It continually baffles me how many people believe that cows just produce milk – like it just starts flowing out of them. Some of the wildest things I’ve heard include “cows udders will explode if we don’t milk them” and “cows milk is made for humans.” I admit that when I was a kid I thought that cows just produced milk, but as I got older that narrative made no sense! From an evolutionary stand point why would cows bodies rely on humans to milk them?
Just like humans, cows produce milk when they give birth…in order to FEED their baby. So any dairy cow will have to be repeatedly inseminated to produce calves so that their milk supply stays steady and they produce milk for humans to consume. To produce milk, a cow must give birth. In the United States, cows are re-impregnated every 12-14 months until their bodies become exhausted. According to the US dairy census, 75% of all cows are artificially inseminated, which requires a human to insert an arm up her rectum and an artificial insemination rod with bull semen into her cervix. And what happens to those babies if they’re not getting their mothers milk? They’re usually separated from their mother very soon after birth and put on a water based formula mixture. This deprives them of the colostrum in their mothers milk which carries vital nutrients and immune protection for the calves.
This whole experience is, understandably, traumatic for the calves and mother cows. More than 95% of all calves on dairy farms are physically removed from their mothers within 48 hours after birth, so this is something that also occurs on small and “humane” farms. Female calves are kept in hutches until they become the next generation of dairy cows, while male calves are sold for veal or beef. If sold for veal they are confined in small crates that often prevent them from even turning around, before they are slaughtered at only 18-24 weeks old.
Because of industrial breeding cows produce about 5x more milk than normal which puts them at risk of reproductive problems and udder infections. They are milked ten out of twelve months per year, seven of their nine month pregnancy. Milking occurs about 3 times a day. Many U.S. dairy cows are confined in primarily indoor operations, with more than 60% tethered by the neck inside barren stalls, unable to act on normal behaviors.
The industry also drastically cuts short their life span (which is 20-25 years) and sends them off to be killed at 4-5 years of age. They spend their whole lives being stolen from by humans and then in the end they’re murdered. They’re often sold as “cheap meat” for pet food and hamburgers.
The dairy industry is lucrative. They splash their “Got Milk” campaigns in every school cafeteria and in every magazine featuring highly payed celebrities. They’ve convinced people that we need to drink another animals milk into adulthood and it supposedly makes us healthy? Even though studies show that countries with higher rates of dairy consumption also have higher rates of osteoporosis. There’s a reason why we wean off breast milk and it’s not to start consuming another animal’s breast milk. That makes no sense.
Health facts aside the truth about the industry and the simple fact that dairy milk doesn’t belong to us is enough reason not to consume it. The dairy industry is simply cruel and stealing from another animal is not okay – ever. Cows should be able to have familial bonds and live out their natural lives. Just because humans are in a position of “power” doesn’t give us an excuse to abuse it. Live kindly.