If you’re still new to the subject of veganism and what it does and doesn’t involve, you may have wondered whether vegans drink milk or not and the reason for this. This is what I’m going to answer for you today.
Vegans don’t drink milk because milk is a substance that comes from animals. The exception to this rule is when the milk comes from another willing human, for example when a human mother breastfeeds her baby.
In this article we’ll further explore why vegans don’t drink milk, the role plant based ‘milks’ play and more.
What Is Milk (First Things First)
Before we can fully understand why milk isn’t a substance suitable for vegans, first we need to understand what milk actually is and how it comes about:
- The first thing that makes something a milk is it’s produced from a female mammal with the key purpose of providing nutrients for their offspring. 1
- Regarding the look, milk is generally a white liquid that can also contain tinges of yellow, blue and other colours.
- In order for a mammal to be able to produce milk, it needs to be either currently pregnant, or recently pregnant.
- After a period of no longer being pregnant and no longer breast feeding, the female’s ability to produce milk gradually goes away.
An important point to note so we can better tackle the rest of this topic, is that the process of extracting milk from a mammal’s teat is called milking. 2
Why Vegans Don’t Drink Milk
So now we technically know what milk is (not based on assumptions and opinion), let’s look at the reason milk can’t be consumed by vegans.
In order to get milk from a female mammal for human consumption, this female mammal needs to be:
- Currently or recently pregnant.
- Milked by a human manually or via a milking machine.
When milking using a machine, something called a ‘teat cup’ is placed on the animal’s teat, and the machine goes on to suction milk out of their body. 3
It’s important to note that this process isn’t done willingly by the animal being milked.
These animals used for commercialised milk production are generally kept pregnant for unnaturally long periods of time against their will.
For example, in farms, cows that are classed as ‘dairy cows’ are artificially impregnated every year. 4
And once the cow gives birth to their baby, the baby is then taken away from its mother so the milk can be taken for human consumption. 5
This process clearly exploits these animals.
These cows haven’t decided that they want to be artificially inseminated, have their babies snatched away at birth and then milked due to a growing and unnatural human demand of animal milk.
And I’m not calling the process of drinking cow’s milk unnatural due to personal feelings.
I’m calling it unnatural because humans don’t naturally drink the milk of other mammals.
We are designed to drink milk produced by our human mothers while they can still produce this milk, and as we grow up our bodies are designed to survive on other foods the land provides.
As far as scientists can tell, no other animals continue to routinely drink milk throughout their adult lives; just us. 6
In other words, the demand for cow milk, goat milk, or any other non-human mammal milk, is a man-made construct.
The point of the above is to show that in order to get non-human produced milk to be consumed by humans, other animals need to be exploited.
As a big part of being a vegan is to not exploit animals as much as humanly possible, vegans don’t drink milk. 7
The exception to this rule is when the milk is provided by another willing human to nourish a human of their choosing.
An example of this is when a human mother breastfeeds her baby; in this case the milk is considered vegan as no exploitation has occurred.
What About Soy Milk? Or Other Kinds Of ‘Milk’ Like Almond Milk, Oat Milk, Rice Milk Etc?
There’s a chance that you may have heard about vegan alternatives to milk.
If you have, you may have heard them being referred to as names such as soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, cashew milk and the like.
So if vegans don’t drink milk, but these are all types of ‘milk’ that are suitable for vegan consumption, what gives?
Well, the answer lies in the fact that these products aren’t accurately named.
Again, by definition, milk is produced by a female mammal. 8
As these milk substitutes are made from non-animal products (they’re actually plant based), they aren’t technically milk despite what they have commonly been branded as.
There are various debates about this, with the dairy industry claiming that these milk substitutes shouldn’t be allowed to be called milk. 9
And while I don’t agree with the dairy industry in many cases, I happen to agree with them here (eek).
Yes, they are milk alternatives, but they aren’t milk.
If anything, we shouldn’t be trying to brand our plant-based products in line with practices that exploit animals (such as milking unwilling mammals, artificially impregnating them, taking away their babies etc).
I get why these milk alternative makers want to call their products milk.
It makes it a much easier sell as it makes it more instantly recognisable as to what role the product should play in people’s lives.
Vegan, meat eater, vegetarian or other; we all understand how humans as a whole consume milk in our daily lives.
So if these plant based drinks are then banned from calling themselves ‘milk, it becomes more difficult to market to people who aren’t already familiar with these products.
I do sympathize as I’m all for these plant based alternative drinks being the new norm when it comes to an accompaniment for our drinks, cereals, for general drinking and the like.
Conclusion; Can Vegans Drink Milk?
So to conclude, no, vegans do not drink milk.
The caveat though is when it comes from another willing human.
So what are your thoughts on this subject?
Let us know in the comments below.
- Milk definition from dictionary.com. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/milk
- Wikipedia on milking. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milking
- Same as reference 2.
- The Dairy Industry by Vegan Peace. http://www.veganpeace.com/animal_cruelty/dairy.htm
- Same as reference 4.
- Are humans the only animal to drink milk from other species? https://www.thenakedscientists.com/articles/questions/are-humans-only-animal-drink-milk-other-species#:~:text=Diana%20%2D%20As%20far%20as%20we,rather%20not%20consider%20the%20consequences.
- Definition of veganism. https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism
- Same as reference 1.
- Op-Ed: Is soy milk really ‘milk’? https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-byrd-soymilk-fda-definition-20170104-story.html