Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Friday, 11 May 2007

Milk again

Richard sent me a comment but I'm refusing to publish it because it contains a link to a ghastly piece of rubbishy propaganda by a pseudo-scientist. I'm not sure how that site relates to a revolting piece of pseudo-scientific anti-milk propaganda on a flyer from a Vegan Society, that came with a magazine we received recently—about which I had to write and complain to the relevant organisation that had accepted this piece of nonsense for circulation as paid advertising no doubt (I forget whether it was the Soil Association magazine it came with, or the Friends of the Earth, but one of those). But the web site Richard had been reading is clearly peddling the same bad arguments.

The thinking goes like this (spot the flaws):

  1. Not all human beings have the enzymes to digest unprocessed milk.
  2. In fact in some races and cultures milk is not drunk in its raw state.
  3. This means that for those races milk is not a good food. It makes them ill.
  4. Ergo, milk is not a good or natural food for human beings.
  5. Therefore all of us should stop using it as a source of nourishment.

There's another bit of the argument which appeals to "nature", and I'll have more to say about that later, because it's another very bad argument, but this one should be kept separate from the one given above.

As any rational being can see, the fact that some people don't have the enzymes to digest lactose does not mean that lactose is damaging to those who do have the necessary digestive juices. On the contrary, if you do have them, milk is a source of nourishment.

Also, it is well known that the races that do generally have the ability to digest milk are the ones who live in places where milk is a crucial part of the diet. For instance in northern climes and in areas of mountain pasture, you cannot grow high protein cereal crops. Humans can't digest grass but cows can. Cows are grazed on the grass and they produce a high energy and high protein yield, namely milk, that enables human beings to survive in those parts of the world, and to secure an adequate intake of vitamin D, calcium and protein. This is essential not just to growing children but to adults and elderly people, to prevent rickets and osteoporosis as well as general malnutrition. So it's not surprising that the lactose enzymes were a survival factor in those populations who live in such climates and in places where pasture is the only way to secure a viable diet. This means it's not just normal but vital for people in this part of the world to use milk and milk products as a staple part of a healthy diet from local resources.

Here is a picture of a child with rickets. Go to the location by clicking on the image and there's information there about how rickets is connected to lack of milk in people in northern climes and people with dark skins or those who can't digest milk. It was to prevent this happening that free codliver oil and free school milk was introduced with the welfare state in this country. It's made rickets a thing of the past, but if people start campaigning against drinking milk on specious grounds such as the above we'll have a very sad and unhealthy nation again. Does Richard take cod liver oil? I doubt it. Take care, old thing! Brittle bone disease on its way...

is some more information about the discovery of the importance of vitamin D, and other things you might not know that it helps with.


Paul said...


It's disingenuous (sorry best word I could think of) that you use a picture of a severely malnourished child to illustrate your view that milk is an essential part of the human diet.

A severely malnourished child is going to be deficient in other vital food nutrients - you cannot just say 'Ah no milk look at it's poor legs"

Milk is not configured for humans; it's formulated for the rapid growth of a calf.

Catherine Rowett said...

Paul, what do you mean by "Milk is not configured for humans; it's formulated for the rapid growth of a calf"? Do you think rice is configured for humans? Or is wheat configured for humans? Or are lentils configured for humans? Or are beefburgers and chips configured for humans? I guess one might say yes to the last of those, but it doesn't make them a very good source of nourishment for the poor child in the picture.
The fact is that had that child had half a pint of full cream cow's milk a day, then, providing the problem was not due to lack of an enzyme for the digestion of cow's milk, the likelihood is that the child would have been healthy and thriving, with an adequate intake of protein, carbohydrates, calcium and fat soluble vitamins.

Humans need to eat what provides them with an adequate intake of the crucial nutriments. The fact is that in many localities by far the most useful and secure way to obtain them is by the use of milk products. So much for it "not being formulated for humans"! It's about the most complete and healthy form of nourishment for humans that you can find.

So what do you mean by "it's not configured for humans"? Do you mean it's morally wrong to give milk to children who are malnourished?