Vegan F.A.Q. #1 – Milking backyard cows


Vegans get asked a wide assortment of questions, since at present, our lifestyle APPEARS to diverge so much from the mainstream. Some questions can be answered with a quick Google search or off the top of one’s head, but others are serious issues that require much prior thought. These are the kinds of questions I would like to address. I will address questions from both the serious, contemplative nonvegan and the nonvegan who seeks to be exceedingly annoying and attempts to invalidate veganism with a single objection to the lifestyle. The first question I will present in this series is one I personally received from a nonvegan of the former type.

If you could have a pet cow that you could milk yourself (painlessly) to get butter, cheese, milk – would you eat dairy products?

That’s a really great question. And I’ve often thought that I’d be OK with it as long as the cow had a great, natural life and lived to a natural death. I never imagined ever getting ambitious enough to own a cow though. Now, after being vegan for over a year, I’ve had time to continue to think about many things as well as fully experience a nondairy life, and I realized I wouldn’t even do this. I don’t think animal products should ever be used unless there is no other alternative, and you are starving. The thing with backyard cows is you’d most likely have to buy one from someone who breeds cows. Who knows about the ethics of that breeder, and even if they are “humane,” they are probably still killing male cows for food. I wouldn’t want to support murder in any way, even indirectly. The other thing is that you would have to every couple of years (at least) impregnate her in order for her to begin lactation; cows are like any other mammals, they do no give milk unless they have young to feed. In the dairy industry, they employ an object called the rape rack which forcibly holds the cow still while they stick their arm all the way inside her to inseminate her. I don’t know how this would be accomplished in a backyard exactly. You’d have to either buy the semen and do it yourself (no thanks) or hire someone to do this part for you. Or I guess you could rent a bull for the old-fashioned way. Again, your source for any of these animals/products/services would probably be a farmer who kills (at least) male cows, which would mean you’d be financially supporting their activities that ultimately lead to suffering and murder. Then what to do with the baby cows after each pregnancy? Especially the males? I guess you could let them go and live free somewhere. I definitely wouldn’t want to sell them back to a farmer – even if the farmer was strictly a dairy farmer. When they can no longer give good milk, dairy cows always end up going to the same slaughterhouse as any other animal raised for meat. The meat and dairy industry are inextricably linked.

All of the aforementioned aside, let’s pretend that this is more of a perfect world, and everyone is at least lacto-ovo vegetarian, with the result that we never had to kill animals for food, I still wouldn’t really care about consuming dairy. Nonvegans think vegans are living a life of lack and would go back to consuming animal products if conditions for animals were perfect with no chance for things to slip back to the way things were. That may be the case for some vegans, but for many, veganism recognizes that animals and their products should never be sold as commodities and that their property status is the root cause of the terrible injustices animals suffer, but that is an entirely different issue, which I will not elaborate on right now. To me, dairy-free food is superior. We’re the only species that continues to drink milk past a young age AND to drink it from another species on a regular basis. As if those common sense points weren’t enough, our body’s biochemistry tells us we don’t need milk much past the age of 3. The genes that code for the enzyme lactase no longer express in most people. The job of lactase is to break down lactose into simpler sugars that we can digest. Many people are lactose intolerant and don’t even know it. Plus, milk is just nasty when you think about it. It’s mammary gland secretions. And there’s pus that comes out with it sometimes. Granted, that’s mostly when the cow is cruelly and relentlessly milked by machines in the industry today, and she develops infections, but as of right now there is a legally allowable amount of pus in all dairy products. This amount is highest in the U.S.

Cow’s milk is a substance that is designed for a baby cow who is to grow at a much faster rate than even human babies. We are not babies. We are adults, and we are still consuming loads of dairy everyday! We don’t need to consume anything that promotes fast growth. We’re done growing. What we can grow, instead of longer limbs like children do, are cancer cells. Cancer is an out of control growing mass of cells that started from normal body cells. Knowing that we consume a product that highly promotes growth even beyond the realm of the growth rate of a human baby and then looking at rates of cancer in the world – you would think we would make the connection by now. Also, the protein in milk is designed for an animal with 4 stomachs. It’s complex and hard to digest. I don’t think our one stomach can do that great of a job with it.  Hmm, I wonder why dairy is associated with indigestion and constipation? Also, casein, one of the proteins in milk, promotes mucus formation in our bodies and is used to make really strong glue. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want something that is an integral part of glue to be coating my nasal passages. If that weren’t enough, we cannot even digest casein. It requires the enzyme rennin (found in calves’ stomachs, not humans’) to break be broken down into its constituent amino acids. And by the way, some cheese cannot even qualify as vegetarian because it is curdled with rennin from a slaughtered calf’s stomach. Of course the calf has rennin in his stomach because cow’s milk is the appropriate drink for a calf, not a human.

Really think about it, does it truly make sense to consume dairy? This image gets me every time –

Cut out the Middleman

I’m not going to take the time to go into the health issues associated with dairy because there are volumes written on the topic already. Just know it’s tied to cancer and osteoporosis (no, you don’t need milk for strong bones – that’s propaganda by the animal agriculture industry who puts more money into influencing the government than the entire pharmaceutical industry!) to name a couple. Diet for a New America, Breaking the Food Seduction, and The China Study are all great books that address both the health and the propaganda issues. I highly recommend these life-changing books. Diet for a New America is written by the son of Robbins of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire – he declined to take over the multi-million dollar business since the products it served were against his compassionate values and were counters to his desire for great health. The China Study is written by a Ph.D. who used to wholeheartedly support animal agriculture. He is not an animal rights activist, nor a vegan since he occasionally consumes fish, but he otherwise never consumes animal products because of his major research findings. Breaking the Food Seduction is by Neal Barnard, M.D. who grew up in a very conservative, vegan unfriendly North Dakota while consuming all kinds of animal products. He is now a vegan because of compassion and his findings on the addictive and unhealthy nature of animal-based foods.

So it all comes down to taste really. Some people don’t care about any of these issues and would still like to consume dairy. That’s where tons of awesome, nearly-identical-to-the-animal-product-laden-version vegan recipes come into play. The ONLY thing that is not perfected yet is vegan cheese. But it’s a work in progress. Many vegan companies are experimenting with microorganisms and which plant foods have the most similar protein/fat ratio to dairy. Even if someone gets the taste, texture, and melt down exactly, I don’t think it will ever be quite as addictive as the animal product since dairy products naturally contain opiates, including morphine. People are literally addicted to dairy.

There’s so much wrong with dairy, I just wouldn’t want to mess with it again especially when I’ve even conquered the tasty food issue by exceeding my expectations time after time with vegan recipes.

Ok, I lied, it also comes down to convenience in the end, for many people. Dairy is present in so many pre-packaged foods at a typical grocery store. However, things are looking up because non-dairy foods are becoming more and more in demand. So to this I say, if you truly cannot become a vegan with where you are in life right now (laziness and unmotivation don’t count), then please always choose a vegan product when you do have the option. As an example, you could choose soy/rice/hemp/oat/almond/coconut milk instead of dairy milk. Soy, rice, and almond milks are usually easy to find now. One day there will be vegan options everywhere, so please help that day get here faster by voting with your money and showing that you want nondairy alternatives.

This post was just to answer why vegans would not elect to keep and milk a cow even if done as nicely as possible.  I hardly touched on the horrendous things that typical dairy cows face. If you are still consuming dairy from any source, please view this link. It is a site published by an organization based in the UK, but the conditions for cows in the US and other parts of the world are even worse. And if you think organic dairy means happy cows, please view this link. The true answer is just to release animals from our bonds of exploitation for their products and replace our beloved, traditional foods with equally satisfying vegan versions.

Stay tuned for the next FAQ – to be posted when I get around to it :)

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18 Responses to “Vegan F.A.Q. #1 – Milking backyard cows”

  • Edward Says:

    That’s great Lindsey!
    I haven’t bought real milk for about 18 months now, always soy because I prefer it, and it’s just as convenient. As far as avoiding products that contain dairy (like cakes, or pizzas) that’s going too far for me unfortunately.

    If they had 2 cakes or 2 pizzas side by side and one was vegan and the other one was not, I’d definitely choose the vegan one. Otherwise I wouldn’t have much to buy from my local supermarket or the sandwich shops near work :-(

    At least cheese here doesn’t contain rennet though, even though non-veggie cheese is 1:15000 rennet I still don’t eat it.

  • Edele H Says:

    Thank you Lindsey for this incredibly informative piece. I haven’t had dairy in about 2 years after seeing Earthlings. Personally, I enjoy finding new dairy alternatives. I think it’s fun trying new products and seeing which ones I like. Anything that helps eliminate animal suffering is okay by me. There are so many alternatives today there is no excuse to still be consuming dairy. Thanks again for sharing !

    Peace and Love :)

  • Lindsey Says:

    Edward – Thank you :) Good for you making vegan choices when you can. We may not see a vegan world in our lives, but I do believe we’ll see a world where vegan options are everywhere one day. So then you’ll have to be vegan =P Like I’ve told you a while back, I’d probably be trying to suggest a million things you could eat instead of stuff with dairy, but I know hardly anything about the availability of foods in the UK, so I can’t just tell you veganism is easy like it is for me. I do sacrifice going to a lot of restaurants, but I also live close to a Whole Foods where I can find a lot of vegan products. Plus my bosses keep the freezer at work stocked with vegan convenience food, so I don’t have to worry about going out for lunch everyday when I’m at the office.

    Edele – Glad you liked the post. I agree – when the alternative is there, there’s no excuse! :) Thanks for your comment!

  • Missy Says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the article!!! I think at this juncture–given the choice, I simply couldn’t eat meat or dairy. The question I get asked quite often usually starts with “So, you’re telling me, if meat was the only thing on earth you had to eat-you wouldn’t eat it?” I always reply, I’m vegan NOT stupid. BUT, as long as I have a choice, I will choose vegan.

    Lindsey Reply:

    Thanks, Missy! :) So many people don’t understand what veganism is about – it’s about reducing harm in every possible way without harming yourself. So if meat was absolutely the only thing to eat for miles and for days or weeks, as in it was eat or die, vegans don’t see this as necessarily wrong. I can’t say all vegans would choose to eat it even if they were starving, but some vegans would.

  • Gary Loewenthal Says:

    In addition to all the excellent points you raised:

    – Modern cows have been bred to produce up to 10 times more milk than normal. No matter how one got a cow pregnant, this huge overage of milk production causes hardships: It robs the cow’s body of calcium, which can lead to weak bones and, in some cases, lameness, and it increases the chance of painful udder infections.

    – Cows are social animals, and a solitary cow is likely to be lonely.

    Lindsey Reply:

    Thanks for this info, Gary! I always appreciate learning more in order to dispel every possible myth about dairy that I can.

  • gunnard Says:

    “veganism recognizes that animals and their products should never be sold as commodities and that their property status is the root cause of the terrible injustices animals suffer” — that pretty much covers it ;)

    Lindsey Reply:

    Hehe, thanks for the comment, Gunnard – glad we agree on something so fundamental :)

  • Satish Bhardwaj Says:

    I won’t want to be vaganized althoough I’m not drinking cow’s or goat’s milk because I only drink soy milk because of my prostate problem. I’m told that eating soy products helps a prostate although drinking soy milk, eating soy yogurt has not helped much. If I had money I’d buy a cow and milking it and donate its milk. I’d let my neighbors milk my cows. I do not think milking a cow is herrendous. The article has shown a man sucking the teats of a cow. The only danger is that some cows might break his jaw because the cows legs are very powerful. This cow seems to be very gentle and her udder is pretty low. Lying on the ground the man’s mouth can reach the teats of the cow. Not all cows have udders this low and your mouth would not reach the teats if you were lying on the ground. And you’ve to be careful you don’t bite the teats when you put it into your mouth. I’m sure the author of this site is a PETA member. I’m afraid of these Peta Members. They might start killing people who milk cows. They are a dangerous sort. They should be put into jail for trying to veganise people. I for one do not want to be veganize . If I can receive enough donations to buy a small farm with twenty cows I’d leave the city and move on to the farm and make videos to show that I’m keeping the cows happy. After all the people who drink Milk and eat cheese and yogurt make it opssible for the cow to have a life. It gets milked but it also gets fed.

    Lindsey Reply:

    Actually, no, I’m not a PETA member, and many vegans are not PETA members and in fact are very much against their tactics. However, as crazy as PETA appears, even they do NOT condone violence against humans. Overall, veganism is a movement of nonviolence and liberty for all. We want to give all sentient beings the right to freely and naturally live their lives without us exploiting them for their body parts or secretions. If humans needed cow breast milk to live, that would be one thing, but the fact is no one needs it. It is an unnecessary product, and we are interfering in another being’s life for no good reason except for profit and taste.
    I am surprised that you would still want to drink milk after reading this post about everything that is in milk.
    “They should be put into jail for trying to veganise people.” In America, we have free speech. We can say whatever we like. No one should be put into jail for expressing their views. Also, what is the crime in someone becoming vegan? Millions of people are vegans and are happy and healthy. It’s in no way a harmful lifestyle that someone should be put into jail just for promoting it.
    Finally, It’s not about keeping the dairy slaves in good conditions because it’s still SLAVERY. It’s about letting them be free to live their lives as they wish without our interference. The milk they produce is for their babies just as the milk we produce is for our human babies. Leave the cows alone!

  • Tessa Says:

    Forgive me for sounding smarmy, but I have to ask, if we let the cows live freely, won’t they reproduce themselves and still overproduce milk and develop infections? Actually, a cow starts going into heat at about 8 months of age, and enters heat monthly unless she is pregnant, so you’re likely to have more health problems in your free cow farm than not, because animals will get pregnant more often, and start getting pregnant before their bodies are large enough to cope very well. Additionally, a free cow will not be “dried off” for the last months of her pregnancy to conserve energy for gestation. How should one cope with these issues? Should we separate the sexes? That hardly seems to be offering a free, natural existence by depriving them of their natural urges. Additionally, I am yet unaware of a safe way to house multiple bulls without risking severe injury to the bulls themselves or to their caretakers. I appreciate your idea of returning animals to this pastoral lifestyle, but I think that its practice would be irresponsible.

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  • kristin Says:

    I deffinately wouldnt. For one I am allergic to milk. But as a kid I was raised with cows, pigs and chickens. They had acres and acres to roam and werent even fenced in during the day. My family always drank a lot of milk, which is probably why my father has congestive heart failure…I mean he drank it by the gallon. On my moms side, no one really uses milk and they are all healthier. I just cant fathom drinking milk of another species. We are the only species that consumes another speicies milk. It is meant to make a baby cow grow to be a big cow…Id rather not turn into a human cow. there is no nutritional reason to consume milk. :) And I dont like being stuck in the bathroom doubled over for days after drinking it. Have a cow as a pet, theyre great animals, but leave the milk for the baby cows.

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