“A creature born into slavery is a creature born for slavery.” – Rousseau (The Social Contract)
Dairy, alongside meat, is not a necessary evil, but, so long as it keeps making money, it is an evil worth existing.
Even the dairy cow eventually joins the meat herd. When not bred exclusively for ‘good-quality’ beef, they get turned into fast-food beef (think McDonalds, Burger King, etc) and cheap mince. But before the day of execution arrives there are many days – the years allotted to them, in fact – of cruelty and suffering to endure.
The life of a dairy cow starts young. As soon as they are able to become pregnant (around 12-13 months old), they are artificially inseminated (which, to an animal incapable of consent, amounts to rape). For a creature that can live to be twenty years old, it’s the equivalent of expecting an 11-14 year old girl to carry around a child; just because it can happen at that age doesn’t mean it’s healthy, beneficial, or (arguably) natural for it to occur.
Smaller farm-holdings are more likely to pair the cow off with a mating bull, but the results are the same for all involved: after nine months gestation the cow gives birth – and then the calves are taken away forever after just 12-48 hours of being with their mum. Just as human mothers are aware of an instant bond between their baby, so too are cows (and pigs, chickens, sheep…) and they are just as devastated by the removal of a baby as a human mother would be. But feelings are irrelevant where money is concerned.
If the calf is female she becomes a milk producer like her mother; if the calf is male, one of three things will happen to him:
- He becomes a beef bull, fed up to become prime beef and will be slaughtered at around two years old.
- He is taken away to become veal and locked in a crate barely bigger than he is. Veal calves are tethered down so they can’t even stand up. This is to keep his body soft, his muscles undeveloped, and his meat tender. He is also kept in the dark for the whole time he is alive just so his flesh looks pale on our plates. This results in blindness. By the time it comes to be killed at around 16-20 weeks veal calves have to be carried to the kill-room as they cannot support themselves.
- He will be shot. This option is usually taken because there is no need for him to be a veal calf, and no need for him to become a beef bull. This can occur within the first four weeks of a calf’s life, but usually and regularly happens between a day and a week of being born. The equivalent would be shooting a toddler in the head.
Dairy cows, of course, need to give birth in order to produce milk, and dairy production is no innocent sector. In small farm-holdings or even in sancturary settings, a cow can produce milk for some time after her calf stops feeding if her feed is kept up and she is being milked (which prompts her hormones into thinking she is still being suckled from); this makes it no less exploitative (it is much the same as if a new mother had just stopped suckling her own child, and then other women had the audacity to latch their child onto her breasts; if it sounds obscene it’s because it is – for all species). In factory-farm settings, there is no guaruntee that feed quality will be kept up, so the most efficient option to make sure she keeps producing milk is to keep getting her pregnant – and then taking away all calves so they don’t get what is produced only for them.
You can be assured the dairy milk you drink has been directly stolen from a mother cow and her calves, and is responsible for her sons being killed in one way or another, as well as paying for her daughters to be put through the same slave-hell; thus, whole generation of families are stolen, enslaved and killed for others – our – pleasure. Just as slaves of the pre-industrial era suffered the same torment – minus being cannibalised – for centuries for the very same reason: we wanted what they could give with no cost to ourselves. The only difference between all livestock and poultry nowadays is, as with slaves, there are no consequences – it’s a right, even – for the reality that is exploitation.
What part of that sounds humane?
Dairy cows live on average for about a quarter of their natural life-span. Milk production starts dropping after five years of being pregnant for nine months out of every year. They don’t stop producing milk altogether – it just drops below acceptable levels. A bit like if you were to start struggling at work due to overload, but instead of getting talked to – or even fired – you were killed. Humanely, of course.
By the time the day of slaughter arrives, the cow has probably suffered from mastitis at least once, a condition caused by the friction from milking machines, and which afflicts 50% of all dairy cows. She is probably suffering from laminitis too, a condition which cripples her.
For five years of her life she will have carried, almost constantly, 40lbs of milk in her udders – far more than before human selective breeding intefered.
For five years she has had child after child snatched away from her. All animals are capable of nurting and sharing love – it is human arrogance that chooses to believe otherwise. Love is not unique to people.
For five years she will have been raped by human hands for human profit, over and over.
All of this comes to an end when her milk yield drops and, like every other cow before her, her throat is ‘humanely’ slit, quite often while she is still conscious, aware and bellowing.
The purchase (and subsequent consumption) of milk, cheese, cream and butter is a purchase of a share into that exploitation, theft, rape and murder.