Dark Side of Dairy Industry

Every industry has a dark side. Take the dairy industry, for example; dairy products like cheese, milk, and yogurt are considered to be healthy and nutritious.

Most people include dairy products in their daily meals. But do we know the cost of producing these dairy products?

Do you think dairy farming is ethical?

Is it good for the environment?

Is it healthy?

In this blog post, I’ve used the P-A-S (Problem-Agitation-Solution) copywriting formula to highlight the not-so-wholesome dark side of dairy farming.

Let’s begin.

Problem: Unveiling the Hidden Issues

1. Animal Welfare

Happy cows out in the green pastures are not what the average dairy cow experiences. Unfortunately, the reality is that many dairy cows live in very poor conditions.

Many dairy cows live cramped in pens with steel walls, stressed, and susceptible to disease. The industry practice of taking calves away from their mothers within the first day or two of birth causes trauma to both the baby calf and the mother.

This painful and distressing practice is carried out in order to keep the milk production of the mother cow as high as possible, without any regard for her emotional well-being.

Cows are meant to live in herds, roaming together freely and heeding a natural social order.

Dairy cattle are often kept pregnant continuously so that they are always producing milk to keep up dairy yield. Without our intervention, they would naturally calve every 2 years and produce much higher-quality milk.

Cows in the dairy industry are often given growth hormones to produce as much milk as possible, and they may also be given antibiotics if they are sick.

Cows that do not produce enough milk to keep up with dairy standards or that are not pregnant are considered unproductive and are killed for meat.

2. Environmental Cost

The dairy industry plays a huge role in environmental damage. Producing milk for consumption creates large amounts of waste and heavily uses up water.

According to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the dairy sector amount to about 4% of the worldwide total.

Much of this comes from the methane gas produced by cows, and this methane has 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2).

CO2 is considered harmful to the environment and a major cause of climate change.

Methane, on the other hand, not only contributes to climate change but also has a strong and immediate heating effect on the Earth.

3. Human Health

Dairy farm products are not as healthy for humans as assumed.

There are numerous reports that associate dairy products with lactose intolerance, milk protein allergies, elevated cholesterol levels, heart attacks, and even cancer.

For instance, one study published in the British Journal of Cancer showed that there may be a positive association between the consumption of dairy products and prostate cancer.

4. Economic Exploitation

Dairy farmers are exploited by the very industry they contribute to. It is virtually impossible for small-scale farmers to compete with the highly mechanized and capitalized big dairies.

To cut production costs and increase survival in this dog-eat-dog world, many dairy farmers resort to intensive systems that perpetuate the vicious cycle of poor animal welfare and environmental degradation.

The price wars and market manipulation by corporate giants leave small dairy farmers with meager profits, plunging them into debt and eventually forcing them to quit.

Agitation: Why These Issues Matter

But knowing the issues and the suffering they cause should make us even more concerned, and motivated to change.

1. Ethical Issues

For many consumers, the welfare of animals is very important. Dairy farming and animal welfare often don’t go hand in hand.

For anyone who believes in treating animals with respect, kindness, and compassion, seeing dairy cows in the harsh conditions pictured below, denied their natural behaviours, and with very short and stressful lives, is very upsetting.

2. Sustainability Issues

It’s no secret that the dairy industry has a significant environmental impact. At the current rate of global warming, much of dairy farming won’t be sustainable in the future.

Water scarcity is a huge problem in many parts of the world, and the immense amount of water needed for dairy farming makes the industry unsustainable.

Manure runoff from dairy farms pollutes waterways and can kill wildlife and plants in entire ecosystems.

3. Health Concerns

The health implications of dairy consumption are well-documented today. Lactose intolerance is reported in approximately 65% of the world’s population, resulting in gastrointestinal symptoms and other related adverse effects.

The possible relationship between dairy consumption and several chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease, is among the concerns that challenge the role of dairy in a healthy diet.

4. Economic Disparity

Economic disparity within the dairy industry is another concern. We are hurting the people who sustain rural economies by putting small farms out of business with prices that don’t cover the cost of production.

Large corporations behave as monopolies and push out smaller competitors, decreasing market diversity and leaving consumers with less choice.

Solution: Moving Towards a Better Future

The problems within the dairy industry are certainly severe, but there are many possible solutions to mitigate these issues and move towards more ethical, sustainable, and healthy dairy consumption.

1. Alternative Dairy Products

The simplest way to make a positive impact and lessen the harmful effects of the dairy industry is to opt for plant-based dairy alternatives instead of lactate-based milk.

Almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, cashew milk, and coconut milk are all nutritious and delicious dairy alternatives that are produced without the unethical treatment and excessive milk extraction seen in dairy cattle farming.

Companies like Oatly and Silk are making dairy alternatives more appealing and convenient for the mass market.

2. Improved Dairy Farming

If you’re going to continue to eat dairy, you need to support dairy farms that practice humane and sustainable methods of dairy production.

Certified organic dairy products and certified grass-fed dairy products are produced on farms that treat animals humanely and with dignity and that also practice sustainable farming methods that preserve the environment.

The Humane Society International and the Organic Trade Association both offer certifications and resources for consumers to make better choices when purchasing dairy products from local and regional dairy producers.

3. Policy and Regulation

Push for stronger regulations on the dairy industry and its products. This is where we need strong advocacy for systemic change in the form of policies that require tighter regulation of the industry.

We need policies that protect animal welfare, mitigate the industry’s negative environmental impact, and promote the livelihood of small farmers and local communities.

Contact your representative, sign and share petitions from organizations that are working towards this (like the Humane League), and support those groups who are dedicated to this work.

4. Consumer Education

Until consumers understand that producing dairy is causing immense harm to the planet as well as to innocent animals, they will continue to buy dairy products.

Some excellent documentaries explain the truth about the dairy industry (“Cowspiracy” is an excellent one currently available on Netflix).

Many books explain the truth about dairy farming (The China Study is an excellent place to start).

We need more public awareness campaigns like the “Meatless Monday” initiative to encourage changes to a more humane and sustainable diet.

We need teachers, lecturers, and parents to encourage young people to learn about the truth behind dairy and animal farming. Only by educating the public will change happen.

Conclusion: Where to now?

So, there’s no doubt a dark side to the dairy industry. We’ve discussed some of the unpleasant realities of the dairy industry and how they’re relevant to ethical, environmental, and health issues.

But, knowing these problems and their relevance, we can be inspired to look for solutions that support more humane, environmentally sustainable, and healthy food options.

This may be through choosing plant-based dairy alternatives, supporting farms and businesses that are working towards improving their dairy farming practices, pushing for political change, and finally educating ourselves and others on these issues.

Whatever you choose to do, know that it’s a step in not only aiding in the improvement of the treatment of farmed animals but also in benefiting the environment and your own health.

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