Why dairy-free desserts are the new trend

In late 2020, Ben & Jerry’s dedicated a new flavor to honor former NFL star Colin Kaepernick. It’s called “Change the Whirled,” and it sounds heavenly: caramel with fudge chips, graham cracker swirls and chocolate cookie swirls.

Though it says “non-dairy” clearly on the container, many delighted consumers might miss the significance of the dessert not using any animal products; Kaepernick himself is vegan. Just like humans, and in fact all mammals, cows produce milk only once they are pregnant. Dairy is therefore an industry that always involves the “insemination” of cows. That generally means forcibly inserting objects well into the female animals’ reproductive organs, with the task falling to low wage manual laborers.
© Vitor Schietti

Once born, calves are removed from their mothers almost immediately so that we can drink the milk intended for them. While female calves are raised to become part of the dairy industry, the males, who are the waste product of that industry, are killed immediately or sold to veal farms. 

Temple Grandin, widely viewed as one of the world’s leading proponents of the humane treatment of farmed animals, has described mother cows bellowing for babies who have been taken. The mournful clamor can go on for days. That grueling birth and separation process is repeated year after year until the spent mothers are made into hamburger meat.

© Vitor Schietti

Though we still have far to go to reach true equality, in the past 150 years or so we have made some progress in the field of basic human rights.


That is barely the case for animal rights.

We still buy and sell members of other species as if they are commodities. Few of us acknowledge the simple cruelty of confining animals for life even if we decry the specific abuses they commonly endure.

Standard agricultural industry practice includes castration of piglets and docking of tails with no anesthesia. It includes cutting off the ends of the toes of turkeys, who live in jam-packed sheds on factory farms. And still, on most egg farms in the United States, it includes packing hens into small crates shelved one on top of the other, to be showered in each other’s excrement, for life.

Colin Kaepernick told NBC sports that he chose to go vegan “because of ethics,” a general term associated with doing the right thing. The ethics behind a vegan lifestyle might reflect a concern for our planet, given the devastating impact of animal agriculture on the environment, and its outsized contribution to climate change.

The factory farms on which most animals are currently raised are situated in low socioeconomic neighbourhoods where there is little effective resistance to them, resulting in a system that has been termed “environmental racism.” Factory farm pollution sickens residents, fouls the water and gives off a stench that keeps locals indoors, windows closed, year round.

© Rost Fomin

Based on Kaepernick’s battles against injustice, we might assume that the ethics driving his veganism are also based on the profound injustice humans mete out to other species. With the non-dairy milk market exploding, the plant-based meat market booming, and now a major ice cream company dedicating a dairy-free item to a social justice advocate, let’s hope we are seeing a growing societal discomfort with the injustice built into our current food system and a coming wave of long overdue change.

© Vitor Schietti
Karen Dawn

Karen Dawn

Karen Dawn runs the nonprofit DawnWatch, and is the author of “Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals.”

This column was originally written by DawnWatch and produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and was distributed by the Tribune News Service.

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