific maternal bond’ with her calf, how on earth do we justify severing their relationship? Is a glass of milk worth that much?


In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!


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