Vita Sleigh, a passionate writer with a particular interest in animal rights, explores the often overlooked reality behind the dairy industry.
Type ‘define: milk’ into Google. ‘An opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.’ Note: ‘for the nourishment of their young.’ We are the only species to carry on drinking milk after weaning—and at that the milk of another species.
Contrary to what appears to be a(n alarmingly) common misconception, cows do not ‘just produce’ milk; like any other mammal they have to first give birth, and in order for us to take the mother’s milk, the calf can no longer be suckling. People who live near dairy farms often report hearing separated calves and cows bellowing for each other for weeks afterwards. Smaller farms which allow cow families to stay together are few and far between, and even these, some may argue, deploy equally cruel methods.  Spiked nose rings are but one example, used to prevent the calf from suckling. The killing of calves is the dairy industry’s best kept secret, and is precisely why being vegetarian still financially supports slaughter.
Doesn’t this all seem rather ludicrous? That we would go through such an effort to consume a mammal’s secretion, especially considering that the nutrients we seek in milk come from plants anyway—cows are vegans and are fed on soya beans. George Monbiot recently wrote a compelling article about this, stating: Paradoxically, if you want to eat less soya, eat soya directly: eating animal products tends to mean consuming far more of this crop, albeit indirectly. 
In her book The Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol Adams argues that intersectional feminism should aim to alleviate the oppression of humans and non-humans alike. Obtaining cow’s milk is dependent on the exploitation of the female reproductive system; in the industry, the apparatus used to restrain cows for artificial insemination are nicknamed “rape racks.” Given this and all else that Adams argues, it is hard to make a case for being a feminist whilst continuing to drink cow’s milk.
Anyone wanting to know more should watch the film Earthlings, or visit Animal Aid’s website—and godairyfree.com provides a pretty comprehensive guide. The easiest instant switch is to buy soy, rice, oat, almond, hemp, or coconut milk instead—all available in the free from section of supermarkets.
I’ll also plug the university Veggie & Vegan Society! Like us on Facebook (search FXU Veggie and Vegan Society) and feel free to post asking for advice—we’re a friendly bunch who love to help people looking to eat more ethically, whatever stage you’re at.
Let’s leave cow’s milk for whom it belongs—their calves.