Tonight I’m inspired to write something other than a recipe thanks to an old friend who reached out to me asking for advice. Her inquiry is one I’ve heard a few times prior and it’s never a surprise. The conversation usually goes something like this:
Friend: “Yo hi hey how’s it going?! Been following your vegan blog and I’m really interested in giving up meat and dairy too! But I just can’t seem to give up cheese. #help”
Me: “OMG wow thank you so much. That makes me so happy! But have no fear, let me send you a crap ton of dairy alternatives to help you get started!”
Friend: “Love love love thanks!”
Me: “Any freakin’ time! ♥ ♥ ♥”
So here I am – nails wet from an attempt at a personal french manicure (shout out cruelty-free brands!) – giving it my best effort to type up my thoughts on dairy (seriously typing with wet nails is not as easy as you’d think). Covering a plethora of reasons why I and others don’t eat dairy, my hopes are that just ONE will positively influence you (and my inquisitive friends) to lessen your dairy intake and seek out alternatives… even when it comes to cheese.
Keep in mind while reading this that dairy is defined as “containing or made from milk.” Supporting dairy means supporting milk and the means for obtaining it. Stating this because you’re probably going to read a lot about milk right now – just a guess as I hear my thoughts spiraling in my mind.
The reason I decided to cut dairy out of my diet had mostly to do with the fact that eating ice cream, having a bowl of cereal, or loading up a meal with cheese resulted in me having a stomach ache more often than not. I’m not sure if I’m mildly lactose intolerant or not, but it doesn’t really matter at this point. I experimented with decreasing my intake and felt better so I stuck with it.
Though animal rights was not my initial reasoning for cutting out dairy or becoming vegan, the mistreatment of animals in the dairy industry is an issue I’m exposed to more frequently now. I am part of and also read discussion among other vegans who are extremely passionate about animal rights. Shmeds being my #1. Before now, this topic was never a choice for conversation because I wasn’t vegan or an animal rights activist. It’s not a fun thing to recognize so a lot of us choose to turn a blind eye to it. Because of my vegan lifestyle these days, I find myself stumbling across articles and videos about the dairy industry without intentionally seeking them.
To sum up why I and other vegans choose not to support dairy as a stand against animal treatment: Female cows live in less than ideal conditions in cramped places while hooked up to a machine multiple times a day. They’re injected with hormones to produce larger amounts of milk after being unwillingly impregnated. When a calf is born they’re immediately taken away from the mother who cries for her baby for days after. Males are shipped off in crates to veal farms and females get in line to be the next supplier. Cows naturally live around 20 years, but after 5 years in the dairy industry their bodies are worn and no longer capable of producing the amount of milk necessary to supply the demand. They are killed.
Understandably, the argument exists that not all cows are treated in this way. And that’s valid. Sure some are raised on local farms where they might be loved and cared for. That makes my heart a lot happier than knowing milk sold in stores comes from other horrible places. However, no matter the treatment of the cow, I’m still not inclined to drink any of her milk. There’s a certain amount of naturally occurring white blood cells allowed to be in milk. The concentration of these cells is an indicator of infection – cows who are mistreated are going to have a higher count, and a lot of our cows are mistreated. There are regulations on the amount allowed, but it’s more likely that a farmer will only be paid less for milk with higher counts than not paid for it at all. It is true that when you eat steak, you’re also eating these somatic cells. But I don’t even want to go into that because why are we ingesting the blood of anything? Personally this all just grosses me out. And regardless of the treatment of the cows and their blood cells, I don’t understand why anyone would want to drink milk that is meant for an animal supposed to grow 8-12 times our weight. That is not. for. us.
Like I said earlier: Dairy literally means milk. If we really want to get technical and organize grocery stores by the definition of dairy, then more than half of their inventory should be in the dairy section. Start reading labels, you’ll quickly learn how often you find milk listed under ingredients. The demand for milk, for dairy, is insane. Which brings me to the real star of the show: CHEESE. It’s the one thing my curious friends (and so many others) claim they just can’t live without. I get it. Cheese is f*cking delicious. It’s crack. How is it ever possible to stop eating it? Let me tell you.
The benefits of eating cheese mostly have to do with its protein and calcium content. But 1 ounce of cheese has the same amount of protein as 1 oz of beans. Though the calcium content in a serving of cheese is higher than a lot of foods, leafy and dark green vegetables contain a large amount per serving as well. A meal with cheese or a balanced plant-based meal will equally supply you with sufficient amounts of protein and calcium. Not only can you get these nutrients and more from a dairy-free diet, but you also avoid the unnecessary cholesterol and fat cheese puts into your body. Your liver aids in healthy cholesterol production, supplying you with the proper ratio. Additional cholesterol (from cheese) can result in clogged arteries, strokes, and heart disease.
On top of cheese not reeeeeally being good for you, all that I discussed about milk above can be carried over to cheese as well because it is literally a form of milk. According to that website, it requires 10 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of cheese – sorry mama cows :'(. Here’s more information from PETA about what cheese actually has in it.
Well once again I’ve found myself writing a completely different post than intended. But it was definitely a topic I needed to get off my chest (read: fingertips). With that, I still plan to help all you dairy and cheese lovers (who are hopefully now curious alternative-seekers), figure out a way to satisfy your undeniably incessant cravings. Welcome to the wonderful world of vegan alternatives! Read about it here.
Much Love & Many Nomz!