On a hot summer day, there's not much that quells your stomach like a cold milkshake. As you enjoy a cold ice cream or a nice dairy-ladened treat, you might not think about the consequences associated with your consumption choices. But, choosing dairy is one of the most ethically and environmentally problematic food choices you can make. Here are some of the reasons why you should avoid dairy in your diet. 

Dairy cows are an inadvertent part of the slaughter pipeline. 

Sure, you might not eat meat, but what do you think happens to dairy cows when they stop producing milk? What about the male calves? If you might have sneakily attempted to "forget" these questions- congratulations! You're a proponent of an exploitative, ethically ambiguous, and deadly system of human and animal oppression. 

There are plant-based, fortified sources of B12 & calcium to ensure that you get all the nutrients you need for a healthy lifestyle. 

Tofu, leafy greens, tempeh, chia seeds, and beans are just some of the many sources of calcium on the market. Many products are now fortified with calcium, so you can check the label when you decide what kinds of food to buy. 

B12 is a little bit trickier, but not that difficult to obtain. I take a daily B12/D3 supplement and eat nutritional yeast regularly to ensure I'm getting the B12 I need. 

The dependence on animal agriculture is literally killing the planet. 

Milking cows consume nearly 115L of water daily (23 gallons). This statistic doesn't even factor in the massive amounts of water needed to produce the crops (e.g. corn & soy) that the animals eat. The flushing system to remove manure from the milking floor also uses about 150 gallons of water per cow, per day (so, a 700 head operation would use over 100,000 gallons a day, just for flushing). 21% of U.S. dairy comes from California: a state known for periodic droughts and raging wildfires. 

The most notorious connection between cows and the climate stems from the production of methane. Contrary to popular belief, it's not the farts (rather, the burps) that release greenhouse gases like methane into the atmosphere. The Food and Agricultural Organization claims that 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be directly attributed to dairy. Although this statistic might seem small, it also does not capture the resources and energy to produce cattle feed (i.e. field crop fertilizers). 

Dairy has reverberating impacts on surrounding environments as well. If waste is not properly managed, it can flow into rivers and create catastrophic algal blooms. Water bodies with eutrophication problems kill fish, make water unsafe to drink, and lower home values.  

The dairy industry often preys (and exploits) non-documented workers. 

It is estimated that close to 75% of all agricultural farmworkers in the United States are undocumented. Much of them were forced to work as "essential workers" during COVID-19 without adequate health protections or insurance. Federal COVID-19 stimulus also did not apply to undocumented individual. 

Dairy, in particular, is attractive to undocumented laborers: it offers year-round work opportunity and often owner-supplied housing. To boot, many American-born individuals aren't attracted to the long hours, harsh climate, and physical danger associated with working on a dairy farm. This in turn creates a demand for cheap, reliable labor. According to the Huffington Post, half of all dairy workers in the United States are immigrants- a population that produces over 70% of the nation's dairy. 

More marginalized folx don't have the political power to advocate for worker protections, safe housing, and other fundamental working policies. This in turn creates a toxic cycle of dependence between workers and farm operators. 

Cows are sentient beings with the capacity to feel pain, love, and connection with one another. 

Cows form social systems and hierarchies between their herd. They're attached to their calves and can perform basic problem-solving behaviors. For more information, check out this link

You don't need milk to survive. 

The bottom line is that human milk is for human babies- cow milk is for calves. You don't need milk to survive, nor do you need cheese, dairy ice cream, or yogurt. There are hundreds of plant-based alternatives out there for you to enjoy- all of which don't involve ripping calves away from their mothers and perpetuating the exploitation of animals.