I recently got a note from Diane, who was upset with me for supporting the consumption of dairy products.
“No human should be consuming milk after they’ve been weaned from their mother’s breast,” she wrote. “It is completely unnatural. Cow’s milk is intended only for baby cows—and it’s cruel to take the milk away from the calves for whom it is clearly intended. Need calcium? Milk, which may contribute to osteoporosis and numerous other health issues, is the last place you should be getting it.”
Before I respond to Diane’s remarks, I just want to repeat something I’ve said many times before: Drinking milk is not necessary for good nutrition (or strong bones) and I completely support anyone who decides for whatever reason that they don’t want to consume it. If you’ve decided you don’t want to drink milk, I am not going to try to talk you into it.
If, on the other hand, you ask me about the benefits or risks of dairy (or any other food), I will try to give you a balanced and evidence-based answer, so that you can base your decision on good information.
I’ve certainly heard these arguments against drinking milk before. Maybe you’ve heard them too. Maybe you’ve made them! Often there is a lot of emotion involved, which can make it hard to have a productive conversation about this issue. But I’d like to try.
Although they are often all jumbled together, there are actually three completely different arguments being presented here.
- Drinking milk is unnatural
- Drinking milk is unhealthy
- Drinking milk is cruel
It’s possible to accept or reject one of these arguments without accepting or rejecting them all. So, let’s consider them one by one.