It is estimated that around 11,000 years ago “dairying” practices began with the transition from hunter-gathering to agriculture. Archaeological evidence supporting this includes bone growth patterns of cattle: calves would be killed before their first birthday so that humans could exploit their mothers for milk; cattle that were full grown at the time of slaughter would be used for meat consumption. As time went on, cattle became even more of an integral part of human culture: “Cattle bones represent more than two-thirds of the animal bones in many late Neolithic and early Bronze Age archaeological sites in central and northern Europe.” Researchers believe that in those regions, dairy products were an advantage because they could “hedge against famine.”
The above highlights an article recently published in Nature, which details the link between dairy products and human settlement. What’s interesting to me is why the consumption of dairy products has persisted, considering that the reasons our ancestors may have valued it may no longer be relevant; and further, given dairy’s toxicity to most people, the cruelty of the dairy industry, and that it’s plainly unhealthy (not to mention, weird when you think about it).
Only 35% of the human population can digest lactose beyond the age of about seven or eight. “If you’re lactose intolerant and you drink half a pint of milk, you’re going to be really ill. Explosive diarrhoea — dysentery essentially,” says Oliver Craig, an archaeologist at the University of York, UK. “I’m not saying it’s lethal, but it’s quite unpleasant.”
For most people, dairy consumption makes sense because of its alleged health benefits. For example, the US government touts milk as being a good preventative of osteoporosis (see also here). However, the highest rates of osteoporosis are seen in countries where people consume the highest amount of dairy!
The cruelty of the dairy industry is another reason why I’m puzzled that people continue to drink milk. Milk belongs to calves, and not us. Watch this, and then see if you still want to enjoy that glass of milk:
But there is good news! The USDA found in a recent report that “Americans are drinking less and less milk, and each generation consumes less than the prior one.” YES!!! In fact:
Since 1970, per capita milk consumption has fallen from 0.96 cup-equivalents per day to about 0.61 cup-equivalents per day. In 2007-08, preadolescent children drank, on average, 30% less milk than children in 1977-78 drank while Americans over the age of 13 drank 25% less milk.
Even better: because the trends are generational, they are not expected to reverse! This is wonderful news, not only for human health, but for the animals. Why should we continue to drink milk, risking our health and exploiting cows, when there is an abundance of non-dairy options that offer greater health benefits with better taste? For example, for those of us without nut allergies, almond milk is a wonderful source of calcium and vitamin D. Non-nut milks include hemp, soy or rice, which all provide nutritional benefits. Drink up!
For more information on the health risks of milk consumption, please check out:
- PCRM: Health Concerns about Dairy Products
- DNews: Milk: Does It Really Do a Body Good?
- Mark Hyman, MD: Dairy: 6 Reasons You Should Avoid It at All Costs or Why Following the USDA Food Pyramid Guidelines is Bad for Your Health (VIDEO)