I feel for our dairy farmers—I really do.
I can’t imagine how it would feel to have everything you’ve ever known dwindle around you. To have your livelihoods rendered worthless. To be thrown into unfair debt. I have no doubt that dairy farmers have the best intentions—and maybe some of them really do look after their animals. But even so: dairy is a destructive industry, where animals are objectified as means to an economic end—and this isn’t okay.
Before you abuse me, take a moment to consider my words—humour me.
Let’s think about the practicality of dairy and how we actually get milk—cows don’t just magically produce it: it results from pregnancy. Like humans, cows carry their young for nine months. Unlike humans, most cows will have their young taken away within 12-14 hours after birth due to their economic strain. Calves less than 30 days old—known as bobby cows—will often be sent to the slaughterhouse. In Australia, this is around 400,000 calves per year. This “cruel separation” is a traumatic experience, destined to be repeated over and over for a cow’s workable lifetime— every 13 months. These calves will never even taste their mother’s milk.
There are 1.6 million dairy cows in Australia. While cows will naturally live around 20 years, cows in the dairy industry are only expected to live around seven to eight years. Australian cows also produce around 5730L of milk per year—which is incredible, as the average is only 2900L. Our farmers are struggling, and no matter how beloved certain cows may be, farmers simply need to get as much as they can from their livestock. But is money worth these drastic measures?
Speaking of drastic measures, let’s talk about industry standards. Yes, there are standards—and yes, they’re a lot better than a lot of other countries. They do genuinely try to provide better lives and treatment for cows in terms of welfare. But some aspects are still quite barbaric, such as dehorning and castration. Dehorning is a common practise for male and female cows, which involves sensitive tissue being sawn off. Castration, while considered a major operation for older bulls, can be done to males younger than six months by anyone—no matter how inexperienced. Shockingly, there are no laws required for pain relief.
Is cruelty and objectification not enough to convince you of a change of heart? Well, let’s look at health factors.
For decades, we’ve been fed the idea that dairy is best—that we need it. But consider who would have encouraged this propaganda: that’s right, the for-profit dairy industry. Yes, dairy is the source of calcium and other vitamins, but to put it bluntly: it’s not meant for us. It’s meant for a rapidly growing baby calf.
Dr Mark Hyman said consuming dairy is actually not in our best interests, and that we’ve been force-fed many ideas that are not factual. For instance, milk doesn’t reduce fractures—it may actually increase the risk of them by 50%. By consuming five to seven portions of fruits and veggies per day (and no animal products), a person can reduce their risk of heart disease by 47%, strokes by 26%, and cancer by up to 18%. Furthermore, about 75% of the population is lactose intolerant. Know why?
Because. We’re. Not. Meant. To. Drink. Another. Animal’s. Milk.
Think about it. Think about what they’re not telling you. Do you think animals should be used purely for economic gain? Even if you don’t think it’s wrong for them to be killed for our consumption, I’d like to think that—as reasonable agents—we can agree that cows should at least be treated well—starting with stricter industry standards and better policing. Even if they’re going to be slaughtered, at the very least, they should live fulfilling lives.
Does this make you feel sad? Do you wish things were different? Well, they can be—and you can help. Change begins with education. Even one mind changed can start a revolution. As it is, we don’t need dairy—there are plenty of plant-based sources of calcium, like dark leafy greens, beans, pulses, nuts, brown bread, enriched fruit juice, plant-based milks, soy mince, tofu and so on. Dairy is dwindling—the number of farms in the last two decades has decreased by two thirds. Maybe there’s a reason for it.
Dairy farmers, I feel sorry for you—that you’ve been brought into this war and are struggling. That you’re only paid 37 cents for a litre of milk, despite it costing 38 cents to produce. But instead of supporting our farmers by buying their product, why don’t we encourage them and donate to them to create new and sustainable livelihoods—livelihoods that don’t rely on forced slavery.
Some things are meant to change—and I for one choose compassion.
So maybe you don’t want animals to die. Maybe you feel bad about the suffering some of them go through. Maybe you really wish you could live a life that’s as sustainable and caring as possible. But how? How can you even think about limiting or discontinuing your consumption of animal products? It’s such an ingrained part of society. It’s everywhere. We’re taught that it’s natural, that it’s normal, that we as human beings have superiority over non-human animals. That it’s our right to consume them. But is it our right to allow them to suffer? To be the cause of their suffering? No.
Do you think as I do? Does it sadden you when you see those horrific videos of pigs in cages too small to move? Where farmed animals may never see the sun or fell the grass under their feet, where their lives are taken advantage of purely for our purposes of consumption? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider at least limiting your impact—and here’s my little handy guide of how.
This is probably one of the easiest things to change, because of the variety you have in what you choose to drink. There’s so many choices! You’ve got multiple types of soy milks, each creamier than the next, or almond milk, sweet rice milk, coconut milk, macadamia milk and hazelnut milk. Whether its cooking or coffee, these things work just as well. Personally, I think the cheap soy milk is great—and bonus, it contains lots of protein and nutrients to fill you up.
This is often the most difficult thing I hear people say. In fact, I used to be one of those people. Having been vegetarian for 7 years before becoming vegan about 10 months ago, I would always respond with yes, I’m vegetarian! But I could never go vegan. I love cheese. Dairy is my favourite food group. And it really was. But after researching what a lot of dairy cows go through—that they’re (often) artificially inseminated and kept pregnant their entire lives to produce dairy, with their babies taken away to become veal or future dairy cows—I decided no food could ever be worth their cries.
Even so, replacing cheese was really difficult for me. Some vegans avoid substitutes all together, by using other ingredients—like avocado or tomato paste—for that “melty” effect. However, as a former dairy lover, I do enjoy cheese—but fear not! There is plenty of choice for cruelty-free dairy! Biocheese happens to be a favourite of mine, and for around $7-9, it’s certainly worth it. The texture is a little different to your usual cheese, but it’s super creamy and to die for when melted—even better than actual cheese, I’d argue. There’s also Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream, both of which are super creamy, tasty and useful in cooking. Any health food store will sell plenty of these kinds of things—and even Coles and Woolworths. Furthermore, I’ve recently discovered you can make your own cheese, using things like cashews, and nutritional yeast flakes, which have together create a creamy, cheesy flavour. Google is your best friend—explore, experiment and have some fun eating some tasty creations.
Meat is probably the easiest thing to replace, give up or reduce. We really do not need it to survive—you can get all your nutrients and more from plants. But if you do long for meat, there are vegan alternatives. Firstly, you have things like grilled mushrooms, or other veggies—using the right flavouring, they can be quite similar. Tofu is also a great substitute when cooked well. A personal favourite of mine is to thinly slice tofu and coat with paprika, salt, pepper and garlic, before searing it and making a delicious dipping sauce to go with it—healthy and super easy for lazy people like me. There’s also plenty of fake meats. The frozen section of supermarkets normally have a great choice of burgers, sausages, pies, schnitzels, and so on. Textured soy protein is a new personal favourite of mine—it’s super cheap at around $3 for a big bag; just add water and heat. It can be used for the same kind of thing mince is used for.
There’s also plenty of online shops where you can find all sorts of goodies! Lam Yong has a physical and online store, and they sell everything. I am crazy excited to try vegan prawns, soy duck and vegan drumsticks.
There’s really plenty of options. I’m not here to force you—I’m just expressing my experiences in attaining a healthy cruelty-free lifestyle. Going vegan has been the best thing I’ve ever done, and my life, as well as the lives of the animals who are slowly being saved by this movement, is better for it.
I was vegetarian for seven years before becoming a vegan about six months ago—and I’ve never felt better. But after seven years of perfecting an amazing vegetarian lasagna recipe, I pretty much have to start all over again as a vegan! And there’s a couple of ways to do it—this is just my personal favourite. And it’s loaded with veggie goodness! Warning: reading this will probably make you really, really hungry!
Use whatever veggies you have in the fridge. But in case you want some guidance, this is what I normally use:
- Sweet potato
- Vegan butter (I use Nuttlex).
- Wraps (I use Mountain Bread so it’s not as heavy as pasta sheets—use whatever you like, though!)
- Soy milk—or some other kind of non-dairy milk
- Tomato pasta sauce (or you can make your own—just blend tomatoes and herbs together. Delicious.)
- Vegan cream cheese (I use Tofutti).
- Optional: vegan mince.
- Chop up/grate all your veggies; you choose what you do to what. For the sweet potato, you’ll want to chop them into the smallest pieces you possibly can. I cook these before the lasagna so it doesn’t take as long. Simply put the chopped sweet potato into a microwave-safe container for steaming, fill with a little hot/boiling water, and cook for about 10 minutes or until soft. Do this first, and then chop the rest of your veggies.
- Use a medium-to-large sized pot (depending on how much you’re making!) and begin by sautéing the onions with some garlic, pepper, and whatever herbs you feel like adding (BASIL IS AMAZING, JUST SAYING). You can also add mushrooms and zucchini here if you wish.
- Add your vegan mince (if you’re using it), and most of your other veggies (except for the sweet potato) into the pot. I like to leave some carrot and tomato slices for the creamy layers of the lasagne, but do whatever you like. Add the tomato pasta sauce and adjust to taste.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.
- Make your creamy sauce: add butter, and slowly stir in the flour to make a nice consistency. Remember: this will thicken as time goes on. Add some garlic, Tofutti, and a little bit of soy milk if you don’t want to use butter. You could also use nutritional yeast flakes here. Alter to taste, and make sure to stir: this mixture burns easily. Take it off the heat when done.
- The sweet potato should now be cooked. I like to mash it up with a fork, some vegan butter, Tofutti, garlic, salt and pepper at this point to make mashed sweet potato.
- Spray a large oven-safe dish with canola oil (or something similar). Line the base with your first layer of Mountain Bread (or whatever you’re using. Note: I’ve never cooked with pasta sheets before, so if you’re using those, read the instructions).
- Spoon tomato mix onto this first layer, enough to nicely cover the wrap.
- Add another layer of wraps on top of the mince mixture. Then spread your sweet potato mix on this layer, before adding about half of the creamy sauce.
- Repeat steps 8 and 9 until all mixture has been used. The final layer will be the creamy sauce. Feel free to add some vegan cheese or basil here—depending on what you’ve got, and what you like.
- Place lasagna in the oven and cook until the top layer is crispy. Since we’re vegan (yay) we don’t have to worry about under-cooking meat, and since I’ve used wraps, you don’t have to worry about the pasta sheets being under cooked.
And there you have it, folks! Delicious vegan lasagne. If anyone has any tips, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Love, the poor and lazy uni student vegan.