You’re getting bilked by milk

World Plant Milk Day is August 22. Plant milk is nutritious. Plant milk is environmentally friendly. Plant milk doesn’t exploit animals. Plant milk—oat, almond, soy, coconut—is better than cow’s milk.

Only humans (and companion animals fed by humans) drink the milk of another species. If hamsters consumed giraffe milk, people would find it bizarre. Yet grocery stores still sell—and many people inexplicably still drink—white liquid secretions from a cow’s udder. Humans are also the only species that consumes milk beyond infancy. High school cafeterias don’t serve baby food. But encouraging teenagers to ingest bovine juice is still seen, by some, as “normal.”


Fortunately, society is changing. Vegan milk is skyrocketing in popularity, while sales figures for cow’s milk are at an all-time low. No wonder the dairy industry has gotten desperate, even trying to copyright the word milk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration denied that ridiculous request, allowing vegan brands to call themselves hazelnut milk and rice milk. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to require dairy milk cartons to be more accurately labeled as “bovine mammary secretions.” Or, cow’s milk could simply be called bilk. “You’ve just been manipulated by the dairy industry. Got bilked?”

Still, the multibillion-dollar dairy industry has its allies. Some coffee chains, for example, add an upcharge to their nondairy milk offerings. Customers have to pay more for doing the right thing. If businesses truly valued their customers, they would do the right thing and charge less for vegan milk. Meanwhile, the greater cost of the price hike comes at the expense of our planet.

Dairy milk is environmentally destructive, as cows—who require much more land and water than plants do—emit copious amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, helping to drive the climate catastrophe. Or to put it more plainly, drinking dairy milk requires bovine burps, cow farts, fecal waste and methane. Soy milk and hemp milk are sustainable and help keep the Earth habitable.

Younger Americans in particular are choosing to drink less cow’s milk. Generation Z bought 20% less cow’s milk than the national average last year, which benefits the lives of Generation C—calves. On dairy farms, baby cows are taken away from their mothers within hours of birth. They are fed milk “replacers” (including cattle blood) so that their mothers’ milk can be sold to humans.

The cruel cycle continues. Cows produce milk only during and after pregnancy, so roughly every nine months, cows on dairy farms are forcibly impregnated in order to continue their milk production. Suffering inside cramped, filthy enclosures, these complex, sensitive individuals are manipulated into producing nearly 10 times as much milk as they would naturally.

Drinking dairy milk isn’t just sickening. It also makes you sick. “Bilk” has been linked to an increased risk of some types of cancer, and it steals calcium from your bones. Studies have found that people who consume a lot of cow’s milk have a higher rate of bone fractures. Trying to safeguard your bones by drinking dairy is like paying a bully “protection money” when they are the ones you need protection from.

Cows on factory farms spend their days in filthy, unsanitary conditions. They’re pumped full of antibiotics to keep them alive and producing “product,” leading to a surge in drug-resistant bacteria. Nobody would grow fruit in a sewer, yet we look away from the rancid, disease-ridden process that exploits cows for their milk. And in the end, when their bodies have given out, they’re sent to slaughter.

Celebrate World Plant Milk Day today and every day. Drink oat milk. Try a glass of flax milk. Treat yourself to a macadamia milkshake. And leave bovine mammary secretions to the cows.