David “the pinch” Willetts was right to favour axing free milk for under-fives. It costs us £60m and is an anachronistic way of trying to get calcium into badly-tended kids, with its own undesirable health side effects. And as a universal benefit to rich and poor alike at a time of structural deficit, there’s no case for keeping it.
Except PR. Cameron decided to squander £60m on continuing this wasteful scheme because his reputation is too fragile to withstand being compared to Margaret Thatcher. I’m not confident the man will last.
Health spending is axed, milk is kept – makes no sense. Anne Milton’s ‘Healthy Start’ vouchers were a far better idea.
I am vegan, so it wouldn’t do for me to stop without making the following uncontroversial statements of fact so few people want to know about:
- Milk is for calves and its benefits for humans are overstated; what benefits there are are not particular to milk.
- Milk is a cruel food; the cows forced into supplying this cheapo milk are unlikely to see much grass, likely to be permanently on antibiotics, forced to calf each year and then have their babies taken away from them so we can have it all. And when they stop being able to calve, it’s curtains. An intelligent, feeling, social creature, used up and thrown away, needlessly.
- Milk is an environmentally degrading food – 990 litres of water for each litre of milk. The greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation for their food (the largest portion of the world’s soy crop); transporting the food round the world; cold storage for the milk; moving the milk (whose main constituent is water) from dairy farm to fridge; the packaging.
I think we should find alternatives to milk for all these reasons. My hunch is that the children will thank us later.
Bonus links for those curious about the state of play (which seems to be a depressing zero sum game):
- Food Climate Research Network at the University of Surrey – seriously engaging with climate change, don’t care about animal welfare.
- Food Ethics Council – good on human welfare, but search for ‘sentience’ and you get a single hit
- Stephen Walsh’s book Plant-Based Nutrition and Health – information on vegan nourishment.
- The Vegan Society – good on cruelty, but not yet credible as a decision-making resource. It’s not acceptable to have undated web pages giving nutrition advice.