By Heather Moore on Care2.com
Most people understand why I don’t eat meat, but when I explain that I also don’t eat cheese or other dairy products, some people seem a little baffled. “Why, do they milk the cows too hard?” is a question I’ve been asked on more than one occasion. This shows just how far removed many people are from what they eat. They like to think of cows frolicking in open green pastures and being gently milked by kindly old farmers in overalls.
That only happens in storybooks.
On modern dairy farms, most cows are kept in feces- and urine-saturated grassless lots. Cows give milk for the same reason humans do—to feed their babies. But dairy farmers artificially impregnate cows every year so that they'll produce a steady supply of milk for humans. A typical factory-farmed dairy cow will give birth three or four times in her five-year life. None of her babies will taste her milk.
They are taken from their mothers soon after birth. Separating the cows and calves causes trauma and anguish to both baby and mother. In his book An Anthropologist on Mars, Dr. Oliver Sacks described a visit he and livestock industry advisor Dr. Temple Grandin made to a dairy farm, and of the heart-wrenching bellowing they heard:
“They must have separated the calves from the cows this morning,’ Temple said, and, indeed, this was what had happened. We saw one cow outside the stockade, roaming, looking for her calf, and bellowing. “That’s not a happy cow,’ Temple said. ‘That’s one sad, unhappy, upset cow. She wants her baby. Bellowing for it, hunting for it. She’ll forget for a while, then start again. It’s like grieving, mourning--not much written about it. People don’t like to allow them thoughts or feelings.’”
After they’re taken from their mothers, male calves are often sold to veal farms where they're chained in tiny dark stalls with slatted floors. Since the milk meant to nourish them winds up in the supermarket, they are fed a milk substitute that is purposely low in iron so they become anemic and their flesh stays pale and tender. They take their first weak, wobbly steps to slaughter when they are between 16 and 18 weeks old.
Female calves are turned into milk machines like their mothers. When their milk production wanes, the cows are sent to the slaughterhouse, where many are hung upside-down and skinned alive.
And this is just what happens under “normal” circumstances. On some large-scale dairy farms, conditions are much worse.
PETA conducted a five-month long undercover investigation of a Pennsylvania factory farm that supplies milk to Fortune 250 company Land O'Lakes—the largest seller of branded butter in the U.S.: Land O'Lakes: Land of Dairy Cow Cruelty. As you can see from the photos and video footage, cows at this farm are kept in pens filled with excrement, which causes foot and hoof problems and various illnesses.
One cow’s gangrenous, infected teat ruptured while she was being milked by a machine. Workers were told to tightly wrap the teat with an elastic band in order to "amputate" it. The cow's condition deteriorated over the next 11 days before she finally died. Calves rescued from the facility had pneumonia, "manure scald," ringworm, pinkeye, and parasites.
PETA’s investigator caught the farm's owner and one of his sons on video electro-shocking cows who couldn't stand up. One of the farmer's sons kicked a cow and jabbed her with a pocket knife. The men have been charged with cruelty to animals, but, if convicted, they only face up to 90 days in jail and $750 in fines—a mere slap on the wrist for their despicable behaviors.
PETA is calling on Land O'Lakes to buy milk only from operations that meet a 12-point animal welfare plan. Please send a personalized message to Land O'Lakes President Christopher Policinski, urging him to implement the plan immediately. But even more importantly, please choose vegan alternatives to butter, milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
Cow’s milk is natural for calves, not people. It is designed for calves to double their weight in 47 days, grow four healthy stomachs, and weigh 300 pounds within a year.
Humans are the only species to drink milk beyond infancy and the only species to drink the milk of another species. The amount of dairy products many people eat is becoming increasingly absurd. I wouldn't be surprised if pizza companies soon start peddling cheese-topped beverages to go with their cheese-stuffed-crust cheese pizza.
It’s easy to break your dairy addiction with all the dairy-free alternatives available today. Even Starbucks sells Silk, one of the best-known brands of soy milk. Tofutti, So Delicious, and Soy Dream are just a few of the widely available brands of nondairy frozen desserts, and butter-y spreads like Earth Balance are sold in most grocery stores. Pangea offers a variety of nondairy cheeses and vegan chocolates and other goodies, as do most large health food stores.
Cow’s milk is for cows. Please