WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — More arguments are developing regarding milk choices available in schools across the U.S. Following Rep. Elise Stefanik’s introduction of the Protecting School Milk Choices Act advocating for flavored milk in schools, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, sent a letter to Rep. Stefanik, urging her to include dairy-free or vegan options in her legislation.

This would include options like soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk. After all, as PETA President Ingrid Newkirk points out, cow’s milk is one of the primary causes of food allergies among children and the “dairy industry is cruel to mother cows.” The Protecting School Milk Choices act currently focuses primarily on chocolate milk produced by dairy cows.

“Every carton of chocolate milk is packed with sugar and cruelty to cows, who cry out for their stolen calves for days on dairy farms,” Newkirk said in a press release. “PETA is calling on Rep. Stefanik to reconsider her dairy-peddling bill and instead promote vegan milks, which are better for animals and healthier for children.”

Newkirk claimed that a recent PETA investigation of a facility in the North Country found workers abusing cows, stating that cows were hit in the face with poles and a cane. PETA also noted that dairy-free options like soymilk have the same amount of protein as cows’ milk, while being free of saturated animal fat and cholesterol.

ongresswoman Stefanik commented on PETA’s request in a statement released to NEWS10’s sister station in Watertown. “Vegan juice is not milk, and New York’s students should have access to flavored milk.”

PETA’s full letter to Rep. Stefanik can be read below:

Dear Rep. Stefanik:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally, and PETA U.S. is the largest animal rights organization in the world—in response to your proposed legislation that would require all schools to offer chocolate milk. Instead of pushing chocolate milk—which contains no fiber or complex carbohydrates and is full of saturated animal fat and cholesterol—on children, we urge you to promote only vegan milks instead, many of which come in a variety of flavors, including chocolate.

Besides humans and some domesticated cats, no species drinks the milk of another species or drinks dairy milk beyond infancy. Cow’s milk is one of the primary causes of food allergies among children, and millions of Americans—approximately 65% of the population—are lactose intolerant. Dairy has been linked to acne, bloating, constipation, and ear infections, and by comparison, vegan soy-based drinks pack the same amount of protein as cow’s milk but have 6 fewer grams of sugar as well as 2 grams of fiber (as opposed to none in dairy milk). The American Heart Association recommends that kids between the ages of 2 and 18 consume fewer than 25 grams of sugar per day. Just 1 cup of chocolate dairy milk contains a whole day’s worth of sugar. Vegan chocolate milk contains nearly half that amount.

In addition, we have exposed stunningly cruel conditions on dairy farms all around the world—including at one in your district, Adirondack Farms LLC, where an undercover investigation revealed routine abuse and neglect of cows. PETA recorded that workers beat cows with poles and a cane and burned off calves’ sensitive horn tissue, leaving them screaming in pain. Like all mammals, cows produce milk to feed their babies. In the dairy industry, mother cows are forcibly impregnated over and over, and their deeply loved babies are taken away from them within hours of birth so that humans can use their milk, which is actually bad for human bones. Studies have shown that milk from cows doesn’t build strong bones or deliver many of the other health benefits that the dairy industry has used in misleading advertising for decades.

Today, dairy-milk sales continue to decline, while plant-milk sales are expected to reach almost $3.7 billion by 2025—so we hope you’ll consider rescinding your proposed bill and backing vegan businesses instead. We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours, 

Ingrid Newkirk, President, PETA