Rather than roaming the green pastures of children’s books, the majority of dairy cows live out their lives on concrete floors in crowded, unsanitary sheds. All dairy cows, like other mammals, must give birth before they can give milk, an obvious biological fact that is often overlooked. On most farms today, dairy cows are forced, by way of artificial insemination, to give birth to a calf a year. This repeated process of pregnancy and milking is extremely physically stressful for the cow. Since the calves are forcibly taken away almost immediately after birth, it is also the cause of deep psychological stress for both mother and offspring. Breeding practices, artificial hormones and specially developed feed boost the amount of milk a dairy cow produces to far greater levels than is normal, making the animals subject to numerous health problems, including mastitis (a bacterial infection of their udders), “milk fever” (caused by calcium deficiency), and Bovine Leukemia Virus. When a cow becomes too weak for this intensive cycle of pregnancy and milking (usually at four or five years old, less than one-fifth of a cow’s natural life), she is sent to slaughter for hamburger meat.
Finally, it is important to remember that the veal industry is a direct by-product of the dairy industry: the male offspring of dairy cows are useless for milk production, so they are separated from their mothers as soon as they are born and sold for veal production. Veal calves may be kept in crates that restrict their movement to the point that they can’t turn around or stretch out their limbs, and are purposely made anemic to soften the color of their flesh. They will be slaughtered at anywhere from a few days to a few months old.
- Why Should We Care?
- Animal Testing
- Companion Animals
- What to Do?