Taking Burton to the Cow Shed
Dear Bay Weekly:
Bill Burtons defense of dairy cows (The Ethical Case Against Soymilk: Nov. 27, Vol. X, No. 48) is disturbing. Im 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.
Burtons suggestion that cows wont have anything to do if we dont 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 doesnt like the taste of soymilk (I dont either) he should try rice milk on his cereal: Its 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 theyre babies.
Sally Shivnan, Churchton
Dear Bay Weekly:
Mr. Burtons picture of tranquil family farms where cows were milked by hand has faded fast in recent years. Todays 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.
Milks image is fading, too, particularly as researchers from Harvard University and elsewhere have linked milk with prostate cancer, apparently due to its effects on mens 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 cows 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. Burtons claims, cows produce milk whether contented or not.
Rebecca Dotseth, Fort Meade
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