You’ve probably seen lots of new plant-based milks (or alt-milks) creeping up on supermarket shelves, and you’ve walked by with a fleeting thought about the viability of these milks. The dairy-lover in you simply cannot spend too much time on this, though.
We’re here to tell you why you should spend more time on this.
So, let’s get to the fundamentals. A bit of backward integration to understand how that pack of dairy-based, thick milk you love so dearly came to you.
It all starts with a cow, right? Wrong. It actually starts with a calf. This calf was born in a dairy farm, so that the milk rightfully belonging to her could be obtained from her mother for commercial use. The calf hardly saw her mother for two or three days. Afterwards, she was taken away, and brought up by her kidnappers to be a milk-able cow. When she became old enough to produce milk, she was artificially inseminated frequently in order to keep giving birth and producing milk. Artificial insemination is nothing short of violation. The torture does not end there. Every time she gives birth, she must undergo the same distress she went through as a calf–that of separation–this time, as a mother. The kidnappers sometimes place khalbacchas or placeholders calves, near the cow. These khalbacchas are carcasses of calves, covered up with ornaments to trick the cow into continuing to produce milk. This cow yield less milk overtime, and is sent to slaughterhouses when her milk output ceases to be economical. This abuse of cows for milk production is highly unethical.
But it gets worse. Breeding of cows for milk production also has a terrible effect on the environment. Cows and their manure produce greenhouse gases, which are responsible for climate change. According to the Food & Agriculture Organisation, the overall contribution of the global milk production, processing and transportation to total anthropogenic emissions is estimated at 2.7 percent [± 26 percent]. In the United States, it takes 144 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk. Tending to cows also needs land: over 66.7% of the world’s agricultural land is used for maintaining livestock, including beef and dairy cows. Land degradation as a result of overgrazing is also a major concern.
Still not convinced? Let’s go back to tracking the milk carton’s journey. So the milk is ready. What’s next? The network of dairy cooperatives or dairy processors buys this milk from the dairy producers and processes it into the various dairy products, including milk. This process leads to the generation of 2.5 litres of wastewater per litre of milk processed. This wastewater, usually untreated, is released into nearby streams and land, having devastating effects on the environment, from creation of strong odours and nuisance conditions in water bodies, to creation of breeding grounds for disease-spreading mosquitoes, to polluting the water bodies so that fish and other aquatic organisms find it difficult to survive.
After being processed, the milk is then forwarded to retailers including the supermarket where you buy your milk from. It is paradoxical that we Indians worship cows, and at the same time, allow this systematic abuse of cows. It is critical that we as a country reduce our consumption of dairy products: India is currently the world’s largest producer, accounting for roughly 20% of global milk production. As a result, India is also the largest contributor to the environmental and ethical fallout of milk production.
So the next time you walk by the alt-milk shelves of the supermarket, give them more than just a fleeting thought. Consider trying a plant-based milk, and adopting it. Alt-milks are not some hip trend, or merely solutions for lactose intolerant people. Alt-milks are the path to a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle and future. The best part? There is a sea of options when it comes to alt-milks: almond, soy, oat, rice, coconut… the list of alt-milk sources is endless. That should make the switch easier: educate yourself about the alt-milks and choose the one that best suits your nutrient needs and lifestyle. Most of these alt-milks are fortified in order to make them comparable alternatives to cow’s milk. So rest assured, you would likely not be making a big nutritional compromise by switching. Further, alt-milks are engineered to be versatile, and often can be used in the same manner as cow’s milk.
We know it is a big decision to switch. But remember, the impact is huge too.
Our role is only to make you more aware and comfortable so that you can make an informed decision. Go ahead and explore our range of plant-based dairy products and take that step to reduce your carbon footprint. Happy earth, happy you.
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- Raghunath, B., Punnagaiarasi, A., Rajarajan, G., Irshad, A., Elango, A., & Mahesh kumar, G. (2016). Impact of Dairy Effluent on Environment—A Review. Integrated Waste Management In India, 239-249. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-27228-3_22
- The Dairy Value Chain – DeLaval Corporate. Delavalcorporate.com. Retrieved 22 September 2020, from http://www.delavalcorporate.com/sustainability/our-take/the-dairy-value-chain/.
- 18 Images Big Dairy Doesn’t Want You to See (but PETA Will Show You) | PETA. PETA. Retrieved 22 September 2020, from https://www.peta.org/features/dairy-industry-cruelty/.
- Capps, A. (2013). The Sexual Violation of Dairy Cows in 14 Steps. Free From Harm. Retrieved 22 September 2020, from https://freefromharm.org/animal-cruelty-investigation/the-sexual-violation-of-dairy-cows-14-step-process-of-artificial-insemination/.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Dairy Sector; A Life Cycle Assessment. Fao.org. (2010). Retrieved 22 September 2020, from http://www.fao.org/3/k7930e/k7930e00.pdf.
- Kedia, S. (2017). The white lies of the dairy industry that no one wants you to know. YourStory.com. Retrieved 22 September 2020, from https://yourstory.com/2017/03/dairy-industry.
- Dairy | Industries | WWF. World Wildlife Fund. (2019). Retrieved 22 September 2020, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/magazine/issues/winter-2019/articles/milk-s-impact-on-the-environment.