It’s “Demystify Dairy Day” here at VINE, where the true-blue September skies make it impossible not to see something the dairy industry doesn’t want people to know: Dairy cows are very, very sad.
From Elsie the Cow of the 1960s to the ostensibly “happy” California cows of present-day cheese commercials, manufactured images have tricked many of us into believing that dairy cows are pleased to give their milk to people rather than to their own offspring. The truth makes milk far less palatable.
Let’s break it down. Female mammals produce milk for their young… from our own bodies. Each species produces milk that is perfectly matched to the nutritional needs of its offspring. This wondrous way of nourishing babies boosts immune systems while also nurturing all-important emotional bonds between mother and child. Female mammals lactate only after giving birth and while the offspring are still feeding.
Cows’ milk, then, is meant for calves. Cows exploited for milk—whether on small-scale organic dairy farms or in massive industrial milk-production facilities—are forcibly impregnated so that they will lactate. After they give birth, their calves are wrested from them. Male calves may be placed in veal crates or simply left to starve. Female calves may be allowed to live in order to serve as the next generation of milk-producers. Each cow is milked for as long as she continues to produce milk at a high volume and then is forcibly impregnated to start the cycle all over again.
It gets worse. While suckling is natural and does not hurt the mother’s udders, milking is done mechanically. Twice each day, dairy cows are hooked up to machines that jerk the milk from their bodies. This rough process, combined with the physical stress of relentless milk production, leaves most dairy cows with a painful condition known as mastitis. Often, their swollen, infected, and abraded udders hang so low that they almost brush the ground.
It gets worse. Dairy cows on factory farms are housed in crowded quarters and often fed hormones to increase their milk production. Long associated with stereotypically “female” traits such as passivity and stupidity, dairy cows may be particularly likely to be beaten and otherwise mistreated. Certainly, seemingly routine brutality toward dairy cows has repeatedly been documented by undercover investigations of dairy farms across the country.
And then it ends. After repeatedly undergoing the acute grief of forced separation from their calves and enduring years of persistent pain due to mastitis and other common ailments, dairy cows are killed for low-grade meat such as is used for canned soup and cheap hamburgers.
So, here’s our “Demystify Dairy Day” challenge: If you still consume milk or other dairy products, visit our “Demystify Dairy” page and watch the videos. Then come back here and discuss. If you are already vegan, then find some opportunity sometime today to tell somebody this simple fact: Dairy cows are very, very sad.