Like all mammals, a cow produces milk to feed their young. They lactate after giving birth to a calf, which will then feed on its mother’s milk for 9 months to a year. The duration of a cows pregnancy is approximately 40 weeks; close to our own.
In the dairy industry, this means that a cow needs to be impregnated every year to ensure a continual supply of milk, with a 6-8 week ‘drying off’ period as the excessive milking causes the cow weakening and affects their ability to produce over time. Their conceptions are usually done through the process of artificial insemination, where a farmer will shove their arm into a cows rectum to use as a guide, while inserting a metal rod containing bull’s seamen into the cows vagina until reaching the reproductive tract. Dairy cows have been bred genetically to be larger, and are able to produce larger quantities of milk. In order for farmers to capitalize on this, the calves are separated from their mothers only 1-3 days after birth, ensuring little milk as possible is consumed by the calf after their crucial ‘first feed’.
This causes immense distress, as both mother and child will call out continually in anguish for days, and the mother will repeatedly re-visit the last place she saw her calf for weeks, even months. What will happen next to the calf will depend entirely on their sex.
If the calf is male, he may be shot dead within a couple days of life. This is due to over breeding in the dairy industry. It is more cost-effective to use artificial insemination from a small percentage of bulls, than feed massive amounts of food to an animal that cannot give birth or produce milk. Calves that are not killed this way are used in the veal industry. It is considered ‘socially unethical’ to slaughter and consume calves in the United Kingdom, although not illegal, so most veal calves are shipped in very small crates to Europe. They will be given a milk ‘supplement’ which is low in iron to make their flesh look whiter, and are killed at 3-4 months of age. *It’s important to note that the veal industry would not exist without the Dairy Industry.
If the calf is female, she will face the same fate as her mother. From being taken away after a few days of life, she will be confined to a very small pen for months. During this time of anguish she will be pumped full of vaccines, growth hormones and supplements. Her first forced pregnancy will begin when she is only 1 years old. The process will go on every year in a cycle where her young are taken from her, she will pine for months, will develop infections of the udder from over-milking, will be forcefully impregnated, and so on until the cow reaches the age of 4-6 years, where she will have become too weak to produce milk anymore. At this point she is taken and slaughtered for the Meat Industry.
A 5 year old dairy cow may look like an adult, due to the genetics of their breeding, and hormones they may have been supplemented, but in actuality they are still children. A cow can live over 25 years naturally. It’s a common misconception that the dairy industry is considerably less cruel than other forms of animal exploitation. Through product marketing, e.g Cravendale, Dairy milk chocolate, Laughing Cow cheese-spread, we are conditioned to see dairy as a positive and harmless form of trade between human and bovine, almost to the point that we believe the cows want to give us their milk. It’s true an udder will swell and become discomforting if left full, but that milk is for the calf and is not natural for human consumption. The cow definitely does not want to be childless, confined and strapped to a milking machine which drains her to the point where she will develop infections having puss and blood sucked from her as well as her child’s milk repeatedly until she’s too damaged to continue living.
The dairy industry is possibly the worst of all. It contributes the most to slaughter for beef. It’s responsible for the Veal Industry, and the killing of newborn male calves. It promotes interference with nature through genetics, growth hormones and forceful pregnancies. It takes mothers’ children away from them. *Also, it is worthy to note that the reason we are so addicted to dairy products is because there is a specific natural chemical in the milk that’s designed to make the calves feel docile and less inclined to leave their mothers side.
These creatures are worth more than this. They live a long and active life. They have compassion. They care for their young and they mourn for their loss.