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The Sad Life of Dairy Cows (Trigger Warning)

Please be advised that the following article contains content that some readers may find distressing. The article discusses the topic of animal abuse and suffering, including graphic descriptions of cruel treatment and harm inflicted on animals in factory farming. Readers who have experienced trauma related to animal abuse may find this content triggering. If you need support, please reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or a mental health professional. Resource/Credit: World Animal Foundation

What Is Factory Farming? Factory farms are responsible for 99% of the US meat and milk production. Not sure what kind of a farm this is? You’re not far off if you have an image in your head of a cow being slammed together on a conveyor belt system. Factory farms are also known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO), and these farms are where animals are raised and fattened up within an inhumane, small &, confined space and in a short span of time. Human consumption needs dominate the world’s requirements for meat and milk. The result is agony and torture for millions of cows exposed to harsh feedlots and slaughter. Factory Farmed Cows A factory farm is only concerned with producing large volumes of meat and milk, and it seems people don’t care about the fate of the animals kept on these farms and in pens. Torture and painful death are what lies ahead for a cow raised in a factory farm or CAFO. What Percentage of Cows Are Factory Farmed? In the US, 99% of cows are factory farmed. Milk production depends on stable production volumes, resulting in an endless cycle of forced insemination, the birth of calves, and abusive treatment, such as removing calves from cows within hours of birth. Mother cows are known to cry out in agony for days. Meat cows have about a year on open rangeland to allow calves to graze and grow more naturally. After the calves are old enough to be force-fed protein-rich diets, they are moved to factory farms where cows are kept in small spaces on hard floors with little hay and even less medical care. Factory Farming Cow Statistics Here are a few statistics that reveal the true and traumatizing reality of the life of a factory-farmed cow. Calves are born and removed from their mothers in a few hours, with bull calves being shipped off to a short life in a veal crate. Female calves are also removed from their mothers and raised on artificial milk replacers until they are old enough. The cycle of milk production continues through the first insemination at about 14 months of age, when they start producing milk after their first pregnancy. After about 4-6 years, a milk cow’s production drops, at which time she is slaughtered. In nature, a cow can continue producing milk up to the age of 20 if fed correctly and naturally, with some time resting between pregnancies. Male calves castrated without sedation, and some have their tails docked to ensure they don’t bite each other in frustration. Milking cows have their tails docked or cut off to allow easy access to their udders and to ensure an easier calving process. How Are Cows Treated on Factory Farms? As I’ve already hinted, life for cows on factory farms is hard, cruel, and short. A cow can easily reach the age of 20, yet most don’t live longer than 4-6 years. In that short time, cows are exposed to inhumane treatment, abuse, and neglect of their basic instincts and rights as sentient beings. Prevented from Grazing Cows are supposed to free-range across large pieces of land. When cows can move, their bodies develop differently, they have better gut health, and they are happier and less stressed. Grazing is a natural instinct for cattle, but cattle raised on factory farms are denied this basic instinct as they have to rely on artificial corn-enriched feed, poor quality hay and suffer growth hormone injections. Prolonged Transportation and Traveling When cows are destined for slaughter, they are transported across long distances in closed and cramped cattle trucks, where they often injure each other. I remember the first time I stopped at a traffic light next to a cattle truck. The sight of the cows looking at me through the narrow bars was heartbreaking. If the smell coming off the truck was any indication of the sanitation that these animals were afforded, I feared their lives had been ones of pain and suffering. These cattle trucks don’t stop to offload the cattle for rest periods, and while the 28-hour law is supposed to protect livestock and farm animals from abuse, this rarely happens. Large companies can request an extension of the law up to 36 hours, which means a cow will have been standing in cramped conditions, often being stepped on and injured by other cows for almost two days. Once the cattle reach the slaughterhouses, they are supposed to walk to their slaughter. Cattle that are downed and can’t get up are not suitable for human consumption, and these are required to be euthanized. However, the reality is harsh, as these cows are forced to walk with cattle prodders and pushed with trucks when they can’t. Forced Pregnancies Dairy cows are forced into having multiple pregnancies during their short lives in factory farms. Artificially inseminated cows are impregnated within weeks of having given birth to calves. The process of impregnating cows is too barbaric to include in this article. The reality of such forced pregnancies is that cows suffer severe depletion of calcium, which leads to health problems and poor bone formation. High-Calorie Diet A high-calorie diet where cows are fed grain and not natural grazing hay results in fatter animals, but this results in stomach ulcers, diarrhea, and painful foot problems known as laminitis. A cow on a high-calorie diet will suffer separation of the tissue in their feet, making every movement painful. What Happens to Cows Raised for Beef on a Factory Farm? Cows raised for beef may have one glorious year of life on the range, but then they are stuffed in small pens with many other cows, with hardly enough room to move. Instead of feeding these cows sufficient amounts of hay, they are provided with enriched feeds that are high in calories to force the fattening of the young cows. Once the cows have reached sufficient weight, usually at a very young age, hardly older than a year, they are shipped off for slaughter. While the cows are fattened up, they are forced through suffering and painful procedures such as being dehorned and having their tails cut off. While meat is a protein source that millions depend on, I don’t (and never will) understand the need for such excessive cruelty and suffering when raising beef cattle. How Are Cows Farmed for Dairy Products? Milk or dairy cows live through an endless cycle of painful pregnancies, having their offspring taken from them. The female calves are offered hardly enough mother’s milk (which contains the vital colostrum they need to build immunity), and bull calves often have their throats cut. Dairy products are obtained through horrific methods, and when a cow no longer provides enough milk to justify her feeding, she is simply sent off to be slaughtered. Cheese is often manufactured using the rennet or special bacterial cultures inside a calf’s stomach. Calves are slaughtered to get rennet—your cheese sandwich may have cost a calf its life. How Cows Are Killed on Factory Farms I couldn’t watch a cow being killed at a factory farm. It’s heartbreaking and like something from a horror movie. In an interview with a worker at a local slaughterhouse that adjoins a factory farm, the truth was revealed in harrowing and gory detail. Cattle are forced down a narrow chute, with a gate at the front to temporarily stop the lead cows. Using a retractable bullet gun, the cattle are stunned with a single shot to the head. The cow is then strung up, hoisted off the ground, and their throat is cut. The other cows witness this terrible procedure. Everything operates at speed, and the cows are dismembered when they haven’t fully bled out, some being conscious of the pain and agony of being cut into pieces. Some cows are even skinned alive as there’s no way to stop the process and kill a cow that’s still alive when the butchers start slicing the carcass. The Sad Reality of Veal Calves Young calves raised for veal are placed in veal crates with a small enclosure around them. The calf is not allowed room to move, which means they don’t build muscle, and the result is a calf being slaughtered at 4-6 weeks because it produces tender meat. How Are Veal Calves Raised for Meat? Veal calves don’t have any time to bond with their mothers, and they are shipped to facilities that raise these calves for a short time until they have enough soft meat on the bone to be slaughtered—usually in about a month. Veal calves are kept in confinement and fed a protein-rich diet with milk replacers instead of their own mothers’ milk. Calves Diet on Factory Farms Factory farms or the veal industry have no interest in the long-term life of the calves and cattle they raise. These animals are fed a diet that causes permanent damage to their livers and organs. I find it’s equivalent to sticking a few human babies into one crib and feeding them a sugar-rich diet to make them as fat as possible before slicing their throats. Could you do that? Why do it to calves at factory farms? Killing of Calves on Factory Farms Calves are killed on factory farms by having their throats cut. Hung upside down by metal hooks tied to their back legs, the calves bleed out before being processed for veal. What Can You Do to Help Farmed Cattle? Cut back on your meat and milk consumption. Consider plant-based foods to replace your protein needs. Report any instances of animal welfare violations at factory farms in your area to ensure regular inspections are carried out by health services. Write letters to your local congressman to ask for cruel factory farming to end. There is a better. Cows are gentle giants and social animals that want the same things we all desire—time with their children, freedom, fresh air, space, and safety.

 

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