One day, the author of the book Vache à lait (which is French for dairy cows), Élise Desaulniers, was walking down St-Laurent Boulevard in Montreal with her friend Emilie. It was autumn and she felt the warmth of the sun on her face. She unzipped her jacket. During the months prior to this fateful day, she had been searching for information about food ethics. This is why she became vegetarian; the stacks of Amazon boxes in her living room just kept getting higher and higher because she got her hands on any information she could find on the topic. Emilie, on the other hand, is vegan. She hasn’t tried to find much information about veganism, though. She just follows that diet instinctively because she simply believes that animal cruelty is wrong. Therefore, Élise inadvertently became Emilie’s encyclopedia on the matter. These walks transformed into learning sessions about vegetarianism in general.
One of the questions Emilie asked Élise on that warm autumn day concerned dairy cows. She had heard that they do not produce milk continuously. So, she asked Élise about it. But, Élise had no clue what the answer was. Their instinct told them that cows are just like any other mammal: they produce milk with the purpose of feeding their young, so milk is only produced when they are about to have a baby and afterwards. When Élise started to think about this, and other questions relating to dairy cows such as what happens to them when they are too old to do their job, she started to question her vegetarianism. Was veganism the answer?
Élise wasted no time searching for more information and reading everything she could get her hands on. She very quickly learned that from an ethical and environmental point of view, switching meat for cheese actually doesn’t make sense. She found out that milk advertisements were nothing more than mere propaganda, just like when the car industry tries to convince us to purchase such and such a vehicle for its horsepower. They try to convince people that milk is a necessity. But, three quarters of the population of the planet does not even consume milk since their system does not have the required enzyme to digest it, and they are doing just fine without it.
These myths and false pretenses surrounding milk are the things that Élise speaks about in her book, Vache à lait. It is not anti-milk propaganda. Why reply to the current milk propaganda with more propaganda? Élise insists that she is not the one who would benefit from a reduction in sales of milk products. Instead, she tries to explain the other version of the story, which describes the myths that the industry created. Milk is not a poison, but it is definitely not the miracle product that the producers claim it to be. According to many of the studies done by scientists who do not profit from the sale of milk, this product is actually responsible for many forms of human illnesses. Furthermore, contrary to the images depicted on milk cartons, cows suffer tremendously because they spend their lives tied down without the chance to enjoy the sun, on top of being separated from their offspring shortly after birth. Then, after four or five years of service, they become hamburger meat. This is quite a lot of negative consequences simply for profit.
But, of course, Élise offers a few solutions to the problem. A dietician gallantly offers a list of alternatives to milk products.
Currently, none of Élise’s books are in English, but during a recent conference she gave, she confirmed that they will be translated eventually. Click here for the French version.