Photo of Hope and friend at For the Animals Sanctuary
There are currently around 9 million dairy cows being raised in the United States. Contrary to popular belief, dairy cows must be kept constantly pregnant to continuously lactate. Shortly after giving birth, they are artificially inseminated to begin the process again. Their babies are taken away from them at the age of one to two days, which causes excessive suffering for mother and calf, who will howl and cry out to one another when separated. In natural circumstances, cows are very maternal animals and typically suckle their calves for several months, and then often go on to be grazing partners. Separating cow and calf so soon causes psychological trauma for both calf and mother.
Female calves will be kept in the industry and raised to be dairy cows, while males will often be sold to the veal industry. The veal industry (see below) only exists as a byproduct of the dairy industry, because the males are not useful to milk production.
Cows should live long, healthy lives that typically span over 20 years, however dairy cows are slaughtered at the age of 5-7 years because their productivity decreases and it is not “worth it” for farmers to keep them alive. If dairy cows collapse during transport, they must be moved to slaughter alive. Horrific videos have been released of collapsed cows being dragged to slaughter by tractors, often times being held upside down.
Dairy cows are susceptible to many diseases because they are kept in closely confined and filthy conditions, and milked so frequently and roughly. Mastitis is a very common and potentially fatal mammary gland infection. When not fatal, cows must suffer through infection, fever, and painful, swollen udders. Sometimes blood and pus will bubble into a cow’s milk. Injury and lameness are not uncommon due to infected wounds and sores.
Many dairy cows are given excessive amounts of hormones to increase milk production and reproduction rates. This is dangerous for cows producing the milk and for the future human being who will consume it.
As in all factory farming, abuse to cows is not uncommon. Undercover investigations have revealed beating and kicking animals, deplorable living conditions, debilitating wounds and infections, and common practices such as tail docking of cows and castration and dehorning of calves with no anesthesia.
There are a growing number of consumers seeking to buy dairy from “happy farms.” However, even at these farms it is necessary to employ cruel methods such as artificial insemination, separation of cow and calf, and unnaturally frequent rates of pregnancy. Dairy products are unnecessary for human health, and thus it is unethical and unjustifiable for us to continue to consume dairy products, support this violence, and be a part of this unnatural separation of mother and child.
Veal comes from less-than-year-old calves rather than adult cows. It is typically produced from the male cows that are a byproduct of the dairy industry. Calves are taken from their mothers within 1 or 2 days of birth. Because cows have a strong bond with their offspring, this is traumatic for both calf and cow.
There are several ways of producing veal, however the most common is to raise calves in small individual stalls or crates in which there is very little room to move or even turn around. This is done so that they do not develop excess muscle and yield more tender and desirable meat. The restriction from natural movement leads to traumas such as physical disabilities, poor coordination, and social frustration. Veal calves are kept in crates often with their necks tied to further inhibit movement, for the entirety of their extremely short lives and only released upon reaching slaughter weight.
Calves are fed a milk formula from buckets, which also leads to abnormal psychological behavior as it denies them the fulfillment of their instinct to suckle. The absence of a mother to such a young mammal leads to calves desperately suckling their chains and tethers, the fingers of workers, or nearby calves. To produce a specific type of pale and tender meat, veal calf formula is intentionally deficient in nutrients such as iron, and because of this calves suffer from anemia and are subject to fragile bones, which are already delicate due to a life trapped in small crates with no movement.Many calves become so weak that they cannot move or stand.
There are crate-free veal options, however these still require calves to be separated from their mothers and deprived of normal calf maturation and slaughtered at an extremely young age. Even though many people do not eat veal, they are supporting the industry by indulging in milk products, which are not necessary or even healthy for humans to consume.
Beef cattle are cows that are bred and raised for meat. The process of raising cows for meat begins with a cow-calf operation, which breed female cows to produce calves, who are then sold to feedlots. After weaning and auction calves are transported to feedlots, and due to exposure to the elements and long journeys crammed into trucks, many calves die in route or arrive already crippled.
Feedlots, or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOS), contain thousands of animals in small pens so that cows live in close confines amidst mounds of their own waste. The ammonia and methane content of such an environment can lead to severe respiratory problems and make breathing painful for these animals. CAFOS produce an unfathomable amount of waste and contribute to severe environmental pollution, such as methane production and water pollution. Once moved to CAFOS, cows are fed an unnatural diet of various grains, animal by-products, vitamins, antibiotics, growth hormones, and chemical preservatives.
The antibiotics and hormones that cows are fed can pose serious health risks for humans as well. This specialized diet causes rapid weight gain and a fattier meat, but is extremely unhealthy for cows, who can suffer from liver ulcers and lung compression and difficulty breathing as a result of stomach expansion.
Cows are subject to an assortment of painful mutilations such as castration, dehorning, and branding. All of these procedures are performed without anesthesia. Beef cattle are slaughtered at the young age of 14 to 16 months. Those who are still alive at this point endure another extremely stressful and possibly fatal period of transportation to the slaughterhouse. It is legal to transport cows for up to 28 consecutive hours, during which they are given no food or water and, as usual, many animals die en route.
Federal law requires that cows are stunned prior to slaughter, however a standard slaughterhouse kills about 250 cattle per hour and because of the rapid production rate, it is not uncommon for mistakes to be made and for the mechanical blow to the head meant to stun the animals to be imprecise and ineffective. Many cattle are therefore strung up by their legs onto an assembly line, still awake and struggling as their throats are slit and they die via blood loss.