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We recently received this question: Animal milk, is it healthy?

This immediately concerned me as something we might not want on the site, but I decided to wait and observe the answers and comments to see where it went.

After an answer was posted, that answer received 7 comments in 48 hours. The comments were generally respectful, but were mostly oriented around disputing the answer's conclusion. On a less respectful site, that could have ended up as a flame war. The question itself received no comments seeking clarification, on a question that arguably needs clarification. (Healthy for whom? All humans? The question asker? People following a particular diet?)

  • As a somewhat interested party, I'm not recusing myself. It seems that every site on the network has it's own standards of moderation, of requirement for evidence for answers, and angle of approach - in want of a better phrase. +1 – Metatron Jan 5 at 21:08
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Yes, if it is rephrased.

Whether or not animal milk is "healthy" is a hugely broad question, potentially getting into lactose intolerance, environmental sustainability, impact of added hormones from factory darling, etc. A cursory reading of the question and its title also makes me uncomfortable. Seasoned Advice won't even touch a question about "healthy", and while we do discuss macro and micro nutrients, we also have tended to avoid personalized advice (e.g. "does tofu have enough protein for me?" would not be a good question, "how much protein is in tofu" would be).

But. Something that I don't mind seeing is questions that seek an evidence based answer to myths. This myth might be "you can't get enough protein without eating meat" (I think we'd all easily agree this is on topic), or, as in this case, "animal milk takes a lot of resources (minerals etc) for a human body to digest." I'm in favor of both vegns and non-vegns getting accurate information about nutrition, giving them useful facts to base their decisions on rather than acting out of fear or confusion. Somebody giving up dairy is great, but I am less enthusiastic about it if they were duped into it (even by a well intentioned friend who was also just misinformed...)

And in this case, the OP did specifically request evidence based answers. We can do a better job of moderating questions to focus on what information is needed, rather than letting misleading or emotional abbreviations (is it healthy?) stand.

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No, this question is not on-topic.

To me, this arrangement of comments seems to suggest that people were easily baited into arguing about the merits of vegetarianism/veganism, which is explicitly something we do not want on this site. Robert Cartaino said it best, so I'll quote him again here (via Jon Ericson's post on our meta):

If this site is going to succeed, it is absolutely essential that questions be answered specifically within the context of the belief system they are asked. This is not optional or reserved for the people you agree with; It is a basic tenet of the site.

And if we look at our on-topic help page we are reminded of our ideal type of question:

  • How to stay healthy living while living a veg*n.

In my view, this question invites advocacy for specific points of view while adding very little of value to the site. Therefore, I think the question is off-topic.

  • Regarding the question, invitations tend to incite advocacy for the opposite point of view also, so I disagree with the reasoning that leads to your conclusion. That being said, I agree it fails to add value, it's a question that would work better if it were rephrased and asked on biology.SE, maybe. Skeptics.SE wouldn't work because no reliable source for notable claim, and not a lot of people believe it. Question based on unusual and rare personal belief, hmm. – Metatron Jan 5 at 21:33
  • Since we host both vegetarians (who might drink animal milk) and vegans (who do not), there is not necessarily a context that presupposes dairy is unhealthy. (Similarly, some vegans may avoid dairy for ethical reasons rather than personal health.) What are your thoughts about refocusing the question on its details rather than a broad question about relative healthiness? – Erica Jan 7 at 16:09
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    @Erica I think the question probably could be fixed by focusing on details and making it less opinion based. – Nic Jan 7 at 16:49
  • Agreed, even aside from topicality it is very broad :) – Erica Jan 7 at 16:50

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