Photo courtesy of Richard Scott.
A plethora of billboards—60 to be exact—have popped up throughout the Los Angeles region, including here in Long Beach, with one simple directive: “Dairy is scary—watch it on YouTube.”
For those within the Veganverse, YouTube personality Erin Janus’s now famous but disturbing video regarding the dairy industry sparked outrage and debate as it has racked up nearly five million views since it was posted two-and-a-half years ago—and animal rights nonprofit In Defense of Animals is using the vlogger’s popularity to get the message across, including an urge to take on its 21-day dairy-free challenge.
“In our fight for animal welfare, the environment, and our own personal health, making the decision to go dairy free is one of the most impactful steps that we as individuals can take,” said Nadia Schilling of nonprofit. “In both English and Spanish, the billboards invite onlookers to watch Erin’s video exposing common dairy industry practices[.]”
The science behind dairy’s lack of health benefits is robust. Studies have shown the chance of bone fracture increases among women who drink too much milk—one of many studies to debunk the myth that milk is an essential route toward healthy bones—while a plethora of studies also show the correlation between dairy intake and increased prostate cancer among men. This is just a small example of the scientific literature examining milk’s unhealthiness, but the bulk has prompted nutritionists to become much more concerned about excessive dairy intake among dairy-centric populations like those in North America.
Add onto this the dairy industry’s eyebrow-raising lobbying crew—dairy corporations and companies spent some $63 million on federal lobbying while giving $24 million to candidates between 2004 and 2014—and you have yourself a contentious, ethical debate that is brewing both at the grocer and within the government.
The nonprofit understands that, beyond its lack of health benefits, many folks, particularly North Americans, love their dairy and the best way to battle that consumption is not through Your Body Is a Temple PSAs but through perturbing images and practices that express the ethical aspect of going dairy-free.
Janus’s video has not been shared without controversy or arguments. Much of those within the independent dairy business, mainly smaller farms unlike Dannon or Nestlé, criticized Janus’s lack of nuance; for example, she claims that photos of the nipples on cow’s udders are red from rough milking when, according to farmers, they are red because the are dipped in iodine to prevent infection. One Canadian farmer took Janus to task bit-by-bit though, and, admittedly, hit a wall at one point: the abuse of the animals depicted in the video.
“Abuse to dairy cows, and to any animal, is never, ever OK,” wrote Julaine Truer. “The clips Ms. Janus shares deeply saddened me; I can’t understand how anyone could treat an animal in the manner shown in this video.”
Ultimately, despite which side of the consumption aisle you’re on, the Vegan Revolution is one which is garnering huge traction here in Long Beach, with the future opening of vegan drive-thru Plant Power opening soon, joining Seabirds, Under the Sun, The Grain Cafe, the expansion of both Caffeinated Kitchen and Wild Chive, along with restaurants offering vegan options that go beyond a veggie-patty, pseudo-sammie. (There’s a vegan poutine at Lacquered that is pretty spectacular and The HipPea’s falafel is one of our essential Long Beach dishes.)
And even more, the billboards come just in time for the upcoming Vegan Festival taking place near CSULB’s Walter Pyramid this weekend.
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