Elise Desaulniers' book, Cash Cow, is a good introduction to the dairy industry as it addresses ten of the most common myths around cow's milk. Elise is a food ethics and animal rights blogger who is also interested in public policy, philosophy, and feminism and she weaves her perspectives throughout her explanations of the myths.
One of the things I liked about this book was its brevity. A small book of only 139 pages, it hits on common misperceptions concisely, keeping the reader engaged throughout. I also like that it addresses the types of things a vegan hears on a regular basis such as the calcium myth. Many people think that the best source of calcium is cow's milk. It really isn't. She even addresses bioavailability, which is how much of the nutrients a food contains that the body can actually utilize. "The calcium found in plants has greater bioavailability than the calcium in cow's milk. On average, we absorb 30 percent of the calcium found in dairy products and fortified foods and twice that amount when it comes to the calcium found in some green vegetables like bok choy, broccoli, and kale." It's true!
Another myth: "If cows were unhappy, they wouldn't produce milk." Actually, "cows produce milk because they are forced to--we artificially inseminate them, and then take their calves away from them at birth. They spend their lives tied up in stalls, without access to the outdoors, and are later sold to become ground beef." Many people who consume milk aptly think that cows just produce milk all the time. But, they are mammals just like us. They have to be raped and impregnated to produce milk as they only produce milk for their babies just like we do; and then we steal that milk from them. After that, we steal their baby from them. It's really one of the most horrific industries when you sit down and think about it. And even if you don't eat meat, but consume milk, you contribute to the meat industry because the male calves are immediately sold to the meat industry and all cows eventually end up there. Crazy.
Something else you hear often is, "I could never give up cheese." Elise addresses this as well as "just like with caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, it's possible to become addicted to some common foods like cheese..." "...it is also said to contain various compounds from the morphine family." That's why it is so addictive. The chemical reaction in your brain from eating cheese is similar to many addictive drugs.
It's all quite fascinating. If you still wish to eat dairy by the time you finish the book, I'd be amazed. For those who aren't familiar with the atrocities in dairy production, it'll be an eye-opener. And Elise presents it well. I will say that many of her examples relate to Canada (not the U.S.) as that is where she is based, but overall the information is thorough and presented well. It's a good read. To order, visit Amazon here. Currently, the book sells for just $16.