You are not alone in thinking this!
All that high-fat, high-salt, umami tastiness can keep luring us back, even when we know we should break the habit. It’s no wonder cheese is often the food that trips up new vegans and stops many others from even trying.
At this point, it could be helpful to remind ourselves why ditching dairy products is such a good idea.
We already mentioned the fat and the salt, and many of us are advised to reduce these in our diets for sound reasons. Salt is linked to high blood pressure, fat is linked to obesity, and both are connected to heart disease and stroke. Yes, cheese contains calcium but it doesn’t have the monopoly on it! There are plenty of other non-animal sources, too.
And what about the suffering of cows? They don’t give milk with a twist of the faucet but like all mammals, they must first be made pregnant. On dairy farms, these sensitive, sentient creatures are repeatedly impregnated by artificial insemination, only to have their newborns taken away from them at birth. After all, the calves are little more than a by-product – it’s the milk we want, not the baby. The physiological toll of near-constant pregnancy and lactation, and the emotional toll of repeated separation from their young means cows used for their milk break down before the age of six – just a fraction of their natural lifespan. There is no retirement for them, no happy ending. When they can no longer produce as much milk as we want of them, they are trucked to slaughter.
And what about the calves? Some of the females will follow their mother into the herd and endure the same cycle of pregnancy and loss until they too break down and are sent to their deaths. Others will be reared for veal, and any who cannot be profited from in another way will be shot in the head at birth.
Knowing the reality of the dairy industry can be a powerful motivator to quit cheese.
Milk production – alongside the production of meat – is also severely damaging our planet. Cows contribute disproportionately to climate change, with beef (from beef herds), beef (from dairy herds) and cheese all producing far more climate-destroying emissions than soy or nuts, both of which can be used to create delicious plant milk and cheese. Researchers at Oxford University who examined the ecological impacts of our food choices found that the most sustainable dairy still causes more environmental harm than the least sustainable soy milk.
But what if we understand all this, and want to quit cheese but still want that flavor? We have good news: There are now some excellent vegan cheeses that taste just like the real thing. There are also nacho dips, cream cheese, cheese-flavored potato chips, and cheesecakes that have all the taste of their dairy counterparts but are 100% plant.
If you are still not ready to let cheese go, that’s OK. Why not focus instead on reducing or ditching the other animal products first? If you eliminate meat, fish, eggs and milk, and still eat a little cheese now and then, you will be doing a great service to your health, to the environment and to animals.
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