Letters to the Editor

 Vol. 10, No. 50

December 12-18, 2002

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Taking Burton to the Cow Shed

Dear Bay Weekly:
Bill Burton’s defense of dairy cows (“The Ethical Case Against Soymilk”: Nov. 27, Vol. X, No. 48) is disturbing. I’m not a member of PETA, not even a complete vegetarian, but I do know that dairy is scary. Numerous studies have linked a variety of health problems to dairy consumption, including ovarian, breast and prostate cancer.

We never hear much about this because the dairy industry is a huge lobby and has a marketing machine that keeps convincing us we need dairy for strong bones. Studies prove otherwise, like the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 75,000 women for 12 years and showed no reduction of fracture risk from increased dairy consumption and in fact showed a higher risk of fracture. In children, dairy has been linked to increased incidence of food allergies and other problems. For details on the research, as well as other ways to get calcium, check out the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine website, www.pcrm.org, put out by a group of concerned doctors headquartered in Washington, DC.

Burton’s suggestion that cows won’t have anything to do if we don’t drink their milk is silly. Over time, decreased dairy sales would simply mean the breeding of fewer cows (and an end to the need to feed them antibiotics and added hormones, which end up in their milk, along with traces of pesticides). If he doesn’t like the taste of soymilk (I don’t either) he should try rice milk on his cereal: It’s excellent. And he might pause to wonder why a grown man would want to drink the breast milk of a cow, which even cows only drink when they’re babies.

—Sally Shivnan, Churchton

Dear Bay Weekly:
Mr. Burton’s picture of tranquil family farms where cows were milked by hand has faded fast in recent years. Today’s factory-style operations stress resources to the limit. Since the 1993 legalization of bovine growth hormone, farmers have been using it to produce massive amounts of milk. This often causes cows to develop distended, infected udders, requiring treatment with antibiotics. If the farmer is not careful, antibiotics can then end up in the milk consumers buy.

Milk’s image is fading, too, particularly as researchers from Harvard University and elsewhere have linked milk with prostate cancer, apparently due to its effects on men’s hormones. It is also well established that milk is associated with type 1 (juvenile-onset) diabetes.

As for soymilk, the flavors are as varied as the cereals they top. For the sake of better health, they are well worth a try: In a study of 13,855 men, daily soymilk consumption was associated with a 70 percent reduction in prostate cancer compared to those who never drank the beverage. From a health standpoint, there is every reason to leave cow’s milk to calves and to choose the many healthful alternatives.

— Neal D. Barnard, M.D., Chevy Chase

Dear Bay Weekly:
Dairy cows most certainly do not lead pampered lives as Mr. Burton contends. If he has not been on a dairy farm in over 60 years, please let him know a lot has changed. Five million dairy cows now grow up on what are termed factory farms. They are about as dreadful as they sound: Cows live crowded into concrete-floored pens and are milked by machinery. They are artificially inseminated and give birth every 12 months in order to keep giving milk. Half suffer from mastitis, a painful udder infection (statistic from the Humane Society of the United States). And, of course, many are pumped full of hormones, antibiotics and high-energy feed — all so they can give milk at up to 10 times their natural pace and live less than a quarter of their natural lives.

With such technology, contrary to Mr. Burton’s claims, cows produce milk whether contented or not.

— Rebecca Dotseth, Fort Meade

We welcome your letters and opinions. We will edit when necessary. Include your name, address and phone number for verification. Mail them to Bay Weekly, P.O. Box 358, Deale, MD 20751 • E-mail them to us at [email protected].

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly