Vegan Blind Spot: Pus?

But first, a quick tangent: a Thanksgiving alternative. Tempting, no?

Anyway, I came across this interview with Portia de Rossi, who [aside from possessing impeccable comic timing] is an outspoken vegan. The interview seemed pretty standard: how she became vegan, what she likes to eat, etc. But then, she was asked what interesting vegan food fact she likes to share with people. She says,

I don’t know if I necessarily love to tell people about how bad dairy is for them, but I feel compelled to tell people how bad it is. After I completely gross them out by talking about puss [sic] cells, I then tell them how delicious soy and almond and rice milk are, and how great Follow Your Heart cheese is and how you can make cream out of cashews.

‘Scuse me, pus cells? I made a face while reading. Shaun noticed. “Did you know there’s pus in dairy milk?” I said [still with gross face]. “Yes, of course,” he responded [with “duh” face]. And that’s how I encountered one of my [I’m sure many] vegan blind spots.

Now, I’m not fully vegan, so maybe it’s okay that I didn’t know this. But on the other hand, I have given up dairy milk altogether and rarely will you find non-vegan cheese or cream products in our house [except the occasional Fage greek yogurt when they’re on sale]. I’ve known for a while that our bodies were not designed to digest the enzymes in milk from other animals [contributing to the common ailment of “lactose intolerance”], and I’ve known about the bacterias and nasty things that go along with industrial pasteurization. Forks over Knives also taught me how dairy calcium really isn’t good for you…but pus? I had to do some digging. From Foodmatters:

It turns out that standard dairy cows are medicated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to stimulate a much higher than normal milk production. This causes severe stress that results in mastitis, an infection of the udders of sick and stressed cows [Courtney’s note: pus is formed in response to fighting these infections]. This infection is, of course, treated with antibiotics, helping to breed more antibiotic resistant organisms [Courtney’s note 2: AKA, more pus]… You might console yourself by saying “but milk is pasteurized. Surely the cells are cleared!” No, they are not cleared, they are only heated. So your kids drink dead pus cells.

Yum? Although I guess we eat saline, bacteria and fecal matter in our industrial meat, so why not pus in our milk, right? Foodmatters reported [in the same article] that the USDA even has a pus policy: if there are over 750 million pus cells per liter of milk, that milk can only be consumed in the state in which its produced. That’s right – its not that they can’t sell it when its filled with pus, just that they’re restricted as to where they can sell it. Hm.

Now, does this regulated amount of pus have any negative effects on our bodies, aside from the nausea its causing me right now? My guess is that the bigger problem is the bovine growth hormone that causes the infection that causes the white blood cells to form pus, but that’s my completely un-scientific opinion. Pus just seems like the salted rim on the rBGH + bacteria cocktail that the Dairy industry claims “Does A Body Good.” I’ll stick with my almond and soy milk, thank you!

For more information, see here:


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Categories: Food


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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