Party for the Animals pleads for an end to government-funded school milk

7 June 2023

While both the United Nations and the European Parliament continue to unwaveringly support the dairy industry, the Dutch Party for the Animals is drawing the line here. The Party voted against an initiative report in the European Parliament to increase the budget for school milk. “It is ironic to say that children benefit from government-funded school milk, while the dairy industry is actually contributing to making our planet uninhabitable for future generations,” argues MEP Anja Hazekamp.

Recently, the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture presented an initiative report calling for an increase in the budget for the distribution of animal milk (i.e. cow’s milk) at European schools. The European Commission is currently engaged in reviewing the European Schools Programme. This, as well as the initiative report, is part of the ‘farm-to-table’ strategy intended to make our food production healthier and more sustainable.

MEP Hazekamp explains: “The Party for the Animals has been working to make the European school programme more sustainable, plant-based, healthy, social and inclusive. However, the industrial livestock lobby strongly impacted the report on school programmes by lobbying vehemently against distributing plant-based alternatives to milk among school children. The livestock lobby are fighting tooth and nail to keep plant-based alternatives out of schools.” This shows that promoting the interests of the cattle industry are apparently more important than those of school children.

The Party for the Animals is one of the few political parties that are addressing the dark side of the milk production industry. The vast majority of political parties and organisations actively support the dairy sector, and so the report received a majority of votes and was subsequently adopted.

World Milk Day

Another example of political support for the dairy sector is World Milk Day, declared by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and held on 1 June. The goal of this day is to give organisations that are somehow involved in the production and sale of animal milk, such as dairy farms or large milk producers, opportunities to promote their product.

Campaigns like these are not only unnecessary – considering that billions of people worldwide consume dairy products every day – but this “special day” is also founded on misconceptions. Dutch Animal Rights campaign coordinator Anna Krijger explains: “It is bizarre that despite the climate crisis and the unimaginable suffering of milk-producing animals, an organisation like the UN is still promoting the consumption of dairy products. Study after study has shown that the production and consumption of plant-based food puts significantly less strain on our planet (and, of course, our animals).” According to Oxford University, oat milk is many times less harmful to our planet than cow's milk, for example.

Cows at a Czech dairy farm lining up to be milked.

The real story behind milk

Approximately one billion cows are kept worldwide for the production of meat and dairy products. All these cows together produce over 715 million tonnes of milk every year. To keep this megalomaniac dairy production going, cows are artificially inseminated and give birth to a calf every year. This calf is then taken away from its mother immediately after the birth, and bottle-fed. This is very stressful to both the mother cow and her baby. Also, the constant production of milk for human consumption is so physically demanding on a cow that, although cows can live for 20 years, milk cows are generally taken to the slaughterhouse after about 5 to 6 years, completely used up and often crippled. People who drink milk are often completely unaware that they are contributing to the meat industry and animal suffering.

Not only do milk-producing cows need to bear a calf every year; they are also given concentrated feed which consists largely of soy. Growing soy on such a large scale is bad for our planet, as this results in large-scale deforestation, the use of toxic pesticides and the destruction of natural wildlife habitats. Together with the massive nitrogen and methane emissions from dairy farms, this makes dairy farming a highly polluting sector.

But there is also good news. More and more studies are showing what vegans have already known for many years: humans, whether children and adults, do not need milk! There are plenty of plant-based alternatives, which are also enriched with vitamins and minerals such as calcium and Vitamin B12. Therefore, there is no need whatsoever to support deforestation and animal suffering to be assured of getting all our nutrients.