Originally Posted by CJBianco
Although I avoid dairy products now [mostly because of the animal suffering in the commercial dairy industry], I hold the belief that dairy products are not inherently bad.
Meat is inherently bad. An animal must be injured or killed to provide the meat. This is clear.
Dairy products are not inherently bad. It is not necessary for an animal to be injured or killed to provide the dairy product. (It may be common practice, but it is not necessary.) This is clear.
For instance...say I am walking along the roadside and I see a cow roaming free in the grassy field. The cow is pregnant (naturally). I pick an apple out of my backpack and offer it to the cow. The cows chomps it for a few minutes. Meanwhile, I sit down and help myself to a little fresh milk. (I have a cup in my backpack.) As long as the cow doesn't mind, there is nothing harmful about taking the milk. (However, if the cow minds, it is not good to take the milk. That would be assault, stealing, etc.)
In today's commercial market, the suffering is unavoidable. There may be a few small dairy farms that are kind to the animals, where the animal are very healthy and happy. However, since I cannot know for sure if the meal uses dairy from this farm or the cheaper commercial factories, I must remain on the safe side. I must avoid all dairy products in my life...for the sake of the animals who are not healthy and happy.
While dairy products are not inherently bad, I believe it is best to avoid dairy products for the above reason [among many other reasons].
At least...that is my opinion.
Since we end up at the same place with respect to dairy, this post is largely academic. Nevertheless...
I've done some checking, including talking to owners and spokespersons of dairy farms, and my tentative conclusion is that virtually every small commercial dairy operation engages in multiple cruelties, including separation of mother and calf, forcing unnatural amounts of milk out of the cows, and killing the cows at young ages.
You've drawn a good distinction between theoretical and real-world, so no argument there. However, let's look at the theoretical scenario a little more closely. Modern dairy cows are the result of intensive breeding over many decades if no centuries. They've been bred to suit human purposes, and they pay for it with their health and well-being, e.g., loss of calcium and high rates of osteoporosis. Cows' pristine ancestors give enough milk for their calves. Sometimes they may have a little extra, but it's not something you would count on. In a natural setting, the cow very well might not appreciate you getting underneath her and pulling on her teats. And the bull guarding her almost certainly would mind.
A more fundamental question that comes to mind as I read many of these posts is: Why the preoccupation, the desire to find some way, any way, to get milk out of cows so we can drink it? Why is there not an equivalent desire to get milk out of cats and pigs? Why is there no desire to build up a reserve of human milk, strictly from volunteers? That would almost certainly be healthier. I think one reason is that we're used to cows' milk. In fact it's ingrained into our society. It's one of the most heavily promoted products in history, intensely marketed toward children and parents. It's portrayed as essential even though it is not, and is linked to many diseases, and over half the world cannot digest it in its native form. There may be an emotional attachment to cows' milk, and in fact the casein in dairy products contains opium-like substances - most highly concentrated in cheese - that may cause an addiction. If no one had ever drunk cows' milk, the idea might seem preposterous. Or disgusting, just like the idea of eating chicken feet is disgusting to omnis in the West but not in China.