Mothers giving milk?
La Leche League International has grown since 1956 from a group of seven mothers to a highly reputable worldwide organisation with unparalleled achievements in promoting breastfeeding as the normal and healthy way to feed babies - with almost all work done by volunteers. However, as with many worthy organisations, funding is a constant struggle.
This recent press release announces their first baby steps into the world of big business: the licensing of the slogan "got breastmilk" to LLLI from the California Milk Processor Board. Sales from branded merchandise will provide royalties to the CMPB as well as funds to LLLI.
I was a longterm LLLNZ member with real responsibilities... but an even longer term vegan. I see my breastfeeding relationship with my children as a logical extension of my veganism in order to raise healthy vegan children. Knowing that some of the membership fees have supported factory dairy farming is saddening and unacceptable.
Conflicts of interest
A breastfeeding organisation and a commercial milk manufacturing organisation are a very odd couple.
- Cow's milk manufacturers supply formula manufacturers in a clear commercial link. If cow's milk were not so readily available, human milk banks would quickly reappear for those mothers truly in need.
- The cow's milk industry commits atrocities on mothers and babies as a matter of doing business. These are mother and baby cows, but the sheer numbers of victims and their acute maltreatment makes the despised behaviour of Nestle look gentle in comparison.
- The same commercialisation which often hinders the natural human breastfeeding relationship has resulted in a horror show for the same maternal relationship for innocent cows and their calves.
LLLI's commercial deal with the CMPB implies a natural relationship between breastfeeding and drinking cow's milk that simply is not supported by evidence.
In exchange for market share, LLLI lends its hard-earned gravitas and worldwide reputation for being an evidence-based organisation with an unbiased concern for women's and children's health...to commercial cow's milk processors. In the process, LLLI loses its freedom from commercial pressure - a unique resource scrupulously maintained for decades.
Dissent and the majority
LLLI made this decision despite strong and ongoing concerns voiced by a minority of their Leaders, perhaps including
- many other LLL mothers who found that they must themselves stop drinking cow's milk to enjoy a healthy baby (free of eczema and or digestive pain)
- others who recognise the philosophical ironies or the commercial conflicts
One of the three highly-respected co-authors of the latest LLLI official breastfeeding handbook (The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) is a vegan, as are other members of her family.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding clearly states that milk from other animals are "never necessary for humans". This is in stark contrast to the message in the recent press release "cow's milk is the other best natural source of food for children" - if not strictly attributed to LLLI, so closely linked that few will notice the difference.
The international organisation have confirmed that they see no conflict of interest between LLL philosophy and cow's milk production. They are there to help human mothers.
While LLL has never been associated with animal rights, they have never before been associated with animal exploiters. Human and animal welfare are inextricably linked, and this issue is a prime example, not an exception.
Comments can be made directly via the Contact page for LLLI.