Introduction
Let's Not Forget

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Dairy Industry
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Dairy

 

The dairy industry spends a lot of money on advertising. You can find dairy ads in magazines, on television, in school cafeterias and on billboards. It is almost impossible to grow up in our society without being told how great dairy products are.

They definitely fooled me. As a teenager, I was a very proud dairy consumer. Even after I had become vegetarian, I still continued to consume dairy products. I knew that animals were abused and killed for meat, but didn't see anything wrong with dairy. Cows need to be milked and milk is good for us. Those messages were completely ingrained in me. When I was twenty, I found out the true facts about the dairy industry and decided to make the step to veganism. I would like to share those facts with you, so you can make your own informed decisions.

Do Cows Need to be Milked?

Cows are mammals. Just like other mammals, when a cow has a baby, her body will make enough milk for her baby. In a normal situation, cows don't need any help getting rid of too much milk. The goal of the dairy industry however, is to make as much money as possible. To get more money, they have several commonly used methods to get cows to produce more milk:

  • a dairy cow is impregnated every year, so she continues to produce a steady supply of milk. This is usually done through artificial insemination.

  • calves are removed from their mothers almost right after birth.

  • especially in intensive dairy farming, cows are genetically engineered and fed growth hormones to force them to produce more milk.


Calf Nursing

Cassie after having given birth to her baby.

How the Dairy Industry Operates

I recently visited a small dairy farm in Wisconsin. Most dairy cows are raised in intensive factory farms, where the situation for the cows is of course much worse. Still, I think this small dairy farm illustrates some common dairy practices really well.

The dairy cows are chained by their necks and kept indoors most of the day. Cow trainers hang above the cows to give them a shock when they arch their backs. This forces them to move back to drop urine and manure into a gutter. They are artificially inseminated each year and are milked on average 305 days per year. As with humans, a cow's pregnancy lasts nine months. Having to give birth every year is physically very demanding.

Even though this small dairy farm has given their cows names in addition to their numbers, it is very clear that their cows are viewed as not much more than milk machines.

After giving birth, their babies are removed from them and kept in another building. I asked someone who works at the dairy farm about this and was told that removing the calves after birth is "standard practice in the dairy industry".

"The very saddest sound in all my memory was burned into my awareness at age five on my uncle's dairy farm in Wisconsin. A cow had given birth to a beautiful male calf. The mother was allowed to nurse her calf but for a single night. On the second day after birth, my uncle took the calf from the mother and placed him in the veal pen in the barn - only ten yards away, in plain view of the mother. The mother cow could see her infant, smell him, hear him, but could not touch him, comfort him, or nurse him. The heartrending bellows that she poured forth - minute after minute, hour after hour, for five long days - were excruciating to listen to. They are the most poignant and painful auditory memories I carry in my brain."

-- Dr. Michael Klaper


Cassie's baby being kept in another building.


Dairy Cow

Most cows in the regular dairy industry are also given growth hormones, causing their udders to become unnaturally big and heavy, resulting in frequent infections. The Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) also increases birth defects in calves.

The average modern dairy cow will produce about 100 pounds of milk per day, which is 10 times more than it would naturally produce. Normally cows can live an average of 25 years. Dairy cows are slaughtered and made into ground beef after about 3-4 years. Because of the intense abuse wrought upon their poor bodies, dairy cows - like beef cattle - also frequently end up being unable to walk or stand, causing them to be severely mistreated.

What Happens to the Calves?

In the dairy industry, calves are removed from their mothers not long after being born (either right after birth or within 1-2 days). Female calves will be raised to become dairy cows and male calves will be raised and slaughtered for meat. Most male calves are killed for beef, but some will end up in the awful veal industry.

After being removed from their mothers, veal calves are loaded onto trucks and often sold at auctions. These small and fragile calves are often treated very roughly. If they are unable to walk, they will be dragged by their legs or ears.

Veal calves are confined in crates measuring about two feet wide. To make their meat more "tender", their movements are restrained by chains around their necks. To give a white color to their meat, the calves are fed an all-liquid milk-substitute, purposely deficient in iron and fiber. After about 16 weeks, these poor calves are slaughtered and their meat is sold labeled as "white" veal. "Bob" veal comes from calves who are slaughtered when they are only a few hours or days old.


Veal Calve


Cow in Head Stall at the Horizon Organic Dairy Farm

Is Organic Dairy Okay?

The organic meat and dairy industry have become very popular recently. However, just like any other industry, the organic dairy industry has to make a profit. Even at organic dairy farms, cows are kept constantly pregnant, calves are removed from their mothers and male calves are turned into beef or veal.

Especially at larger organic farms, the treatment of the animals very much resembles that of factory farmed animals. There are very few regulations in place that deal with the amount of space the animals should be given or the amount of time they should be allowed outside.

Most animals raised organically are still handled, transported and slaughtered the same awful way factory farm animals are. They are still forcefully thrown into trucks where they are subjected to transportation without protection from heat or cold and without access to food or water. They are still hung upside down, have their throats slit and bleed to death, often while fully conscious.

Is Dairy Healthy?

Definitely! It is very healthy food for the calves whose tiny bodies need to grow into big cows. Just like the breast milk from any other mammal, it is especially formulated for the babies for whom it is intended. Dairy is high in fat, protein and cholesterol. It is low in carbohydrates and contains no fiber.

Should humans be consuming it? Absolutely not! There is no need at all for humans to be consuming the breast milk from another species. The best food for human babies is human breast milk. After a baby is done nursing, there is no need to switch to the breast milk from a cow.

"There is no reason to drink cow's milk at any time in your life. It was designed for calves, not humans, and we should all stop drinking it today."

-- Dr. Frank A. Oski
former director of Pediatrics, John Hopkins University.


Calf taken away from his mother and sold at an auction.


Baby Nursing

Dairy products are in fact the leading cause of food allergies. They contain more than 25 different proteins that may induce allergic reactions in humans. Lactose intolerance, the inability to digest the carbohydrate known as lactose found in milk, is common to about 90% of adult blacks and Asians. This condition causes symptoms like diarrhea, gas and stomach cramps.

Breastfed babies can get colic and other milk-related food allergies if the mother consumes dairy products. Colic is the common allergic reaction infants have to proteins found in cow's milk. They give the baby stomach cramps, which cause persistent fussing and crying.

How Do We Get Enough Calcium?

So how do we get enough calcium? Check out my Good Sources - Calcium page and the dairy clip at the right. I also highly recommend that you check out the following links for more information:


Click to go to the Dairy Clip

Copyright © 2008 by Wanda Embar and its licensors. All Rights Reserved.
Cow with Calf and  Milk: GNU FDL License. Cheese: public domain. Dairy Cow, Veal Calf and calf at auction by The Animals Voice.
Baby Nursing and Horizon dairy cow: USDA Public Domain.Other pictures by Wanda Embar, Vegan Peace.
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