On dairy farms, in order to force cows to continue producing milk, workers impregnate them using artificial insemination every year. On many farms calves are torn away from their mothers within a day of birth. These babies will never know the comfort of their mother’s care, and mother cows are often so distressed that they can be heard calling for their calves for days.
Male calves are routinely deemed useless by the industry and are often brutally killed or left for dead just days after entering the world. Others are thrown into tiny enclosures known as “veal crates” and quickly fattened up and slaughtered just to become beef.
After their calves have been taken away from them, mother cows are hooked up, two or more times a day, to milking machines. Their reproductive systems are exploited through genetic selection, despite the negative effects on their health. Artificial insemination, milking regimens, and sometimes drugs are used to force them to produce even more milk—the average cow today produces more than four times as much milk as cows did in 1950.
Cows may be dosed with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which contributes to an increased incidence of mastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder. (In the U.S., rBGH is still used, but it has been banned in Canada and the European Union because of concerns about human health and animal welfare.)
A cow’s natural lifespan is about 20 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are typically killed after about five years because their bodies wear out from constantly being pregnant or lactating. Many cows become lame and cannot even stand or move. In order to transport immobile cows farm workers often resort to barbaric methods including rope, tractors, and forklifts. And abuses are common, as demonstrated by our recent investigation into Pyrland Farms, a dairy in the UK.
Cows who are “spent” - or those whose bodies have basically failed them due to exhaustion or illness - are often turned into soup, food for dogs and cats, or ground beef because they are too “spent” to be used for anything else.
This is the heartbreaking reality for the millions of cows raised for their milk all across the world.
Thankfully, there are simple ways to help them. Please consider reducing your consumption of milk and instead opting for cruelty-free plant-based options such as soy, almond, rice, coconut, or cashew milks. Check out our favorites here!