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Ethical Reasons to Give Up Dairy Products

Some people avoid dairy out of a strong sense of ethics and compassion for animals. If you’ve ever shared your life with a dog or cat — or even a rat — you know that animals have feelings. They express excitement, happiness, fear, and anger. There’s no mistaking the meaning of a wagging tail and nudge of a nose, or a yelp, meow, or squeak of excitement when a treat is offered or a dinner bowl is set out.

Even if you don’t share your home with a cow, it isn’t difficult to imagine that like other mammals you know and love, cows have feelings, too. They may not look like your dogs, cats, or rats, but they feel pleasure and pain just the same.

Given the fact that animals have feelings, many people can’t help but be upset with how unpleasant it is for dairy cows to live their lives confined to factory farms. They remain there until they’re no longer of use. At that point, they’re sent to the slaughterhouse where their lives end violently. Even animals raised on small, mom-and-pop farms where they have access to more space may have their lives ended violently.

Many people who go dairy-free do it as part of an ethical stance. They believe it’s immoral to exploit animals for food that they don’t need. They don’t want to support the treatment that the animals receive in factory farms — or any farms, for that matter. They also don’t want to drink milk and eat other dairy products because by doing so, they indirectly support the meat industry, including the inhumane treatment of male calves in the veal trade.

Another ethical consideration concerns the links between the dairy industry and the health of the planet. Some dairy-free folks avoid dairy products as a way of making an individual contribution to preserving the environment and the quality of the planet’s soil, water, and air. The production and distribution of meat and milk products affect the environment through deforestation, noxious emissions and intensive use of resources like petroleum.

Because of these effects, some people choose their foods not only by their nutritional value but also by their environmental score. Of course, going dairy-free would garner a low (favorable) environmental score (and also may offer health advantages).

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