Melee Over Meaning of ‘Milk’: Does Dairy Fail to Meet the FDA’s Definition?

PETA Alerts FDA That if ‘Milk’ Must Come From ‘Healthy’ Cows, Pus and Rampant Udder Infections Disqualify Dairy Beverage

For Immediate Release:
November 1, 2018

Audrey Shircliff 202-483-7382


PETA is weighing in on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) requests for comments about the definition of “milk”—and whether it should be used to describe vegan milks made from soy, almonds, oats, and other plants.

In comments submitted today, PETA points out that since the FDA defines “milk” as something produced by “healthy cows,” the dairy industry itself isn’t producing it, as up to 50 percent of cows used for milk suffer from mastitis—a painful udder infection resulting from being hooked up to milking machines three times daily for months at a time. Their infected udders produce pus, and the animals are routinely given antibiotics and hormones, all of which end up in the cow’s milk sold in supermarkets.

“The bovine udder secretions on the market today are contaminated with pus, antibiotics, and hormones,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is calling on the FDA to stop fretting about what to call nutritious vegan milks and start coming clean about a fluid that doesn’t meet its own definition.”

PETA’s motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way.” For more information, please visit

PETA’s comments to the FDA follow.

Labels on plant-based products aren’t the problem—the label on cow’s milk is. The evidence is overwhelming that it’s misleading to label cows’ secretions as “milk” when the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requires that cow’s milk be produced by “healthy cows.”

To the dairy industry, cows are nothing more than milk machines. But they’re not machines, they’re living beings. Machines don’t get mastitis, but cows do. And because they’re hooked up to milking equipment for seven of the nine months in which they’re gestating, they often develop this condition. To fight these painful udder infections, their bodies produce the pus (made of white blood cells) that the U.S. Department of Agriculture—at the industry’s behest—allows to be present in the milk that consumers buy. The antiseptic that is used to disinfect cow’s teats also increases pus levels. Up to 50 percent of the cows used for milk have infected udders.

Incessant milking takes a cruel toll on cows. They are considered productive by the dairy industry for only two years or so and are slaughtered when their profitability falls off, typically when they’re just 4 or 5 years old. Their natural lifespan is about 20 years, but they are sent to slaughterhouses to be ground up for the meat industry far short of that.

Pus isn’t the only disturbing thing that consumers are swallowing when they drink cow’s milk—antibiotics and hormones are routinely given to the animals so that they’ll produce abnormally large amounts of milk. These cows aren’t healthy at all as required by labeling laws.

The public demands transparency from the government. The FDA should come clean about cow’s milk.

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