This Morning has been hit with 231 Ofcom complaints after its recent plant-based milk segment.
Ofcom is the UK’s media regulator, and it regularly receives complaints about the country’s TV, radio, and video sectors.
While we don’t know the nature of the complaints made about the This Morning segment, the show did receive some backlash on social media for discussing the environmental impacts of plant-based milk, while ignoring those of dairy.
The hugely popular ITV daytime show, which is watched by around one million viewers each day, aired the segment on Thursday, October 6.
Host Holly Willoughby opened the segment by stating that a third of people in the UK are swapping cow’s milk for plant-based alternatives. The show’s consumer expert Alice Beer then talked Willoughby and fellow host Phillip Schofield through the various milk options available to the UK public.
Beer began the discussion by making the claim that cow’s milk, which has been linked to an increased risk of a number of diseases and health conditions, is “obviously, fantastic for you nutritionally.”
“Calcium, iodine. It’s brilliant for you, it’s got everything,” she said, before repeating: “Cow’s milk, brilliant for you.”
Beer added that 20 percent of the population is lactose intolerant. She then went on to discuss the pros and cons of various vegan milk options in terms of taste, nutrition, and the environment.
She did not mention any of the negatives associated with dairy consumption.
This prompted backlash from viewers. One wrote on Twitter: “Animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate destruction, yet you are talking about the impact of soy and almonds.”
Is almond milk bad for the environment?
When Beer got to almond milk, she said that this option is “difficult if you have an environmental conscience.” She then noted that intensive almond farming causes drought and problems for the bee populations in California.
To this, Schofield replied: “So that’s really environmentally unfriendly?” Beer then said: “From one aspect, yes.” This prompted Schofield to respond: “If you’re thinking about the environment, that’s not necessarily the one for you.”
There is no denying that almond milk has environmental problems. But, as a growing body of research can back up, so does dairy. In fact, When it comes to the issues of land use, greenhouse gas emissions, and, notably, freshwater use, dairy has been shown to fare far worse than almond in every aspect.
Per liter of milk, dairy uses 8.95 meter square of land. Almond milk uses 0.5. Dairy milk also emits 3.15kg of greenhouse gas per liter, while almond produces 0.7kg. When it comes to freshwater use, dairy uses 628.2 liters. Almond milk uses almost half that, 371.46 liters.
Is soy milk bad for the environment?
Beer also discussed soy milk, saying: “Soy is up there as an environmentally sound and sustainable prospect.”
She added, however, that it’s “not without its problems.” She then claimed that this is because “lots of the rainforests in the Amazon are just chopped down for soy farms.” She went on to urge people to choose “rainforest-free” soya milk, such as Alpro.
But while soy production is linked to deforestation, the vast majority is farmed for animal agriculture, not vegan milk.
Livestock farming (mostly cattle) is responsible for around 91 percent of Amazon deforestation. Much of that goes toward soy feed, which is given to farmed animals. In fact, it is estimated that around 77 percent of the world’s soy is fed to livestock. Only around seven percent is consumed by humans in the form of tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk, and other food.
This was pointed out by another viewer, who Tweeted: “Soya farming is destroying the rainforest because it is used in cattle feed.”
Like almond milk, soy also fares far better for the environment than dairy in all respects. Per liter, it uses 0.66m² of land, produces 0.98kg of greenhouse gases, and uses 27.8 liters of fresh water.
By discussing the problems with some plant-based milk and not dairy, Beer arguably gave an incomplete picture of the issue. This is despite the fact This Morning’s description of the segment promises that Beer will tell you “everything you need to know” about plant-based alternatives.
The original version of this article was published on October 6. It was updated on October 19 to include new information regarding Ofcom complaints.