Why Don't Vegans Eat Cheese?
WHY DON’T VEGANS EAT CHEESE?
I remember asking myself this very question about cheese the day I declared I was going vegan. You can read about why I didn’t actually want to go vegan here.
To paint a picture, I was by myself, knee-deep in documentaries in an Airbnb in the middle of Crete, Greece, absolutely fixated on learning about global warming, health implications of eating animal products, and bargaining with the question: “Why can’t I still keep cheese in my diet?”
I’ll state a few things for the record before we go too far:
I’m 100% proud to be vegan
I genuinely wish I had gone vegan sooner
I used to be completely and utterly obsessed with cheese — look, I’ll prove it
I now live happily without cheese every single day…and that’s not bullsh*t
My life is just as awesome without cheese that came from an animal…if not better
WHY IS GOING VEGAN SO HARD?
Going vegan is a really big change if you’re a meat-eater, cheese-lover, and/or major milk drinker. The change is incredibly jarring if you do it overnight and I completely empathize with how overwhelming it can feel. You’re essentially giving up what most of society deems is “normal to eat” and choosing to be in the minority aka “abnormal.”
This is why, when I was educating myself on the whole topic, I was bargaining with the idea of still keeping cheese around.
“Okay, I’ll give up beef,” I thought.
“I can live without pork for sure,” I bragged to myself.
“Bacon. Ugh, I guess I’ll have to”… “Chicken wings…oh man, okay.” And the internal conversation continued until I landed on the almighty food group that is CHEESE.
Cheese & wine platters…
Grilled cheese sandwiches…
Cream cheese on my bagels…
Macaroni & cheese…
I could go on forever with all the cheesy concoctions out there, but I’ll put it this way. Cheese was always incorporated into my “What would your last meal be” answer and the mantra I constantly repeated when probed by a vegan was: “I could never give up cheese. I could never give up cheese.”
Cheese made me sooo happy and I could happily eat it until I felt sick and physically couldn’t fit more in my body.
Okay…you get it.
WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT EATING CHEESE?
So, why now would I claim that my life is so completely fine and awesome without it? How did I get to the acceptance stage of life-without-“real”-cheese in one day when I originally couldn’t imagine a single 24-hour period without it?
Let’s go back to me sitting in that funky Greek apartment with a bowl of fruit in my lap (“How harmless can fruit be?” I thought) as I educated myself.
After first watching Before the Flood, I definitely understood that I needed to do something about my environmental impact. When Mr. DiCaprio declared that eating a vegan diet can be the most impactful way to help, I started wondering…
“Is a vegan diet even healthy?”
Then, I thought…
“Why can’t I just go vegetarian?”
Cue the two hours of straight YouTube video searching for information on these kinds of terms/questions:
“What’s so bad about being vegetarian?”
“What’s the benefit of being vegan?”
“Why shouldn’t I eat cheese?”
Yeah, after that, there was no going back. Ever.
WHY I CAN’T EAT CHEESE EVER AGAIN
Cheese derives from milk and milk comes from a female animal that has recently given birth.
Like humans, milk made by an animal is intended for a newborn baby to help it grow. It’s typically a baby’s main food source and is packed with nutrients that make the baby grow big and strong.
Also like humans, animals can’t produce milk without being pregnant.
As I kid, I used to believe that cows were basically non-stop milk-producing machines. I didn’t question it and, frankly, as an adult, I didn’t associate cows with pregnancy and milk at all. I know, dumb…but I really didn’t question a lot when it came to what I ate.
Except when I was in Asia, but that’s a story for another day.
That day in Greece, though, I learned oh-so-much about cheese and the dairy industry and how I’m not completely mortified by it.
I quickly learned how the dairy industry forces cows to actually become those non-stop milk-producing machines I once thought they were.
Let’s dive into the facts and truth, shall we?
COWS AND THE DAIRY INDUSTRY
Birth after birth, cows are artificially inseminated so that they are almost constantly pregnant and just about always producing milk.
The forceful way that this is done to a cow can be considered rape as it does not follow the natural pattern for cow pregnancy.
Once a cow gives birth to a calf, mother nature plans for and expects the mother cow to provide milk for her calf to grow big and strong.
As basic biology states, a mother cow’s milk production peaks at birth and lasts for about a month and a half after that.
It slowly declines over the next few months and then stops until the next time the cow becomes pregnant.
In the dairy industry, a cow typically gets two months of rest and is inseminated again.
After five years and multiple back-to-back pregnancies, a cow is slaughtered because it’s rendered useless.
A cow’s natural life expectancy is 20 years.
In the meantime, when baby calves are born, they are taken away from their mothers after only a few days — or hours — since being born to either be slaughtered for veal production or grow into their own milk-producing pattern to which their mothers were subject.
The bond between a mother cow and her baby is like a human mother and her baby. Cows will cry, chase their young as they’re taken away, and mourn their child that was taken away from them.
Here’s a startling fact:
97% of calves noted in this study (which is 82.5% of all U.S. dairy cows) are taken away from their mothers in the first 24 hours of life.
WHY IS IT SO BAD FOR HUMANS TO DRINK COW’S MILK OR EAT CHEESE?
The milk a cow produces, as previously mentioned, is for the baby cow to drink to grow big and strong.
In order for the mother cow to ensure her baby is getting enough milk, she naturally injects her milk with adrenaline to keep her udder addictive to her offspring.
This adrenaline is supposed to make the baby cow come back for more and more until it grows into a 500 pound animal or more.
So, does it make sense now why cheese is so addictive?
That adrenaline hits your taste buds while you’re laying on a grassy knoll sipping wine and makes you want to devour the whole platter in front of you.
It makes your brain say, “More cheese, more cheese, I love cheese,” because the adrenaline injected into the milk made into the cheese you’re enjoying sets you up for that udder addiction intended for the baby cow.
As humans, we’re the only species that drinks milk/eats cheese that derives from other animals. It’s not a natural process we’re participating in.
Because of that, we’ve seen a massive spike in health issues that can be directly linked to dairy consumption.
WHY IS CHEESE SO UNHEALTHY?
Hold onto your hats, people. These facts about cheese are alarming.
While we all know that cheese isn’t exactly the best thing for us, it’s time to break down exactly what makes it so unhealthy.
Cheese is a high-calorie food jam-packed with saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol.
Saturated fat is not the good kind of fat and cholesterol is associated with clogged arteries and heart disease. So, why do humans keep eating it?
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine,
“Americans eat more than 33 pounds of cheese per person per year — three times more than they did in 1970 — and our country is more obese than ever.”
That’s a LOT of cheese.
Because cheese is actually addictive, people are always running back for more, which means they’re also likely consuming:
Rennet: a stomach enzyme of calves (yes, baby calves’ stomach lining)
Pus: from infections a cow often experiences
Antibiotics & hormones: to get cows to produce more milk
Mold: cheese makers often spray mold on cheeses to make the rind
With all of these things packed into what seems like a harmless substance based on Domino’s recent marketing initiatives, humans have actually displayed major increases in diabetes, cancer, obesity, heart disease, and other illnesses due to cheese consumption.
HOW CAN I SUBSTITUTE CHEESE?
After reading all of that, you may be wondering how it’s possible to successfully substitute cheese.
With increased vegan cheeses showing up on the market, cheese substitutes are better than ever.
Nut-based cheeses, sunflower seed-based cheeses, and nutritional-yeast based cheeses make for some incredible alternatives such as:
Vegan cream cheese
Vegan nacho cheese dip
There are SO many options out there that are significantly healthier and more ethical that animal-based cheeses.
When you start to see dairy cheese as something that originates from baby cow growth hormone syrup, I hope you’ll think about how big that baby cow is supposed to be getting from it’s mother and how it’s not meant for you, a human.
I don’t see animal-derived cheese the same anymore. I can never see it as I once did.
To me, dairy cheese now represents pain, harm, suffering, and yucky hormones I don’t want in my body. I especially can’t handle the thought of eating a baby calf’s stomach lining. YUCK!
There are options out there and they’re getting better and better every day.
If you’d like to try some at-home recipes making them yourself, here are some of my favorites: