The Dairy Debate

The Vedic tradition is centered on the worship of Krishna, the “cowherd boy,” and the cow as “Mother.” India’s ancient Vedic culture has existed on cow’s milk for tens of thousands of years.

In this section of the site, you will find arguments for and against the use of milk. It is important to understand the distinct difference between traditional milk flowing from protected and loved cows, and commercial milk that is forcibly extracted from unloved cows. But first, let’s comment on how this relates to FFL projects…

Because of the controversy surrounding the dairy industry Food for Life Global does not financially support food distribution containing commercial dairy. While Food for Life Global takes this stance, an explanation of the Vedic tradition that has influenced many of our affiliates may help our supporters better understand why some of our affiliates sometimes use dairy in their food preparation.

Ancient Tradition

sv_krishnafeedgcowThe Vedic tradition is centered on the worship of Krishna, the “cowherd boy,” and the cow as “Mother.” India’s ancient Vedic culture has existed on cow’s milk for tens of thousands of years. Milk is and always will be an integral part of that culture. History has proven that cultures can survive for thousands of years and their people live long, healthy lives when there is a symbiotic relationship between humans and animals. Hundreds of millions of Hindus have used dairy products for many thousands of years, lending credibility to the notion that dairy products can be safe to consume. To ignore this fact is to allow ourselves to be blinded by our reluctance to even consider evidence that challenges our own personal convictions and the current medical belief.

All Milk is Not the Same

It is important to keep in mind that milk from each different source is unique; that is, cow’s milk and human milk are not one and the same. Taken further, the milk that a brown cow produces is different from that of a spotted cow, and within each herd, every individual cow has the ability to produce a unique blend of milk for its calf. Similarly, even among breastfeeding women, the milk that each woman produces is not exactly the same. By nature’s wondrous design, the milk that a mother produces for her child is perfectly suited to that child. Amazingly, even while breastfeeding, a mother’s milk can change according to the needs of the child! Obviously, a more subtle influence is present here—the influence of love. In the same way, if a cow is loved and protected, the milk it offers to humans will most certainly be uniquely beneficial. On the other hand, the commercial milk that comes from mistreated and diseased cows is certainly very harmful as is clearly evident from the numerous medical studies on commercial milk consumption. On this point, it is important to note that ALL dairy research is conducted on commercial milk only.

Vegan and the VEDAS

The founder of ISKCON and the inspiration behind the Food for Life program, Swami Prabhupada was not vegan and was probably not even aware that such a diet existed. However, although there is substantial support both from Prabhupada’s teachings and the Vedic literature about the benefits of consuming dairy, the fact remains that a large percentage of the world population is lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is the inability to metabolize lactose, because of a lack of the required enzyme lactase in the digestive system. It is estimated that 75% of adults worldwide show some decrease in lactase activity during adulthood. The frequency of decreased lactase activity ranges from as little as 5% in northern Europe, up to 71% for Sicily, to more than 90% in some African and Asian countries. When the Vedas were originally spoken this was most probably not the case, and, of course, there was no such thing as milk contaminated with growth hormones and antibiotics, etc.

Even during Swami Prabhupada’s lifetime, the state of commercial milk was much purer. From the beginning of the movement he started in 1966, Swami Prabhupada encouraged his students to develop self-sufficient farms that could supply all their needs, completely independent of modern society, including commercial dairy. He advocated, “Simple living and high thinking.” He wanted ISKCON to be a positive alternative to modern life. Devotees of Krishna were to be self-sufficient and this included acquiring milk from their own protected cows.


In the broadest use of the word, ahimsa refers to a lifestyle of peace and is most popularly connected with Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement of the 1930s. However, in the modern context, ahimsa is typically tied exclusively to diet and has been popularized by Eastern spiritual movements like the Hare Krishnas (ISKCON). However, somewhat ironically, these same peace-loving Eastern spiritual groups have received criticism from the vegan community for their inconsistency to practice the path of ahimsa. Their use of commercial dairy and its ties to the exploitation of cows is a case in point.

Many members have addressed this issue to the ISKCON Governing Body Commission over years and they are now starting to listen. Last year, resolutions were passed by the European leadership to minimize the use of commercial dairy and for ISKCON temples to seek ahimsa dairy, per the order of the founder, Srila Prabhupada. The European leaders overwhelmingly voted to source better quality milk for their temples and not one vote was cast in favor of continuing the current status quo.

Since the yoga path is all about connecting with our higher self and God, it follows that a food yogi (which should naturally include all ISKCON members) should walk a path of (ahimsa) non-violence, by respecting all living beings and gearing all of their thoughts, words, and deeds towards a peaceful outcome. The ahimsa path is much more than peaceful intention; it necessitates an awareness of the spiritual equality of all beings. This awareness naturally manifests in one’s choice of food and that obviously includes evaluating the quality of the dairy one may wish to consume. Quite simply, one is taken by force from an abused cow while the other is given with love by a protected cow. In other words, this is the ONLY kind of milk that could ever be considered “ahimsa.”

My hope is that all ISKCON devotees adopt this diet, as I sincerely feel that is a step in the right direction for developing the cow protection and farm projects the ISKCON founder, Srila Prabhupada envisioned. On top of that, as many reports and articles have noted, commercial dairy is a toxic cocktail of nasty ingredients and emotions that have been linked to all kinds of diseases including cancer.

I believe the commercial dairy sold today is not sattvic (pure) and, therefore, at least in the Hindu tradition, should not be offered to Krishna. It is a sad reality of the times, but it also serves to remind ISKCON members of their responsibility to firmly establish cow protection and sustainable farm projects as their founder had asked. As long as ISKCON members continue to buy milk in the marketplace, the motivation to fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s vision will never evolve. I am almost 100% certain that ISKCON has lost some respect from the community for their lax attitude to dairy consumption.

Furthermore, Srila Prabhupada made it crystal clear that all problems stem from cow abuse.

“The cow stands with tears in her eyes, the śūdra milkman draws milk from the cow artificially, and when there is no milk the cow is sent to be slaughtered. These greatly sinful acts are responsible for all the troubles in present society. People do not know what they are doing in the name of economic development. The influence of Kali will keep them in the darkness of ignorance. Despite all endeavors for peace and prosperity, they must try to see the cows and the bulls happy in all respects. Foolish people do not know how one earns happiness by making the cows and bulls happy, but it is a fact by the law of nature.”

He also specifically demanded his followers that they develop self-sufficient communities that could supply all their food and obtain their milk from protected cows.

He demanded that Krishna should only be offered the “best foodstuff” which cancels out all commercial dairy.

“Therefore our program is that we offer Kṛṣṇa the best foodstuff.”

“But what is this justice, that after taking milk from the animal and kill it? Is that very good justice? So it is very, very sinful, and we have to suffer for that. And they are stated in the śāstras that “If you do this sinful act, you will go to this kind of hell.”

“There is no expenditure. He is agreeable to accept a little fruit, a little flower, a little water. Simply He wants your devotional love. That’s all. He’s not hungry. Of course, this Society is, according to our capacity, offering Kṛṣṇa the best foodstuff. Not that because He says patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ, therefore we offer Him patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ. No. We offer Him to our best capacity—the best, the best foodstuff. That should be the motto.”

“We offer Kṛṣṇa the best food. That is the regulative principle. Kṛṣṇa should be offered the best foodstuff, and you take the remnants.”

Karma-free Vegan

Because there is violence even in the gathering and preparation of vegan meals, no food is ever totally karma-free, or ahimsa (non-violent) unless it is first offered in sacrifice to God, at which time it becomes pure, antiseptic, and spiritually nourishing! Hindus call this food prasada—or mercy. By adopting this spiritual practice, a vegan can further their quest for real peace, harmony, and spiritual purity. Despite our good intentions, if we fail to recognize God as the source of all creation, our efforts will remain dry, mundane and inadequate.

Facts About Commercial Milk

  • Calcium: Green vegetables, such as kale and broccoli, are better than milk as calcium sources.
  • Fat Content*: Dairy products—other than skim varieties—are high in fat, as a percentage of total calories.
  • Iron-Deficiency: Milk is very low in iron. To get the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance of 11 milligrams of iron, an infant would have to drink more than 22 quarts of milk each day. Milk also causes blood loss from the intestinal tract, depleting the body’s iron.
  • Diabetes: In a study of 142 children with diabetes, 100 percent had high levels of an antibody to a cow’s milk protein. It is believed that these antibodies may destroy the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
  • Contaminants: Milk is frequently contaminated with antibiotics and excess vitamin D. In one study of 42 milk samples tested, only 12 percent were within the expected range of vitamin D content. Often samples of infant formula, seven had more than twice the vitamin D content reported on the label, and one had more than four times the label amount.
  • Lactose: Three out of four people from around the world, including an estimated 25 percent of individuals in the United States, are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose, which then causes diarrhea and gas. The lactose sugar, when it is digested, releases galactose, a simple sugar that is linked to ovarian cancer and cataracts.
  • Allergies: Milk is one of the most common causes of food allergy. Often the symptoms are subtle and may not be attributed to milk for some time.
  • Colic: Milk proteins can cause colic, a digestive upset that bothers one in five infants. Milk-drinking mothers can also pass cow’s milk proteins to their breastfeeding infants.


Emily Deschanel: Behind the Scenes in the Dairy Industry

The Dairy Industry in 60 seconds (PETA)

The Real Price of Commercial Dairy (English Subtitles)

For more truth about the enslaved-COW DAIRY industry (including organic) and why the VEAL industry is its by-product:

Contaminated milk in India

india-health-milk-contamination-289248“More than two-thirds of milk samples tested in a cross-country health survey in India were found to be contaminated with additives such as detergent and fertilizer,” stated a report by The National  (1/11/12) newspaper. “Some samples also were found to contain more alarming substances such as detergent, the bleaching agent hydrogen peroxide, and the fertilizer, urea. Also, the addition of water not only reduces the nutritional value of milk but contaminated water may also pose health risks.” India is one of the world’s biggest producers of milk but struggles to meet domestic demand and so milk factories are getting desperate. Mr. Lahrry, a farmer from Bijnaur in the state of Uttar Pradesh said the milk being provided to the factories is good, but the contamination is likely taking place in the factories where the milk is being pasteurized. “[Because of] the greed of manufacturers, and because demand is so high, they don’t care about who drinks the milk and can add all these additives,” he said.

When I heard about this I thought, “If this is happening in India, the country where cows are revered, what was happening in commercial dairy factories in other countries where cows are disrespected?” RussiansIn-MILKWell, my fears were soon justified. Recently, Russian factory workers filmed themselves bathing naked in a huge vat of milk used to make cheese, stated the Daily Mail in the UK. “Yeah, our job is really boring,” says the caption on the online posting by Artem Romanov, 27, one of the workers at the Torgovii Dom-Siri cheese factory in Siberia. According to the comments posted by Romanov, the decision to take a bath in the milk was to celebrate a colleague’s birthday!

The bottom line is: Never trust any company because they really only care about their profits. And, if you’re smart you’ll stay far away from commercial dairy.

Organic milk

There should be no doubt that it is a huge risk to your health when you consume commercial dairy products. On the other hand, purchasing organic dairy, although a lot safer, does not address the issue of lactose intolerance. Neither does it address the fact that the organically fed cows are also sent to slaughter once their milk production drops and their calves are taken from them immediately after birth. This point alone should shake your conscience to the core and make you think twice about supporting these brutal commercial operations. If you insist on making milk a part of your diet, however, there is no better milk than pure unhomogenized and unpasteurized milk willingly offered by family-owned cows that are loved, protected are never sent to slaughter.  Cows that are never separated from their calves and are never artificially inseminated. This is the ONLY kind of milk that could be considered sattvic or part of a food yogi diet, any other dairy is impure and tainted with violence. Sadly, the so-called “ahimsa dairy” standards being promoted today are not as sattvic as they make out, as clearly evidenced on the Ahimsa Dairy Foundation website.

I understand that the Ahimsa Dairy Foundation is a separate non-profit from ISKCON, but why would ISKCON allow itself to be aligned with this sub-standard?

Their present practices are far from non-harming:

  • Calves with Mothers: 5 days with no further access
  • Conception: Bull for first pregnancy followed by artificial insemination (AI)
  • Milking method: By machine
  • Horns: Debudding of milking cows
  • Treats: None


It seems whenever financial profit is involved, there will always be a compromise between purity and integrity. And again, because of the controversy surrounding the dairy industry Food for Life Global does not financially support food distribution containing commercial dairy.

Commercial Milk Consumption and Prostate Cancer

By Neal D. Barnard, M.D. Abstract
Prostate cancer is one of the most common malignancies worldwide, with an estimated 400,000 new cases diagnosed annually. Its incidence and mortality have been associated with milk or dairy product consumption in international and interregional correlational studies. As a result, case-control and cohort studies have further investigated this association and are described in this review. Of twelve case-control studies, six found significant associations, as did five of eleven cohort studies, with the relative risk of prostate cancer among those with the most frequent dairy product consumption ranging between 1.3 and 2.5, with evidence of a dose-response relationship. Mechanisms that may explain this association includes the deleterious effect of high-calcium foods on vitamin D balance, the tendency of frequent dairy intake to increase serum insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) concentrations, and the effect of dairy products on testosterone concentration or activity. FULL REPORT