Milk from cows with horns is said to be less allergenic and better tolerated by lactose intolerant people. That’s the information you keep reading online. Some processors have now specialized in products from horned cows, precisely because they are healthier. But is that the case?
The cow’s horn
Cows have horns. Or had. Because almost all the cows you meet today, even on organic pastures, no longer have horns. However, the horns have not been bred out, but are burned out of the young animals with branding irons. Usually without anesthesia. Anyone who has ever seen this, especially heard and seen the screaming of the calves and witnessed how these poor creatures have to vomit in pain, will never get rid of this image.
However, we now know from behavioral biology that horns are very important for cows. They serve as a kind of “hands”. They are used to scratch, dig up the ground and sometimes even manipulate the locking mechanisms of fences. Cows are very skillful with their horns. Taking these horns away from them is cruel. But why do you do that?
Why does the horn have to go?
It’s actually quite simple: a dairy farmer used to have 10-30 cows. Today he either doesn’t have any more because it’s not profitable, or he has to have 50 to 100 animals. The barn remains the same. This means less space per cow. This confinement causes stress and aggression, and the cows injure each other with kicks and horns. The latter can be taken away from them. You can think for yourselves how sensible that is. The fact is: cows with horns are happier than horn-amputated cows.
But what does this have to do with milk?
The Demeter Society once claimed that milk from cows with horns is less allergenic and better tolerated by lactose intolerant people. These statements are based on a doctoral thesis that would not stand up to scientific discussion, as medizintransparent was able to demonstrate in detail.
According to this study, the protein beta-lactoglobulin is found to a lesser extent in horn-bearing cows. Even if the study design is questionable, let’s assume it is correct and confirmed in a second study. The milk would still be allergenic, as the protein is still present, albeit in smaller quantities. Medizintranspararent has summarized this well: “The author has not investigated whether milk-allergic people actually react with fewer complaints to one of the two types of milk. Her claims are therefore pure speculation.”
It should therefore be noted that there is no reason to believe that milk from horned cows is less allergenic or better tolerated than milk from dehorned cows. Incidentally, the lactose content is exactly the same in both cows.
Should cows be dehorned? No! But for reasons of animal ethics, not for health reasons. If you have the opportunity to buy dairy products from horn-bearing cows, e.g. the horn cheese linked in the first paragraph, should you do so? Yes! But again, not for health reasons, but for ethical reasons.
By the way: There is a whole range of delicious vegan milk alternatives available today that are ideal for lactose-intolerant people. Coconut, soy or oats. The range is huge, just give it a try. The calves will thank you for it.