Cows Used For Their Milk

The 9 million cows living on dairy farms in the United States spend most of their lives in large sheds or on feces-caked mud lots, where disease is rampant.3 Cows raised for their milk are repeatedly impregnated. Their babies are taken away so that humans can drink the milk intended for the calves. When their exhausted bodies can no longer provide enough milk, they are sent to slaughter and ground up for hamburgers.

Cows produce milk for the same reason that humans do: to nourish their babies. In order to force the animals to continue giving milk, factory farmers impregnate them using artificial insemination every year. Calves are generally taken from their mothers within a day of being born -- males are destined for veal crates, and females are sentenced to the same fate as their mothers.

Mother cows on dairy farms can often be seen searching and calling for their calves long after they have been separated. Author Oliver Sacks, M.D., wrote of a visit that he and cattle expert Dr. Temple Grandin made to a dairy farm and of the great tumult of bellowing that they heard when they arrived: "'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.'"4

After their calves are taken from them, mother cows are hooked up, several times a day, to machines that take the milk intended for their babies. Using genetic manipulation, powerful hormones, and intensive milking, factory farmers force cows to produce about 10 times as much milk as they naturally would.5 Animals are pumped full of bovine growth hormone (BGH), which contributes to painful inflammation of the udder known as "mastitis." (BGH is used throughout the U.S., but has been banned in Europe and Canada because of concerns over human health and animal welfare.)6 According to the industry's own figures, between 30 and 50 percent of dairy cows suffer from mastitis, an extremely painful condition.7

A cow's natural lifespan is 25 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are killed after only four or five years.8 An industry study reports that by the time they are killed, nearly 40 percent of dairy cows are lame because of the filth, intensive confinement, and the strain of constantly being pregnant and giving milk.9 Dairy cows are turned into soup, companion animal food, or low-grade hamburger meat because their bodies too "spent" to be used for anything else.

Veal Calves

Male calves -- "byproducts" of the dairy industry -- are generally taken from their mothers when they are less than 1 day old.10 The calves are then put into dark, tiny crates, where they are kept almost completely immobilized so that their flesh stays tender. The calves are fed a liquid diet that is low in iron and has little nutritive value in order to make their flesh white. This heinous treatment makes the calves ill, and they frequently suffer from anemia, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Frightened, sick, and alone, these calves are killed after only a few months of life. "Veal" is the flesh of a tortured, sick baby cow, and a byproduct of the milk industry.

All adult and baby cows, whether raised for their flesh or their milk, are eventually shipped to a slaughterhouse and killed.

Read about the transport and slaughter of cows.



  1. ; footnotes

    3 National Agriculture Statistics Service, "Milk Production," U.S. Department of Agriculture, 17 Feb. 2004.
    4 Oliver Sacks, An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales, Vintage Books: New York, 1996.
    5 Joyce D'Silva, "Faster, Cheaper, Sicker," New Scientist, 15 Nov. 2003.
    6 "UK Newspaper Cites OCA on Big Corporations Hijacking the Organic Movement," The Guardian, 12 Nov. 2003.
    7 S. Waage et. al., "Identification of Risk Factors for Clinical Mastitis in Dairy Heifers," National Veterinary Institute.
    8 Center for Food Safety, "What's Wrong With Factory Farming?" 2005.
    9 D.L. Roeber et al., "National Market Cow and Bull Beef Quality Audit--1999: A Survey of Producer-Related Defects in Market Cows and Bulls," Journal of Animal Science, 2001.
    10 Compassion in World Farming, "Exotic Foods--Posh Nosh," 2005.

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