Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to its young and can reduce the risk of many diseases. Milk contains many other nutrients and the carbohydrate lactose. The majority of the world's population is lactose intolerant.
As an agricultural product, milk is extracted from mammals during or soon after pregnancy and is used as food for humans. Worldwide, dairy farms produced about 730 million tonnes of milk in 2011, from 260 million dairy cows. India is the world's largest producer and consumer of milk, yet neither exports nor imports it. New Zealand, the European Union's 28 member states, Australia, and the United States are the world's largest exporters of milk and milk products. China and Russia are the world's largest importers of milk and milk products.
Cows used for milk production by commercial dairies often have their calf taken away from them at about a day old. Males may be raised for a few weeks in tiny areas where they cannot develop muscles then killed for veal, and females may be for future milk production. Milk cows are often given hormones and are often confined in very small areas. Cows which ordinarily might live to 25 years are routinely slaughtered at age five.
While PETA's general policy is against human drinking non-human milk, some animal rights activists beleve that there is not a cruelty problem for animals such as cattle, goats and camels kept on free-range farms. Many mothers produce more milk that their young can use, and actually enjoy being milked.
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