In the words of activist Erin Janus — dairy is scary. And while an increasing number of people are steering clear of cow’s milk, there’s still much work to be done. Myths and misinformation about the industry abound, with many consumers completely unaware of how dairy products are actually produced.
But a new campaign is looking to change public perception and raise awareness about the painful truth behind milk and cheese. Milk Hurts — and its offshoot, Mothers Against Dairy — has made its debut just in time for Mother’s Day.
“I founded the Mothers Against Dairy campaign as a way to directly counter the aggressive surge in pro-dairy messaging from female dairy farmers (many of them mothers) that I have encountered in my dairy research over the last several years,” says founder and activist Ashley Capps. “I believe this growing trend is no coincidence; rather, in this climate of increased criticism of dairy farming practices, it represents a strategic industry shift to put more female faces on dairy farming, and to reframe the industry as a maternal, nurturing one.”
Mothers Against Dairy has collected powerful anti-dairy statements from a diverse array of vegan mothers, many of them discussing how they made the connection after giving birth themselves. These empathetic testimonials — all available on the new website, MothersAgainstDairy.org — offer a unique perspective, and one that’s hard for the average milk drinker to ignore. These mothers hail from the U.S., England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, and Brazil — and other interested moms are welcome to submit their stories on the site.
Part of the campaign’s efforts thus far include a collaboration with Toronto Cow Save, Ottawa Animal Save, The Save Movement, and generous donors to run a half page anti-dairy ad in Canada’s largest newspaper, The Globe and Mail. In addition, Mothers Against Dairy hosted a “pledge to go dairy-free” ahead of Mother’s Day.
“My sense is that it can be especially powerful and thought-provoking for non-vegans to hear from mothers critiquing dairy as fundamentally an assault on motherhood,” says Capps. “Their position as mothers offers a hard-to-argue perspective; and indeed on posts of mothers’ anti-dairy statements, I encounter markedly less pushback than I do on other dairy cruelty posts in my extensive social media work.”
Mothers Against Dairy is part of an even larger new anti-dairy campaign: Milk Hurts. Essentially, Milk Hurts is intended to become the “go-to, comprehensive anti-dairy resource and database, with Mothers Against Dairy as one of its campaigns and ongoing web features,” says Capps. “Milk Hurts will provide up-to date, accessible, fact-based research on the harmful impacts of dairy to animals, human health, and the environment, with a special focus on debunking ‘humane’ dairy myths and trends.” The Milk Hurts site will launch later this year. (For now, you can follow them on Instagram and Facebook.)
Many otherwise compassionate people still see dairy as innocuous, or somehow more “humane” than meat, despite the fact that the cycle of forced impregnation and taking mothers from babies has oft been named the cruelest aspect of animal agriculture. This campaign will shine a spotlight on the suffering and educate people all over the world — as well as showcase delicious vegan alternatives to dairy. All in all, Milk Hurts and Mothers Against Dairy are designed to shift people’s perspectives and help them to see through decades of dairy industry propaganda .
“I think if you were to ask people point blank, ‘Is motherhood a thing we should feel okay about exploiting?’— most people would say no,’ explains Capps. “Motherhood should never be a thing we exploit, we should cringe at the very thought. And I think we all know this to be true at some fundamental level, but we’ve been so massively brainwashed around dairy that most people don’t even think about motherhood when they think about cow’s milk; they think: cows eat grass, cows turn grass into milk for humans. My goal with Mothers Against Dairy is to help people understand, first of all, that milk and dairy products are in fact mother’s milk, that mother’s milk is baby food, and that cow’s milk is for baby cows, just as goat’s milk is for baby goats, sheep’s milk is for baby sheep, etc.”
“And, from there, the hope is to get a conversation going around the fact that at its core, dairy IS the exploitation of mothers. The farming of mothers for their breast milk. Just think about that. The very idea of breeding animals into existence in order to force them to become mothers so we can then invade and parasitize their mothering relationships, steal their maternal lactations, and turn them into ice cream and cheese, is so violently entitled, so deeply unfeminist and offensive, and profoundly anti-mother. We shouldn’t exploit the motherhood of anyone. It really is that simple.”
“And if we agree with this, then we must also recognize that not only dairy but all animal agriculture depends on the reproductive subjugation of billions of individuals, and the systematic destruction of their mothering relationships and families. We shouldn’t support this if we don’t have to. If we have access to plant-based foods, then we should make food choices that respect the reproductive rights and bodily sovereignty of all beings. And we should be vegan.”