The recent ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to uphold an ad stating that 'Humane Milk is a Myth' was a monumental day for the vegan movement and represents a huge positive shift in the way we are thinking about our food.
The ASA's decision to reject complaints of inaccuracy is being hailed as a landmark victory. The ad had received several complaints, some of which came from the dairy industry itself, claiming that it was misleading. However, the ASA found that the text on the ad, describing the separation of calves from their mothers within hours of their birth, was not an overly emotional exaggeration on the part of Go Vegan World, and not misleading.
The process Go Vegan World's ad describes is standard industry practice. Defra recommends that calves be kept with their mothers for at least 12 hours after they are born, after which time they can be taken away. Let that sink in a moment.
A cow, who has been forcibly impregnated and gone through a nine-month pregnancy - the same as humans - delivers her baby. As any mother will know, whether you are human or cow, this is a painful, stressful and exhausting experience.
Then, rather than be allowed to recover and bond with her baby, the calf she has carried and grown for nine months is taken away, causing unimaginable distress to both mother and baby. This is the 'process' the ad labelled cruel and inhumane, which was upheld by the ASA.
Mammals only produce milk when they are pregnant so it is essential to keep the cows continuously impregnated to keep the milk flowing. Their calves are then taken away to prevent them drinking the milk so it doesn't 'go to waste' and can be sold to humans. Reports attest to the fact that they call for each other in distress for weeks. Many people are horrified by this and rightly so, but this is the only way milk and dairy products can be produced on an industrial scale.
This process of impregnation, birth and milking continues on repeat, year-on-year until her body is spent and she is sent to slaughter to be used for cheap meat. The physical strain her body endures is immense. She is treated like a machine, when in fact she is a sentient, feeling being, who, if left to lead a normal and natural life, would live into her 20s, but as a dairy cow won't live past five or six. The calves, as females will live out the same fate; or if they are male, will be either shot shortly after birth as a waste product, or raised for veal or beef.
It is thought that being milked is the energetic equivalent of running a marathon every day. Imagine running for 26 miles while heavily pregnant. Is there a worse life for an animal than that of a dairy cow? As a woman, I can't imagine one. It makes The Handmaid's Tale look like a trip to Disney Land.
As the reality of this industry is brought to light, more and more consumers are opting for plant-based alternatives, that are better for humans animals and our planet. Now, in 2017, there is no need for cows to suffer for something we can get easily from plants and it is becoming clear that as a society we are starting to move past it.
The booming plant-based milk industry, set to top $16 billion next year, is testament to the fact that there is an abundance of alternatives to suit every diet and taste; from oat milk to hemp, there is something for everyone. Not only that, but research is increasingly pointing to plant-based diets as being much better for our health.
Plant milks are excellent sources of fibre and protein; they are rich in calcium, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and are naturally free of cholesterol and saturated fat. They are much easier to digest and plant foods actually have a highly protective effect on the body and have been shown to help prevent and even reverse disease.
It is no wonder people are starting to move away from dairy in their droves. It shows that we are becoming more conscious and more compassionate as a society when it comes to our food. The ASA decision confirmed this and will help consumers make healthier, kinder choices as we enter the post-milk era.