People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals formally launched its “Got Pus?” campaign last week in Madison, to coincide with the 2002 World Dairy Expo. The campaign is an attempt to alert consumers to what they say are impurities in the U.S. milk supply.

The campaign follows up PETA’s nationwide “Got Beer?” campaign, which was seen in college newspapers and was intended to tell readers that milk was unhealthy. The new slogan will be seen on billboards throughout the country, though it was rejected in Madison.

“Obviously, it’s a spoof off of the ‘Got Milk?’ ad, to get people’s attention and let them know that if they’ve got milk, they’ve got pus,” said Dan Shannon, campaign coordinator for PETA. “We’re trying to educate people about the unsafe and unhealthy levels of cow’s pus in milk. There’s always a certain amount of pus in a bodily secretion.”

Shannon believes unsanitary living conditions contribute to increased levels of pus in milk “because of the conditions in large-scale as well as small-scale farms, making [cows] produce four to 10 times the amount of milk they are naturally supposed to. This puts stress on their bodies and can make them more likely to get mastitis, a bacterial swelling of the udder, which increases the amount of pus in milk.”

Shannon said the problem exists in all 50 states. He also said the long-term health effects of bovine growth hormones are yet unknown, since they have not been in use for very long.

“We could all get cancer in 30 years. Most hormones like that are illegal in other countries,” he said.

“That’s pretty absurd,” said professor Louis Armentano, chairman of UW-Madison’s Dairy Science department, of PETA’s claims. “Do you think the FDA would allow unsafe milk? Milk comes out of a cow. There’s debris of cells that is going to be in anything that comes out of a living organism.”

Shannon asserts that while the pus itself poses no danger to humans, the bacteria inside it may cause problems.

“Pasteurization just cooks the pus. It doesn’t take the pus out of the milk. The bacteria in the pus survives the pasteurization because it is inside of the pus walls,” he said.

Armentano believes Shannon is jumping to conclusions.

“There is no evidence that milk drinkers are more susceptible to disease,” he said. “I can’t think of anything safer than milk.”

Shannon said that in lieu of keeping their cows healthy, many dairy farmers simply give them antibiotics and growth hormones, making them more susceptible to infection. The cows thus have higher concentrations of pus in their milk.

“It allows them to get away with less humane and sanitary treatment. Antibiotics are not the solution — they allow the cow to be artificially healthy,” he said.

Armentano disagreed.

“If cows are healthy, they are going to produce more milk and make more money for the farmer,” he said. “On larger farms, where cows used to be confined, they now roam freely. We go through trouble at the university to find out when they are most comfortable because we know that they are most economical then.”

“We have eight different beds here, and we are studying which one they like the best. Most cows are in reasonably comfortable conditions,” he continued.

According to Shannon, there are no nutrients found in milk that cannot be found in juice, soymilk, grain or vegetables.

“The dairy industry has spent a lot of money in advertising. It’s just common sense — we need human milk as babies. No mammal drinks milk as an adult. No mammal drinks another animal’s milk. You don’t see a rhinoceros drinking a giraffe’s milk. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
“I thought PETA’s cause was animal welfare and well-being. I wonder what the motivation was for attacking milk,” said Armentano.
“Don’t they wonder what would happen to all these animals if we stopped using them? No one would take care of them. There would be no cute cows, no cute calves, no cute heifers. I like cows. I think they add a lot to the world, and not just as meat and milk,” he commented.