The Dalai Lama appeared on HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on Sunday, and in a wide-ranging interview, discussed everything from self-immolation to the question of whether the current Dalai Lama will be the last. But mid-way through the segment, the Dalai Lama revealed a fantastic accomplishment from earlier in his life, telling Oliver about that one time he cured the country of Mongolia of alcoholism by getting everyone to start drinking horse milk instead.
"One of my previous visits to Mongolia, they took a lot of vodka," the Dalai Lama said.
"Then, I suggested, "Drink much less vodka. Instead of that, they traditionally also drink horse milk—"
"Wait, you tried to wean them off vodka by giving them horse milk?" Oliver interrupted.
"Oh yes. They follow! Since then, I think the majority of Mongolians no longer drink."
Incredible if true, and Oliver had to dig a little deeper.
"Hold on, that is a huge claim," Oliver said. "You cured Mongolia of alcoholism using horse milk?
"Yes," the Dalai Lama replied. (Skip to 13:30 below to watch.)
Mongolia is famous for its grasslands, and horses are central to Mongolian history and culture. It's unclear if there's any scientific basis to the notion of drinking horse milk to kick booze, but milking horses is common in Mongolia and the resulting mare's milk is often used to make two fermented, low-alcohol drinks known as airag in Mongolian or kumis in Russia. Compared to large quantities of vodka, it's probably a great alternative—at least as far as health concerns go. (Straight mare's milk that hasn't been fermented, on the other hand, isn't regularly consumed as it is a strong laxative.)
Oliver still had a hard time buying the idea of drinking horse milk to quit drinking, and was put off by the idea milk from a horse. The Dalai Lama called him out.
"That's illogical, the Dalai Lama said. "What's [the] difference, cow milk, horse milk?"
"One comes out of a cow, the other I don't know how you get it out of a horse."
Well, John, that's what Wikipedia is for.