VEGGIE & VEGAN
Dairy factfile -
Good for your health?
British researchers have produced more evidence to show that a diet free of meat and dairy products may lower a man's risk for developing prostate cancer. The Oxford study of 696 men found that IGF-I levels were 9% lower in vegan men than in meat-eating men. IGF-I, insulin-like growth factor, is believed to play a key role in causing prostate cancer. The study also mentions previous population studies showing that countries with low consumption of animal products had lower rates of the disease. (Allen NE, Appleby PN, Davey GK, Key TJ. Hormones and diet: low insulin-like growth factor-I but normal bioavailable androgens in vegan men. Br J Cancer 2000;83:95-7.)
Johne's disease is a condition affecting dairy cows and - evidence suggests - some human consumers of milk. It is caused by a bacterium that interferes with digestion, lowers milk production, and eventually kills infected cows. Research has now linked the disease to the human intestinal disorder Crohn's disease, a type of inflammation in the digestive tract. It often affects young people, causing fever, diarrhoea, and pain after eating, sometimes leading to serious complications. In addition to genetic factors and bacterial infections, Crohn's disease is affected by diet. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.pcrm.org) has reported that "many people with the illness have little fiber - specifically vegetables and fruits - and too much sugar in their diet. Boosting plant foods, including whole grain bread and brown rice, while avoiding sugar, white flour, and white rice has reduced patient hospitalisations in research studies."
Extracts taken from Look after your health.
BSE & other diseases
The specific causative agent of BSE is still debated. All the main theories, however, relate to unnatural practises aimed at extracting maximum profit from animals who were already at physiological breaking point because of the volume of milk and calf "output" demanded of them. E.coli 0157 is another disease bug that thrives in stressed cattle. It is thought to spread especially easily amongst animals who are forced to endure the extra long journeys to slaughterhouses, in crowded trucks, which are now increasingly common. In March 1998, an E.coli 0157 outbreak left 21 people dead in Lanarkshire; all had eaten meat products from infected animals. Bovine TB is another serious problem amongst modern intensively reared cattle - yet thousands of badgers are being pointlessly killed under government orders to placate a farming industry that refuses to clean up its act.
Animal farming & global warming
Farmed cows and sheep generate about one-fifth of the world's methane production - thus contributing significantly to global warming. With 2.2 million dairy cows in the UK, that is 230,000 tonnes of methane every year, to which must be added the output from beef cattle and sheep. (The Guardian August 9, 2000.) Carbon dioxide is another important contributor to global warming, according to David Gee, former Director of Friends of the Earth. He believes that the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from the production of each pound of steak is equivalent to driving 25 miles in a car.
Livestock farming & water pollution
Livestock farming is one of the biggest sources of water pollution. The Meat Trades Journal itself has stated that, in the UK, 'the list of companies which have been prosecuted by the National Rivers Authority for pollution offences reads like a Who's Who of the meat and food industry'. Around one quarter of the agricultural water pollution incidents recorded by the UK National Rivers Authority are related to dairy farming. As well as being a major cause of pollution, animal farming is inefficient in its use of water. Vegetarians need less than a third as much water to sustain their diet as meat eaters do - an important advantage in a world increasingly concerned by shortages.
Extracts taken from Wrecking the planet.
The dairy industry argues that it provides irreplaceable, health-sustaining milk, cheese, yogurt and drink products. There now delicious, dairy-free versions of these, and there are no nutrients in milk products that cannot be obtained from plant food - calcium included. The best evidence indicates that a balanced non-animal diet is the healthiest there is - for children as well as for adults. Too much protein - particularly animal protein - is thought to cause the body to excrete high levels of calcium. Good sources of calcium include: some soya milks, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, tofu and dried fruit.
See also Vegetarian nutrition, Calcium and the myth about milk, More about milk, Animal-free diets for pregnant women (PCRM website) and Bringing up your baby on an animal-free diet (PCRM website). For dairy-free recipes see our Veggie Collection.
The dairy industry
In order to produce commercial quantities of milk, dairy cows are forced to endure a constant cycle of pregnancies. Calves are usually removed from their mothers within 24 hours of birth. Separation of mother and infant causes acute anxiety and suffering for both animals. Most dairy calves are considered a waste by-product and are killed within a week or two for baby food, or for cheese and pie ingredients. In modern dairy farming, cows can be expected to produce between 6,000 and 12,000 litres of milk during their 10 month lactation. This means she may be carrying in excess of 20 litres at any one time - ten times as much as would be required for her calf. Around 20% of British dairy cows are lame at any one time. Dairy cows are also prone to mastitis - an acutely painful infection of the udder caused by bacteria and other environmental pathogens entering via the teat canal. The average lifespan of modern dairy cows is only about five years - naturally, they live to an age of 25-30 years. Because of the BSE crisis, no cattle older than 30 months are permitted to go into the human food chain. Instead, they are killed and burned and their remains stored in giant warehouses around the country.
Male calves reared for beef are often castrated, despite being slaughtered before they reach sexual maturity. Methods commonly used include surgical castration, tight rubber rings that restrict blood flow, and appliances that crush the spermatic cord of each testis - the so-called "bloodless castrator". Both dairy cows and beef cattle are de-horned - a painful procedure - to prevent animals injuring each other. Horns contain both blood circulation and nerve endings, and so local anaesthesia and cauterisation are necessary to stem bleeding. If horns have already developed, they are removed with saws, horn shears or cutting wire. Young animals whose horns are not established can be disbudded. A hot iron is applied to the horn-forming tissue when the calf is 4-6 weeks old, permanently preventing growth.
Extracts taken from The suffering of farmed cattle.
Of cattle farmers' total income of £2088 million in 2003, £928 million came by way of subsidies from the taxpayer. Special compensation payments arising from the self-inflicted BSE crisis included £267 million paid for the destruction of cattle over 30 months, and £19 million for the trashing of 307,000 baby calves.
Go Veggie - it's easier than you think.