I was brought up in cheese-rich France and all my life I ate cheese every day until I was about 36 years old. My own region of Auvergne (in the center of the country) produced more varieties of cheese than all the rest of the world combined. We had Boursin, Fourme d'Ambert, Brie (my favorite) and hundreds of other varieties of cheese which Americans probably don't even know about unless they shop at Whole Foods. As a kid, my mother used to drive us to the farm next door where we would not only buy freshly made cheese but also fresh milk just literally taken from a cow. It was the typical small farm in those days. The milk was still warm and creamy when we were bringing it home. As a child, I was living the typical French rural lifestyle of my culture. I had no conception of whether there was any anomaly to these rituals. It was culturally accepted as normal. I loved "my" cheese.
Eating cheese in France is about as culturally ingrained as the hamburger is to Americans. People ask me sometimes if I ever miss it. Here are my responses to this.
Humans are mammals and from the ape family. Basically, we are plant eaters. Our digestive system and our teeth are proof of that. Our so-called canines could never tear the flesh of raw animals bodies and I won't waste my time debating non-Vegans who believe in the myths of the carnivorous human hunter. As mammals, females of our species produce milk for their babies. Other mammals do the same for their young.
About 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, herding cultures started enslaving mammals like, goats, sheep and a little later cows, in order to take control of their bodily secretions and flesh. Instead of revering animals as beings living next to us, we reduced them to things. By this token, this patriarchal society also took control of women's bodies and downgraded them to second class citizens and child producing machines. Up to that point, most Neolithic societies were mostly egalitarian with women enjoying equal rights to men. Most people don't know that women have taught famous Greek philosophers like Aristotle or Plato. Both consequences of this herding culture are directly linked to each other. With these new cultural "habits", it became accepted as normal to be eating the mammary secretions (and flesh) of other mammals. However, in nature, no other mammal willfully takes the milk of another species. Only humans have turned this into a "normal and accepted" behavior defying the laws of nature. In fact, humans go as far as eating the mammary products of other mammals into adulthood. This is also not done by other mammals in nature. They feed their young with the milk that is designed for their species and then wean. Human mothers might feed their babies with their own specially naturally designed milk but then switch them to the milk of another species and the vicious cycle of dependence is started.
We indoctrinate our children into accepting the exploitation of other sentient beings starting with this strange ritual after birth followed by putting toddlers on "solid" foods like the flesh of animals. Once we are adults, we are so brainwashed that we don't even see that it is abnormal and psychotic unless we start questioning our rituals.
Our governments also push this addiction on us through policies like the USDA's programs and go as far as working with corporations to push the dairy agenda. This contributes to more suffering to other animals, the rising rates of obesity (cheese is concentrated fat) and more disconnect to keep us docile. What better way to keep a population from revolting than keeping it addicted to drugs. If the drug is socially accepted, it is even easier. Corporations know that cheese is an addiction and they consciously push it on us.
Like other mammals and herbivores, we should recognize that there is nothing inherently normal about eating and drinking the secretions of another species. Our closest genetic relatives, the gorillas, don't drink anything but their own species' milk then move on when they are weaned. We have lost touch with our natural inner understanding of what should constitute our food. Other animals are deeply in touch with their true nature. But humans constantly go against nature for selfish reasons, convenience and taste and because they are addicted physically and socially.
All dairy products are not only unnatural but they are proven carcinogens and about as addictive as drugs. Dr. Neal Barnard's research on the addictiveness of cheese in particular is fascinating. When people point out that they love their cheese, I point out that their brains are on drugs. Cheese and all other products derived from bovine secretions contain casomorphins which are broken down by casein. The word morphine is the word which matters. All mammals produce casomorphins, including human mothers, in order to help reinforce the bond with their child after birth. That is a normal compound of breast milk. However, the milk from human mothers is perfectly designed for human babies and the milk of a mother cow is designed to grow a calf from about 80 pounds to over 1000 pounds in just a few weeks. Cow's milk is very concentrated in casomorphins, particularly when turned into cheese, and this creates an addictive substance keeping people hooked to it. This is why people usually quit eating cheese last when they go Vegan because this is the hardest addiction to break. It was my case. As Dr Barnard explains:
"Cow’s milk—or the milk of any other species, for that matter—contains a protein called casein that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates called casomorphins. A cup of cow’s milk contains about six grams of casein. Skim milk contains a bit more, and casein is concentrated in the production of cheese."
After I went Vegan, I still had strong cravings for weeks. Even after two years, my cultural and physical indoctrination to cheese was still present. You may wonder how I managed to avoid giving in to my cravings.
The mind should always be stronger than the body in deciding what is your next course of action. Do you drive your car or is your car driving you? I didn't give in to my body because my body had to give in to my new awareness of what was right or wrong. I couldn't give in to any addiction that would harm another sentient being. Convenience and habits are poor excuses for the misery inflicted on other beings. All addictions can be broken with a little bit of courage and being firm with one's self. If I can break up a 36 year old culturally ingrained addiction, surely everyone can. I don't have special powers!
It is also important to realize that addictions are not the same as biological needs. We do not biologically need to eat cheese or milk. We need to detoxify our bodies and minds from an addiction. People who don't feel physically good when they go Vegan don't realize that they have to get rid of a lifetime of junk and that it can be normal to feel worse before feeling better. If you think that eating cow based cheese makes you feel better, you are essentially acting like someone who tries to quit smoking but feels better when he has a cigarette again because he can't withstand the withdrawal effects of quitting. And you wouldn't say that smoking is a biological need.
Cow or goat secretions are not a normal part of someone's diet and they hide the immense suffering of mothers on dairy farms whether they are factory farms or small scale organic farms. Most people who go vegetarian believe that this is good enough. Very often, they fail to realize that the suffering of cows on dairy farms is a lot worse than cows destined to be killed for their flesh. I don't want to place degrees of suffering and make you think that one is more acceptable than another however. There is no acceptable suffering of another sentient being for reasons of taste, convenience or habit. Suffering is suffering.
To be forced to produce milk, a mother cow has to be impregnated continuously on what the industry calls "the rape rack". Forced insemination is nothing short than rape as it requires the poor mother to be kept still while someone inserts a long stick in her vagina. And if forcing a female to endure this isn't enough, after she gives birth, her baby is taken away from her and put in a tiny veal crate if he is male. He will be chained to the crate, unable to turn around or move much, denied the iron rich milk of his mother on purpose so that his flesh can be "tender" to please human's desire for his baby flesh. If the baby is female, she will likely be put on the production line alongside her mother. Cows cry out for their babies for days and their spirit is broken more and more as the cycle of forced pregnancies continues. Eventually they are so physically abused that they become, what the industry calls, "spent" when they are still very young, about 5 years of age, instead of living up to 25 as they could normally do. Their exhausted, abused bodies are then sent to slaughter for cheap meat.
It is also ironic that the scientific literature shows that children raised on cow's milk instead of human breast milk develop iron deficiencies the same way we give iron deficiencies to calves taken from their mothers. What we do to other animals, we do to ourselves.
In the human world, millions of women around the world do not have the education to take control of their bodies. Their male dominated culture forces them to accept large numbers of births. What we do to mother cows, we do to human mothers too. It is all connected. It is a fact that women who are educated gain better control over their bodies and their rate of births goes down significantly. When people are educated about what we do to mother cows, we will see the same shift. If you eat cheese, realize that it is not "your" cheese, but the bodily secretions of someone whose life is misery.
As a woman, how could I continue to eat the products of another female and support her exploitation?
Our bodies are perfectly designed to process plants, not animal products which are acidic and behind all the major chronic diseases we have from diabetes to cancer. Some, like the Weston Price Foundation, would like us to believe that dairy products are part of a natural diet and part of our ancestral diet and therefore should be in our modern diet. They bash soy consumption as unnatural even though soy has been around in the human diet thousands of years before cows lost their freedom so we could steal their baby food. The Weston Price Foundation directly support the meat and dairy industry. They are about as reliable as the USDA when it comes to food recommendations.
We have no need to consume the products of rape (or any other product of exploitation for that matter). We've never had so much choice. We have more varieties of plant based milks than casomorphins addicted people have.
All animal foods are a form of addiction. As Dr Barnard points out: "The reason (for the addiction) may be physical, just as it appears to be for chocolate or cheese. British researchers found that opiate-blocking drugs cut the appetite for ham by ten percent, knocked out the desire for salami by about twenty-five percent, and cut tuna consumption by nearly half. In other words, a person might still eat some of it to quell hunger or simply out of habit. But blocking an opiate response knocks out the added chemical appeal a food may have, reducing the tendency to choose it."
It is time for doctors, dieticians, coaches and other professionals to finally tell the truth or recognize the truth themselves that there is no such thing as a lactose intolerance either. The majority of humanity, particularly people of African, Hispanic and Asian descent, can't tolerate milk as adults. This is not a disease, it is normal. Our bodies are not supposed to tolerate ANY milk once passed childhood. Humans need to grow up and stop refusing to wean.
The powerful bond that results from eating casomorphins as a baby is probably responsible partly with our addiction to bovine milk. We unconsciously refuse to leave our bonds with our mothers and grow up. As Dr. Barnard also said:
"It appears that the opiates from mother’s milk produce a calming effect on the infant and, in fact, may be responsible for a good measure of the mother-infant bond. No, it’s not all lullabies and cooing. Psychological bonds always have a physical underpinning. Like it or not, mother’s milk has a drug-like effect on the baby’s brain that ensures that the baby will bond with Mom and continue to nurse and get the nutrients all babies need. Like heroin or codeine, casomorphins slow intestinal movements and have a decided antidiarrheal effect. The opiate effect may be why adults often find that cheese can be constipating, just as opiate painkillers are."
Is it any wonder that our society tolerate infantile politicians and crass entertainment? There seems to be a denial at the idea that we need to leave our mothers to grow up and we project that irrational need by consuming the milk of other mothers making cows our surrogate mothers. If I asked someone who loves dairy products why he believes his mother is a cow, he would call me crazy. But that is exactly what millions of people do daily. We also treat mother cows as millions of human mothers are treated around the world daily: badly.
We live in a patriarchal infantile society which plays with weapons of mass destruction as if they were children's toys. I believe that this immaturity is directly linked to our infantile food habits and our disconnection from our true natures. It is time to recognize that bovine milk and cheese are nothing but addictive drugs as much as animal flesh, eggs, cigarettes, alcohol etc. Nothing good comes from continuing down this path and we keep doing it at our greatest peril.
We also have so many great plant-based cheeses and milks that I don't see any valid excuse to keep consuming these "products" of torture and misery. Although I don't eat many processed foods anymore and prefer to eat unprocessed natural foods like greens, Vegan cheese was a really helpful way for me to "wean" from my addiction to bovine secretions in the beginning. It is easy to find Dayia in many stores. It is usually in the cheese section and most people may not realize that it is Vegan. Searching for Vegan cheese online or even Vegan cheese recipes will results in thousands of resources. I am not trying to sell you something here but making a point that we have a large choice which was not even available only 10 years ago. Whatever excuses you still have to consume animal based cheese is simply not and was never valid in the first place. You have to decide today that you can't stay addicted to something that is unnatural in your diet and will sooner or later produce dangerous conditions in your body. Cow's milk is linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, Type 1 diabetes in children, etc... Milk doesn't do a body good AT ALL!
The best way to unhook from a drug is to stop it. Period. If you give your body a "cheese break" for at least 30 days, your taste buds will re-adapt. By the time you eat that stuff again, you won't find it appealing anymore. Just beware of the creeping cravings that your mind will project on you for a while longer (as it did me). But if you are firm with yourself and your commitment to a completely cruelty-free life, you can do nothing less than that. Eating a whole foods unprocessed Vegan diet will also put you on the right track as it will help you eliminate addictions, not only from dairy or flesh but also sugar, salt and fat from processed foods.
When humans decide to finally grow up and give up these childish habits, we will finally have a shift of consciousness and maturity. Until then, the exploitation of other beings will continue to be linked to the exploitation of other humans. Everything is connected.
- The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle which has an extensive chapter on the origins of our modern capitalistic herding society.
- The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler which details Goddess centered and equalitarian societies in the Neolithic.
- Dr. Neal Barnard has various articles and books on the addictive properties of Casomorphins in cheese. His most prominent one on food addictions is Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings---And 7 Steps to End Them Naturally
- See also Dr Barnard's article at PCRM.org http://www.pcrm.org/search/?cid=1290 on cheese addictions.
- My article: Soy Beans, Misunderstood Beans at http://www.yourveglife.com/soy-beans-misunderstood-beans
- My article: Animal Cruelty at http://www.yourveglife.com/animal-cruelty
- Reflections On The Weston A. Price Foundation by John Robbins at http://www.vegsource.com/news/2009/11/reflections-on-the-weston-a-price-foundation.html
Veronique Perrot, H.C. is a AADP Certified Holistic Vegan Health Coach located in Los Angeles. She teaches nutrition and well being and has also a Certification In Plant Based Diets from Cornell University and a World Peace Diet Certification through Dr. Will Tuttle's World Peace Diet program. You can get in contact with her at www.YourVegLife.com. She produces a free newsletter each month with tips, recipes and information on healthy plant based living. She believes in the abolition of all animal exploitation and has helped people to transition to the vegan lifestyle in an ethical and healthy way. Also visit her blog The Vegan Communicator for good vegan ethics.