How did we get so far as to celebrate World School Milk Day?
The last Wednesday in September is celebrated as World School Milk Day. Milk is glorified and children are being told that they need it to have healthy bones and grow big and strong. But we, Viva!, are asking teachers and parents to do quite the opposite - NOT to give children milk and to give it up themselves.
The reason is simple. We’re better off without milk, we don’t need it and it’s kinder to the environment and the cows themselves. In fact, there’s no good reason to drink it or eat dairy products. So many people who have switched to a dairy-free lifestyle see the benefits – better skin, better digestion, faster recovery from respiratory diseases – and in the long run, they’re at a lower risk of several types of cancer. People in countries where milk consumption is very low have much better bone health than milk drinking nations.
So why do we think we need it? It’s simply because of the dairy industry’s marketing. They bombard us with ‘educational’ materials and adverts from an early age, through teenage years, increase the pressure on parents and finally tell older people they need it to prevent osteoporosis. The British dairy industry spends millions on advertising every year – in 2012 (latest available figure), it was £124.2 million. And the amount of money spent on dairy promotion keeps growing by millions every year.
In the UK, the dairy industry is supported and promoted by the DairyCo. One of their main aims is “promoting the positive perception of dairy farming with the general public”. On the EU level, there’s the European School Milk Scheme. The EU gives subsidies to schools so that they can provide their students with milk. The aim, as they say, is: “to encourage children to consume milk and milk products and develop a lasting habit of doing so.”1 They can’t say it’s essential or healthy, simply because it isn’t.
All these campaigns and initiatives avoid mentioning the unappealing practices that dairy farming is based on, such as shooting newborn male calves, are very simplistic and offer a rose-tinted view of what goes on at a dairy farm. And the simple facts that humans don’t need cow’s milk to survive, that cow’s milk is linked to many diseases (cancer, asthma, IBS, heart disease, gallstones, migraine) and that we have evolved to consume only human breast milk until weaning, are also conveniently omitted.
Furthermore, people of many ethnicities are more likely to be lactose intolerant so putting pressure on them to give their children milk is unethical and downright wrong. Many parents might not realise that their children’s digestive problems are, in fact, lactose intolerance and when pressured by schools to carry on buying dairy products, it’s difficult for them to see where the problem is.
Cutting out dairy is a positive step making people feel and look better and should be regarded as such. How about a World Plant-milk Day?
We’re helping people make the transition with a brand new guide Everyone’s Going Dairy-free, full of practical information and advice.
And we also published a guide summarising the main reasons for going dairy-free, Why You Don’t Need Dairy.
All our resources are free to download.
1 Rural Payments Agency, 2013. RPA Schemes – School Milk Subsidy [online]: https://www.gov.uk/dairy-farming-and-schemes
Milk and health: Butler,J., 2014. White Lies [online] http://www.whitelies.org.uk/sites/default/files/milkmyths/White%20Lies%20report%202014.pdf
British Dairy Industry: Powell, V.,2014. The Dark Side of Dairy [online] http://www.whitelies.org.uk/sites/default/files/Dark-Side-of-Dairy-report-2014.pdf