The Horrors of Dairy (Trigger Warning)
Trigger Warning - This article exposes animal abuse.
Dairy cows are impregnated by forced artificial insemination, embryo transfer, or in vitro fertilization. At the end of her first nine-month pregnancy, this gentle mother begins her life-long cycle of forced pregnancy and round-the-clock milk production until she is no longer able to produce after just a few years.
If this mother gives birth to a male calf, the calf is taken away immediately and raised for veal (another hell-on-earth experience). This happens to male calves because they cannot produce milk or be raised for beef. Read about Veal here. Female offspring are taken away as well, milked on machines, and raised to replace their mothers. The mother cow cries for many days, a cry so forlorn and sad - it is heartbreaking. The mother cow is continuously milked, even during her pregnancy, meaning she must provide for the developing calf inside her while also producing many pounds of milk.
Generally, milking is abruptly halted two months before the next calf is born; this sudden cessation of milking can lead to painful engorgement of the udder. Feed and water intake are also restricted at this time, which also impairs the mother cow's welfare.
After the second birth, her calf is again taken away, and she is milked again. About half the time, she is put through a third pregnancy / milking cycle. Often, though, she cannot be bred again because her reproductive system has been severely broken down.
Dairy cows are milked throughout the day producing on average over 60 pounds of milk every day. For a 1,400 lb cow, this is over 4% of her body weight every single day. This leads to premature death or downing - the complete inability to stand or walk and the collapse of the cow's legs.
Through selective breeding, manipulations of what she is fed, hormones, and other drugs (such as antibiotics), a dairy cow today will produce three times as much milk a day as did a cow in 1960. After two or three cycles, her body is completely degraded and she is slaughtered before by the young age of four or five. Cows should live to be more than 20 years old.
The majority of dairy cows in the US live entirely or mostly indoors on concrete because it is easy to clean. Many of those – especially lactating cows – spend most of their time tied by the neck in a stall.
The toll of vast milk production alone leads to many physical problems. Lameness is rampant in the dairy industry – exacerbated by standing on concrete floors, as well as a lack of hoof care. Studies have found up to a quarter of dairy cows suffer from lameness. Mastitis – swelling and inflammation of the udder – is an extremely painful condition that is also widespread among dairy cows. It is the most commonly reported health issue in the industry and is even responsible for about 15% of reported cow deaths. Imagine that many cows die from infected nipples.
Other than pre-slaughter deaths from mastitis, lameness, or other diseases, a visible indication of the toll modern production takes on dairy cows is the growing number of “downers” – non-ambulatory cows, unable to walk or even stand.
Tail docking – cutting off up to two-thirds of the cow’s tail, without anesthesia – is a common practice. It is unknown exactly how prevalent this practice is. A Colorado State University survey found that more than 4 in 5 dairies practiced tail docking. Cows with their tail removed can suffer from more insect bites, while the wound itself can cause chronic pain.
Except for those that die or are killed before making it to slaughter, virtually every dairy cow is slaughtered at a small fraction of her natural lifespan. Given the stresses she has endured, the quality of her meat is such that it is only used for soup, ground meat, or pet food.
The Humane Society of the United States has a comprehensive report on the cruelty of the dairy industry in America.