Tastes Just Like What Mom Used to Make

ice_ben_jerrys_natural_chocolateSo I'm watching CNN as I'm getting ready for work, and across the bottom of the screen, the scrolling news goes by.... PETA urges Ben & Jerry's to replace cow's milk with... (at this point, I'm expecting to see soy millk. aren't you?) human breast milk. Jane loudly exclaimed "ew," and we looked at each other in disbelief.

Now after a few moments, I thought to myself, "really what's the difference between cow's milk and human milk? And why is the thought of drinking human milk so repulsive?" But it is. I'm sure the point of the campaign is to drive home how badly cows are treated, and that cow's milk isn't all that healthy for us, but I'm not sure this is the most effective way to do that. In my opinion, this is exactly the kind of thing PETA does that makes the rest of the vegan community look insane. Are they kidding? Or is it simply a matter of "any press is good press?" If you don't believe my eyes, here's PETA's press release.

One final thought, if you're using the argument "adults consuming dairy products made from milk that was meant for a baby cow just doesn't make sense," does it make sense to for an adult to consume a product that was designed for a baby, even if it's a baby of the same species? It would seem to me the answer should be a resounding "no" as the nutritional needs for a growing infant are different than those of an adult. (For a comprehensive study on the dangers of dairy, and eating meat in general, I highly recommend The China Study, if you haven't read it already!)

In any event, I wish PETA would change their direction a bit. I applaud their efforts to get the word out there, but perhaps they could do it in a manner that might be a little less histrionic.


  1. Exactly. It’s wacko stunts like this that unfortunately make us all look like nutjobs, taking away attention from the actual important issues. As if we don’t have to deal with enough misunderstandings and wrong assumptions about veganism and vegetarianism already, now we’ll also get to deal with ignorant people thinking we all want to drink milk from lactating womens teats in our breakfast cereal. Good going PETA… way to raise awareness and pave the way for veganism. NOT.

  2. In any event, I wish PETA would change their direction a bit. I applaud their efforts to get the word out there, but perhaps they could do it in a manner that might be a little less histrionic.

    Please and thank you! I’m so sick of getting pulled into arguments with non-veg*ns over PETA’s latest campaigns. Sometimes I agree with PETA, sometimes I don’t – but either way, it’s nearly impossible to discuss the topic with someone who’s approaching it from a speciesist perspective. Whether PETA’s “right” or “wrong,” all the omnis see are those “crazy extremists” trying to (*sniff*) compare humans to animals.

  3. Forgot to add:

    …And when you’re starting from a place where you have to overcome speciesism in order to have a fair discussion, real or perceived sexism/racism/sizeism/etc. on PETA’s part just makes it impossible to have an actual discussion about the actual issues. Rather than talking about the evils of factory farming, you’re left arguing about whether “using” women to produce breast milk is exploitative – even though that’s not actually a problem, here and now.

  4. Sometimes shock therapy works. So, if even just one human stops drinking or in this case eating frozen cow breast milk because of this campaign – I’m happy.

  5. PETA’s comment regarding the issue:
    ” We agree that using human breast milk to make ice cream is absurd. What is more absurd, however, is using a different species’ breast milk for nourishment.

    Our letter was designed to raise awareness about the cruelty inherent in the dairy industry, which exploits animals in order to produce foods that humans were never intended to eat. For more information about the dairy industry and to learn why humans should avoid dairy products, please visit http://www.DumpDairy.com.

    PETA’s purpose is to stop animal suffering, and we use all available opportunities to reach millions of people with powerful messages—and the fact that you contacted us about this is a sign that our efforts are working. We have found that people do pay more attention to our more provocative actions, and we consider the public’s attention to be extremely important. Unfortunately, getting the animal rights message to the public is not always easy and straightforward. Unlike our opposition, which is mostly composed of wealthy industries and corporations, PETA must rely on getting free “advertising” through media coverage.

    The dairy industry spends more than $160 million per year on efforts to hook humans on cow’s milk, but people who care about maintaining good health for themselves and their children – and who oppose cruelty to animals – should never consume dairy products.

    Besides humans, no species drinks milk beyond infancy or drinks the milk of another species. Cow’s milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months. The diet that is healthiest for infant humans is a natural one that consists of their own mother’s milk, just as cow’s milk is also best for baby cows.

    Dairy products are hazardous to human health. They have been linked to juvenile diabetes, allergies, constipation, obesity, and prostate and ovarian cancer. The late Dr. Benjamin Spock, America’s leading authority on child care, spoke out against feeding cow’s milk to children. He said that it can set kids up for obesity and heart disease—America’s number one cause of death. Cow’s milk is the primary cause of food allergies among infants and children, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.

    Like all mammals, cows only produce milk during and after pregnancy, so to be able to constantly milk them, farmers forcefully impregnate cows every nine months. The cows are impregnated year after year, but they are never allowed to nurture their calves. They are treated as nothing more than milk machines, and they are genetically manipulated and given hormone injections to force them to produce more than three times as much milk as their babies would naturally suckle. After several years of living in filthy conditions and being forced to produce 10 times more milk than they would naturally, their exhausted bodies are turned into hamburgers or ground up for soup.

    And of course, the veal industry could not survive without the dairy industry. Because male calves can’t produce milk, dairy farmers take them from their mothers immediately after birth and sell them to veal farms, where they endure 14 to 17 weeks of torment chained inside crates so small that they can’t even turn around.


  6. I certainly agree that the best milk for an infant is it’s own mother’s milk. Unfortunately because of all the chemicals and pharmacuticals mother get in their *meat* even their breast milk has high levels of poison.

    PETA wastes so much money/time/energy on these far-fetched, idiotic campaigns…

    But one thing to note – many vegans argue the point that “we are the only species to drink milk from another animal”… But, given the chance on a farm – dogs, cats and pigs have been known to steal milk from nursing cows/goats… So it’s not necessarily a fool-proof example – I’ve been “caught” on that one a few times… And of course there is the occassional “wet-nurse” dog/cat who will feed another species with their own litter…

    I know these are rare instances – just wanted to point this out so you might avoid being “trapped” by this example. 🙂

  7. 1. This just makes it even more difficult to not be seen as a crazy vegan nut case.

    2. PETA is sexist. The breast milk has to come from somewhere, and you can bet it won’t be wealthy women in developed countries who are exploited.

    3. Ewwww!

  8. Hi Foodeater,
    Frustrating, isn’t it?

    Hi Nate,
    I second that. No PETA bumper stickers!!!

    Hi Kelly,
    It does make it difficult to have rational conversations sometimes. And this scrolled across the bottom of the CNN news screen. I’m going out on a limb here, but I would guess most of the people watching CNN who read that don’t have much personal experience with veganism. Without further explanation, that certainly makes us all look ridiculous.

    Hi Kara,
    I agree that shock therapy can work (Earthlings). IMO, this type of argument trivializes what PETA is trying to accomplish. I also believe they’re going to drive away more people than they might convert…

    Hi Elaine,
    Thanks for sharing PETAs response/explanation. I still disagree with their tactics. One line made it out to the general public, and it sounds utterly absurd.

    Hi Kate,
    Aaah… yes, I see!

    Hi Bea,
    Thanks for pointing that out… I’ve always used cats as a rebuttal to that point. My grandparents had a farm and the few times I got to visit, the cats would always come around while we were milking the cows. We’d aim the teats and squeeze and the cats would drink. My cat used to always drink the milk left in my cereal bowl (cheerios), pre-vegan days. He doesn’t care for the soy milk at all. Can’t say I blame him.

    Hi Nikki,
    Agreed, but read comment 7 above. Elaine’s provided us with PETAs explanation of their intent. I still disagree, but at least there’s some thought behind their tactics.

    Hi Sue,


    One additional thought…. even if B&J switches over to human breast milk for PETA who advocate a vegan lifestyle, the Ben & Jerry’s product would still not be endorsed by PETA because it would not be a vegan product.

  9. as a lactating mom, I have to say that boob juice ice cream would probably taste delicious and be good for your immune system unlike cow milk ice cream.

  10. Hi Gitana,
    It might actually taste good and be good for our immune systems, but there is a prevailing feeling here that drinking someone’s breastmilk, as an adult, is almost taboo. I’ve seen many skits where someone has used the breastmilk in the fridge in their coffee, and when the mom walks into the kitchen and questions why her milk is missing, the person drinking the coffee spits it out.
    Regardless, it’s not vegan, so I wouldn’t consume it anyway 🙂

  11. I’m with you, gitana. I hadn’t really noticed the breastmilk taboo before I was pregnant. After, I was stunned to see the reactions people had to breastmilk. I was flabbergasted that people had such strong, visceral reactions against one of the most natural, healthy human functions there is. I could understand being squeamish about human waste, but breast milk is human food!

    A friend said, “well if it’s so great, why don’t you make yogurt out of it?” (I was in a yogurt making kick at the time) and so I said, “yeah, why not?” and made some. Only one other person besides myself was willing to taste it and he said it was the best yogurt he’d ever tasted in his life. I thought it was pretty darned great, myself. But everyone else thought it was the grossest thing ever. Go figure!

  12. Hi Kate,
    That was hysterical. Thanks for the laugh.

    Hi Sparrow,
    I don’t think the yogurt would be something I’d try. I also would say it’s the grossest thing ever. But it seems like such a private thing.
    Just goes to show you how much you’re influenced by your cultural upbringing, eh?

  13. Yeah, must be a cultural upbringing thing (though I don’t remember ever having discussions one way or the other about breast milk growing up . . .) I still just don’t get it, the “grossest thing ever.” It’s just, well, completely bewildering to me.

    Oh, well. Some stuff others eat is pretty gross to me, so I guess it’s only fair that it goes both ways. It’s a big, wide world, y’know?

  14. I’m not gonna lie, it’s kind of ridiculous.

    I’m not vegan, although I am NOT against it at all! I will not justify my decision to not be a vegan, I’ll just say I would love to.

    I agree that cows milk should be left for the cows, but human milk for humans? My problem with that is that there are mothers out there who cannot, for medical reasons or whatever, breastfeed their baby. These moms turn to formula. Formula isn’t “rat poison”, like some believe, but it certainly is not the best for the baby. Since they cannot breastfeed, they should be able to give their baby the next best thing…. someone else’s breast milk. Milk banks are not thriving like they should be, so breast milk from these banks gets expensive fast, and not everyone can afford it. WIC covers formula, not breast milk from a milk bank. If PETA expects moms to donate milk, why should we give it to the general public, who already have decent immune systems? Why shouldn’t we give it to the tiny babies who need it but whose moms cannot produce it, therefore depriving their babies of antibodies that they cannot produce on their own, that they need at such a young age?

    I’m all for animal rights, but what about babies’ rights? We should speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, and that should not be limited to animals!

  15. Hi Sparrow,
    My brother-in-law thinks it would be a great idea. He’s shared with that breastmilk is a much sweeter milk than cows milk. I wouldn’t know… I’ve never had any (raised on formula).

    Hi Audrey,
    No need to justify your non-vegan-ness to us. We welcome anyone here as long as they’re not antagonistic.
    I’ve never heard of a milk bank, but I agree, that is a much MUCH better idea than using human milk for ice cream, especially since some of the vegan ice creams are really yummy (we like Purely Decadent and are very hopeful that Wheeler’s Black Label makes it here eventually).
    I’d support the milk bank, with some caveats that there needs to be some kind of testing in place. I understand you can pass along quite a few things both good and bad.
    As for formula being rat poison, both Jane and I and our siblings were raised on formula and we’re all well adjusted, healthy human beings.

  16. There’s very strict testing in place for donated milk — that’s how I ended up with the freezer full of breast milk (some of which ended up in the yogurt) in the first place. When my daughter died, I asked the hospital if I could donate my milk. They said that they had several babies that really needed it because they were born prematurely and their mothers didn’t have milk and the babies couldn’t tolerate formula and so were close to death and desperately needed all the breast milk they could get. (And it’s hard to get because most lactating women have a baby at home who needs the milk.)

    The hospital sent me home with a pump and told me how to freeze my milk and said they’d have someone call me. The call came and I was told where to go for testing. Already, my freezer was filling up because I was a very good producer.

    The test found that I have antibodies to CMV (cytomegalovirus.) It doesn’t harm me and wouldn’t harm any healthy adult who came into contact with me. It’s benign and also very common: an estimated 50% to 80% of Americans have antibodies for CMV. (Among long-time cat owners, the rate is virtually 100% as most cats are carriers and cleaning a litter box is a near guarantee of infection.)

    But who *can* be harmed by CMV are those with compromised immune systems, like people with AIDS and newborn infants, especially premature infants. It wouldn’t have been an issue with my own infant because nature provides all kinds of safeguards based on the baby having been inside the mother and shared her blood for so long, but it wasn’t safe to donate my milk to someone else’s baby.

    It was a real disappointment not to be able to help out with my milk and most of what was in the freezer just ended up getting thrown away.

    Because of the CMV issue (combined with the above-mentioned fact that most women’s milk is already spoken for) it is extremely difficult to find usable donor milk for infants in need. This is why milk banks have a hard time keeping stock and why the milk from them is so expensive.

  17. Sparrow,
    Jane and I are so sorry for your loss!
    As for the CMV, couldn’t that milk be given to babies who’s mother’s test positive for CMV? Or couldn’t they test the baby for the CMV antibodies?
    What a waste! And I imagine that it was probably very difficult to have to throw away your milk. It makes the “grossest thing ever” comments even more insensitive.

  18. Thank you.

    It does make a lot of sense, what you say: give the CMV+ milk to CMV+ babies (it’s pretty standard for babies born to CMV+ moms to be CMV+ as well.) I don’t know — there may be some reason why that doesn’t work.

    I know they sequester CMV- blood when you go to the Red Cross to donate and save that back for infants and people with compromised immune systems and even scout out CMV- people, because they’re relatively rare, and pay them (or pay them extra if they’re in a for-pay system like plasma donations) because of the group of people who can’t accept CMV+ blood or blood products. So it’s not just milk that gets factored out like that but at least blood is needed by other people while milk is pretty much only needed by the people who can’t accept CMV+ products.

    No worries about insensitivity; I didn’t take your comments that way at all and you can’t be expected to know and step around everyone’s life situations, else none of us could ever say anything again. And that would make for a very boring world.

  19. PETA’s thing is to make people think. Most people won’t get it or think it’s crazy, but if it gets one person to realize the the cruelty to animals and switch their diet, I applaud PETA’s efforts.

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