Dairy cows are continually kept pregnant and lactating and their babies are taken away from them when they are only two days old. The life of a dairy cow is not as natural as you might think, especially considering that 80 percent of dairy cows are made pregnant through artificial insemination. 1
The only way for a cow, like any other mammal, to produce milk is for the cow to have a baby. The milk produced by cows is naturally meant for baby calves; however, because people want to drink this milk, the baby calves are taken away from their mothers when they are only a few days old. 1 Cows are extremely maternal animals and both the mother cow and the baby calf suffer terribly from being separated at such a young age. One study showed that calves with no interaction with their mothers or only interaction through a fence, "induced significant increases in walking, butting, urinating, and vocalizing"2. In fact, one cow missed her baby so much that she broke out of her paddock and trekked through 8 kilometers of paddocks and rivers to find her baby 3. On dairy farms, mother cows can be heard bellowing out wildly trying to find their babies as well as running after the cattle trucks that take their babies to separate farms.
The baby calves lives are then decided by their sex.
There is no legal requirement for calves to be fed before being transported. A 1998 study 6 looked at 7,169 young male calves who arrived at a Wanganui abattoir (slaughterhouse) after a 7-hour journey in cattle trucks. The research found that 27 arrived in an 'unacceptable condition' - lying down, unable to walk, extremely weak or seriously injured. A further 4 percent were 'marginal' with a 'wet umbilicus, were hollow sided, apparently immature, or weak and slow and unsteady on their feet'. While these numbers may not seem large, the fact that a million male calves are slaughtered every year means that thousands probably arrive at slaughterhouses in critical condition, and tens of thousands are seriously unwell after the journey.
Animal rights music video from all-vegan metal band 8 Foot Sativa. Contains footage of calves being transported and slaughtered. This video shows what happens to male (and some female) calves who are unlucky enough to be born into the dairy industry. Filmed entirely in New Zealand.
If the calf is female she will either be kept as a herd replacement, living in the same conditions as her mother, or she will be sent to a slaughterhouse or killed on farm.
In the 6-8 days after calving, cows lose weight and condition rapidly, as their bodies consume themselves to provide milk for absent calves 7, so that humans can buy milkshakes to wash down burgers made from the bodies of those same calves. Researchers have estimated that a modern dairy cow is under as much strain as a cyclist on Tour de France. 8
Naturally cows can live to be up to 25 years old. But on dairy farms they are slaughtered when they are only 5-7 years old meaning that most dairy cows live less than a third of their natural life span. In fact, 20 percent of New Zealand's dairy cows are killed every
Cows are forced onto trucks (in the same way baby male calves are transported) that take them to be slaughtered. When they arrive at the slaughterhouse, they are held together in stunning pens where they are stunned with a captive bolt pistol. They are then shackled by the leg, lifted up and have their throats slit. After the blood has been drained away, the cows body is used for cheap meat and pet food. 11
Video of a cow being slaughtered in a NZ slaughterhouse
Because dairy cows are milked so excessively, NZ dairy cows have increased risks of teat diseases like mastitis. Symptoms of mastitis include include hot, swolle
Although tail docking is not as
Amputation is very painful, as the cow’s tail is richly supplied with nerves and blood vessels. Cows need their tails to swat away insects, and possibly to communicate with other cows. Docked cows try in vain to flick their tail stumps, and are likely to suffer from neuropathic pain, similar to the “phantom limb” pain experienced by human amputees. 16 Cattle may also be branded for identification.
The RNZSPCA is opposed both to the docking of the tails of dairy cows, and to the use of hot branding.
Calves are often dehorned to prevent damage or bruising to their carcass during slaughter. Calves may be dehorned with bolt cutters, scoop dehorners or a butchers saw. This causes pain, bleeding and exposure of the frontal sinuses in older animals. 13 The pain can last 6 hours after dehorning. 15 Dehorning is often done without the use of anaesthetics.
But regardless of how well treated, one fundamental question remains. How can we justify treating sentient beings as nothing more than economic commodities?
So do the right thing and help animals today by going vegan!
1) "Pasture-based dairying the New Zealand way", New Zealand Agritech
2) "A note on behavioral responses to brief cow-calf separation and reunion in cattle" Journal of veterinary behavior, (2007): 10-14
3) SAFE Humane resource 'Animals and Us'
4) "Beef cattle productivity from pasture" Agritech
5) "Statistics", Beef New Zealand
6) Stafford, K.J., “The physical state and plasma biochemical profile of young calves on arrival at a slaughter plant,” New Zealand veterinary journal 49.4 (2001): 142-149
7) “Weight loss after calving,” New Zealand dairy farmer 80.12 (2005): 73.
8) J. Webster, Animal welfare: a cool eye towards Eden (Oxford: Blackwell Science, 1994)
9) McQueen, Robert J. [et al.], “The WEKA machine learning workbench: its application to a real world agricultural database,” University of Waikato, Dept. of Computer Science
10) Leake, Jonathon, “The secret life of moody cows,” Sunday star times Jan. 27, 2005: 13.
11) "Truth or Dairy", AAA Leaflet
12) S.M. McDougall, “Prevalence of clinical mastitis in 38 Waikato dairy herds in early lactation,” New Zealand veterinary journal 47 (1999): 143-149.
13) Animal welfare (painful husbandry procedures) code of welfare 2005
14) "Scientists let the tail wag their research,” Chronicle of higher education 46 (2000): 22.
15) C. McMeekan et al., “Effects of a local anaesthetic and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory analgesic on the behavioural responses of calves to dehorning,” New Zealand veterinary journal 47 (1999): 92-96
16) J. Ladewig and L.R. Matthews, “The importance of physiological measurements in farm animal stress research,” Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 52 (1992): 77-9