Australian MP derides "Milk Sucks" campaign

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dairy, Nutrition, Milk, Dairy product, Dairy australia

An ongoing dispute over just how sweet and wholesome milk really
is, could be about to get political, if Australia's shadow
agricultural minister gets his way.

John Vogels, a Liberal Party member of parliament, yesterday called on the government to ban school-based protests by local environmental group Animal Liberation Victoria (ALV), which claims that dairy production is detrimental to both health and the environment. Dairy companies have long sold milk as a natural and nutritious product vital to health, though environmental group's like ALV are keen to challenge this perception. ALV's "Milk Sucks" campaign is targeting consumers and now schools with another viewpoint. The backlash comes as processors and producers throughout the food and beverage industry face increasing pressure over how they market and promote their products, particularly to children. Industry body Dairy Australia told that it backed Vogels' calls for the ban on anti-dairy over concerns that the ALV protests were unfairly targeting young people. "The 'Milk Sucks' campaign is an extreme viewpoint aimed at schoolchildren,"​ a spokesperson for the group said. "Dairy Australia does not support a campaign that promotes a narrow point of view to a vulnerable group such as schoolchildren."​ Though the association accepted that any decision was rightly for the country's education minister to make, it added its concerns that the ALV's message could pose a risk to the health of young people. Dairy Australia was keen to emphasise that dairy consumption particularly for products like milk were a key part of a healthy diet. The claims, supported by the independent National Health and Medical Research Council's dietary guidelines for Australia, have linked dairy to preventing bone fracture, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal cancer. "Any campaign aimed at reducing dairy food intake potentially puts health at risk,"​ the Dairy Australia spokesperson added. "As indicated above, milk is associated with a range of serious health conditions." ​ However, these claims are denied by the ALV, which says that dairy consumption is actually responsible for declining health standards and rising obesity rates in the country, whilst also being detrimental to the environment. ALV president Mark Patty said that he was outraged by the calls to prevent the group's literature from being distributed in schools. "Vogels' call to ban our information packs from schools is akin to him asking for a public book burning in the city square,"​ he said. "He is living in the dark ages alongside the cruelty, environmental impacts and ill health inherent in the dairy industry." ​ Patty claims that the move is particularly hypocritical regarding the way the dairy industry has itself pushed its products in schools. "The dairy industry pumps their propaganda, literature and various competitions into schools regularly to hook young kids on dairy,"​ he added. "Yet they get their knickers in a knot when someone else has the 'audacity' to give kids the other side of the coin and promote a healthy lifestyle instead."​ He backed these claims with a recent study that had looked at the effects of dairy consumption. In research produced by the Harvard University's landmark Nurses Health study, of 78,000 women surveyed over a 12 year period, those who consumed the most dairy products were found to break the most bones. ALV added that the organisation wanted to supply its dairy information pack to all secondary schools in Victoria, while also promoting non-dairy alternatives for a healthy diet, including soymilks, ricemilk, fruits and vegetables. The group also plans further actions for the upcoming World School Milk Day in September. The "Milk Sucks" campaign is a global initiative that hit Australia in February in a blaze of controversy, with protestors suckling the teats of life-size fibre glass cow. A spokesperson for the group, said the protest was designed to simulate how consuming cows milk was "not natural"​.

Related topics: Markets, Fresh Milk

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