Standing together for science

The news from the Times about how vegans are 40% more likely to suffer bone fractures than omnivores comes as no surprise to us here in the dairy industry. I scrolled through the comments, which is always an exercise in trying not to respond to people offering up the half truths and dodgy science of the “milk as pus” brigade, countered by the folks who growing up always ate a side of beef, drank a bucket of milk and then went off to the mills, and those telling the old saw, “How do you know if a person is a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” Never mind.

To the first, I always want to say, please give us the name of your biology teacher, but maybe that’s not a road we want to go down.

The fact that these commentators started in on the dairy industry, even though dairy is not really mentioned in the article, shows how those of us in the animal husbandry industry, no matter where we are in the chain, have to stand together. It’s not enough to say, oh, they’re not talking about me. They are talking about you and will continue to do so.

As Dr Peer Ederer of the Global Food and Agribusiness Network, said at the European Dairy Association’s virtual annual convention, about those who speak loudly online, “They’re not against dairy, they’re against animals. I advise the dairy sector to enlarge and improve your game against them. Don’t pretend that you’re not somehow animal based, because when people attack meat, they attack you. Look for friends in adjacent sectors.”

Dairy is also an easy hit because 98% of the UK public has some dairy in their refrigerators. They may not eat as much meat, but dairy is there on their shelves everyday – milk, yogurts, ice cream. People have grown up with it and with the recent pandemic, they’ve reconnected with it, consuming more of it globally. As Dr Judith Bryans said at the same meeting, “Dairy’s story goes wide and deep.”

Dr Ederer further notes, “Most consumers still believe in the natural goodness of the dairy product. Do you really want to trade it in for factory made food? Do you want to become a factory based product that is not attached to empirical evidence? Embrace vegan dairy as an ingredient, but not as a replacement. When the accounting is corrected, cow based dairy will triumph as an environmental food system. Fight against the urban utopia of vegan dairy. Fortunately, the facts are on your side.”

They are, but sometimes facts are not enough, especially in these strange times. But by sticking together and realising this whole discussion is a marathon, not a sprint, is a good place to continue the fight.

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