As a Swedish native, and a current resident of the Netherlands, I’m no foreigner to widespread and liberal milk consumption. Both Swedes and Dutch people are among the people who drink the most milk in the world. I felt prompted to write about this after seeing a little infographic that presents everything very clearly concerning milk production and consumption. However, it is in Swedish… So, here we go.
Humans are the only mammals that continues to drink the mammary secretions of another species throughout their entire lives.
I see two strange things present in the previous sentence. The first is that the milk is from another species. The formula of milk is cleverly designed to match the needs of the concerned offspring, and the composition thereof changes over time as the offspring grows. Calves need to grow exponentially, so cow’s milk contains more protein than human milk, and differs in other respects as well. Human babies are not calves.
Second of all: throughout life?! Everyone who’d find it strange if we never weaned off our mothers, please raise your hands. Obviously, it’d also be strange if mothers never stopped producing milk. But, they do, hence this is a hypothetical scenario. We stop nursing because we grow and develop, and start to be able to consume other products and thus meet our nutritional needs by combining different foods. Along with this, most people lose the ability to digest lactose (milk sugar). In some regions, a mutation is widespread, causing the populations to still have the enzyme lactase which splices lactose into it’s two simple sugar constituents glucose and galactose. Now, it is certainly plausible that this mutation remains with us to this day due to that those who had it in the past were more likely to pass their genes on, for instance if food was scarce and milk offered a significant source of energy and nutrients.
Today, in this part of the world, food is not a scarce resource. We have a lot of food and we have a lot of resources to utilize which can support certain habits we have. For instance, many people really like/find it convenient to have milk/yoghurt and cereal in the morning, and that is not made impossible by choosing to abstain from milk, because we can produce a dozen other kinds of milk from nuts, seeds, grains — whatever. They have different flavors and nutritional profiles so that you can choose what suits you best. If you have concerns about soy, you can do some research or read this.
I don’t intend to discuss any health aspects of consuming dairy, because it’d take forever. The brief statement has been dropped before: if we were intended to consume cow’s milk, we would be calves. Giving birth to a calf is what makes the cow produce milk. So for us to obtain the milk, we need to make sure that the calf doesn’t take it from us! So we take it away. Gotta keep the veal in stock. We milk the cow in a dirty factory for about ten months, and for productivity’s sake we artificially inseminate her again before half of that time has passed, so that she won’t run dry. Are there no women around who’d like to be pregnant and/or breastfeeding for their entire lives? It sounds so relaxing. This is in Swedish, but if you want to see some pictures you can check it out.
Cows have a natural lifespan of about 18 years. Calves for veal go quickly, bulls go within 2 years, milking cows go after about 5, from exhaustion.