Sydney Morning Herald gets its facts wrong in criticism of Animal Liberation Qld’s ‘Ditch Dairy’ campaign

1 November, 2015.

The Sydney Morning Herald has made a crucial factual error in its article “'Ditch dairy' animal welfare campaign called 'irresponsible'”. (01/11/15) The overall thrust of the article is that Animal Liberation Queensland’s current ‘Ditch Dairy’ campaign is irresponsible because, supposedly, dairy is essential for good health. The lead sentence even asserts as fact, ‘An animal welfare campaign urging people to "ditch dairy" contradicts official nutrition guidelines …’. 

Unfortunately, the article has got it completely wrong. The 2013 National Health and Medical Research Council's dietary guidelines in fact state, ‘Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthy and nutritionally adequate. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle.’  …  (People are advised to eat ...),‘Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives.’

The article later asserts, ‘But the claims (made by Animal Liberation Qld that there are plenty of alternatives to dairy that are cruelty-free) contradict the federal government's official nutrition advice. The National Health and Medical Research Council's dietary guidelines state that, "dairy foods are the best source of calcium".’ But once again, this is wrong. No such quote is to be found in the Council’s up to date dietary guidelines, published in 2013. 

Animal Liberation Queensland President, Chay Neal stated, “the article quoted a spokesperson for the NHMRC saying the organisation stood by its dietary advice, but this is actually irrelevant, as our suggestion to replace dairy with cruelty-free alternatives is quite within its guidelines.”

Additionally, Animal Liberation Qld is dismayed at the misleading advice given by Nutrition Australia's senior nutritionist, Aloysa Hourigan, that people concerned about animal welfare in the dairy industry could seek out organic dairy products. Sadly, all dairy farming, organic or otherwise, involves keeping cows in a cycle of impregnation, lactation and separation from their calves, followed by premature slaughter when their productivity slows. Male calves are also slaughtered, either at birth or not long after. Ms Hourigan’s advice should certainly be seen in the light that her employer, Nutrition Australia, is sponsored by Dairy Australia.  

Mr Neal stated: “It is regrettable this article has used biased and inaccurate claims to attack our Ditch Dairy campaign, which seeks to inform the general public of serious welfare issues in the dairy industry.”

Amanda Benham, an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, has responded to the article, saying, “it’s ludicrous to suggest that dairy products are essential for human health.  Most of the world’s population does not traditionally consume dairy products, and with good reason. About 70% of the world’s population are lactose intolerant, so drinking milk actually makes them sick, with symptoms like nausea, bloating, cramping and diarrhoea. The notion that there is something “natural” about humans consuming cow’s milk is odd, considering that humans are the only animal to drink the milk of another species and the only animal to continue drinking milk beyond the age of weaning. Cow’s milk is the perfect food for calves, not for humans.” 

Animal Liberation Qld calls upon the Sydney Morning Herald to publicly correct the false assertion made in the article that the Ditch Dairy campaign contradicts national dietary guidelines.

For further comment:
Gayle D’Arcy | Chay Neal | media@alq.org.au

Background information: Animal Liberation Qld launched its Ditch Dairy campaign on 19 October with an ad on Brisbane radio station hit105.  For information on the campaign and welfare issues in the dairy industry, go to the website (ditchdairy.com.au). 

Already the video footage on this website has been viewed more than 130 000 times.
Read the SMH article here.

Share