The science is in: switching to a plant-based diet is one of the best ways consumers can help the environment. Avoiding dairy products is almost sacrilegious for many Kiwis, who were raised on milk long after their mothers stopped lactating. 75% of the world’s population find it difficult to digest lactose after infancy.
The New Zealand Vegan Society is celebrating World Plant Milk Day 2018 today (August 22nd) to encourage omnivores to substitute just one item in their cupboard: milk.
With an ever-expanding world of “mylks” out there – soy, almond, coconut, oat, etc. - there’s an option to suit everyone’s milk preference. Almond is a delight on cereal, oat is creamy and full, and fermented rice milk can be added to a cup missing that rare pus flavour only cow milk can provide.
The economic benefit for producers to switch to plant-based milk products is also notable. A pea-based milk uses 93% less water than a dairy farm, and it’s also much more energy-efficient and space-saving.
Dairy farming is one of the largest sources of pollution in New Zealand. Agriculture, in general, is the biggest producer of greenhouse gases – they produce significantly more than even the oil and gas industry. Water Quality NZ has reported that the environmental costs of dairy farming are valued at up to $15 billion, and this figure only includes a selection of impacts.
When it comes to animal welfare, there’s no argument. Anyone ignoring the facts around animal sentience and the treatment of livestock would be performing an impressive feat of willful ignorance. In New Zealand, up to two million calves per year are removed from their mothers to be killed for pet food, at approximately 4 days old. The mothers are impregnated again only two months later, so they can keep producing milk.
Drinking plant-based milk is a more compassionate choice, but everyone knows that. It’s the financial and health incentives that are swaying both producers and consumers toward plant milk. “Plant milk has none of the drawbacks,” said Vegan Society spokesperson Claire Insley. The don’t increase HDL cholesterol like a diet heavy in dairy products, eggs, and meat would. “Around the world countries are updating their nutritional guidelines to increase the daily recommended fruit and veg portions and reduce the recommended dairy and meat ones.”
There’s no need for consumers to panic about losing out on valuable vitamins, either. No-one relies on cow milk for their iron, and many plant milk is calcium boosted. The New Zealand Vegan Society asks Kiwis try a seven-day dairy free challenge. Moore information is available here: http://www.worldplantmilkday.com/