Is Breast Milk Vegan?

Many vegan mothers are asked whether they plan to breastfeed their babies, as a result of the misperception that vegans might choose to eschew human milk because they don’t believe in consuming anything that comes from an animal. (Yes, humans are animals, too!) But this misses the point that being vegan isn’t just a dietary choice – it’s a lifestyle based on the desire not to cause harm to other living beings.

Breastfeeding human baby

There’s nothing more natural than a mother feeding her baby with the milk her body produced for him or her. Yet mother cows are denied this experience when they’re treated as nothing more than milk-producing machines for the dairy industry’s gain.

cow suckling from mother's udder

The fundamental difference between breastfeeding a baby and drinking another animal’s milk is the issue of consent. Human mothers who breastfeed generally do so willingly to nourish their babies, but cows who are exploited by the dairy industry don’t get a choice in the matter. They’re plugged into machines, which pull roughly at their udders, and drained of the milk intended for their babies – all so that humans can consume it themselves.

Nobody should be abused, misused, and stripped of their rights.

On dairy farms, workers forcibly impregnate cows via artificial insemination, only to take their newborn babies away. Farmers then sell the milk that nature intended for these calves to humans. This separation is traumatic for both mother cows and their young. The mothers have been known to bellow for days afterwards, desperately calling out for their babies.

Farmers see male calves as “by-products” with little commercial value, so they shoot most of them at birth. Female calves, like their mothers, face a lifetime of repeated forcible impregnation and anguish over their lost babies. Their bodies will be pushed to the limit in order to squeeze out every last drop of milk.

a cow's udder in a milking machine

Cows’ milk is for calves.

There’s something truly sinister about artificially inseminating a cow and forcing her to give birth, only to tear her beloved calf away from her so that the milk that nature intended for her offspring can be consumed by humans – and adult humans, no less. Humans are the only species on the planet to drink milk as adults – and the only one to drink the mammary secretions of other animals.

The milk that cows produce is tailored to the needs of their own growing young. Unlike human children, calves tend to weigh over 200 kilograms by their first birthday. Cows’ milk contains a large quantity of protein, which is suitable for a calf’s rapid growth rate but exceeds a human baby’s requirements. For humans, cows’ milk is too low in iron, is too high in fat, and contains calcium and casein in amounts so large that they constrain the absorption of dietary non-haem iron.

Go Vegan

With so many delicious and healthy plant-based options available, going vegan is now easier than ever. Take our vegan pledge to receive tips from PETA on eating vegan. Tell your friends about it, too, and persuade them to follow your example!

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