Cow’s Milk: The hidden truth behind industrial dairy farms

close up photo of cow

Given the chance, cows nurture their young and form lifelong friendships with one another. They play games and have a wide range of emotions and personality traits. But most cows raised for the dairy industry are intensively confined, leaving them unable to fulfill their most basic desires, such as nursing their calves, even for a single day. They are treated like milk-producing machines and are genetically manipulated and may be pumped full of antibiotics and hormones in order to produce more milk. While cows suffer on these farms, humans who drink their milk increase their chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other ailments.

Calves on dairy farms are taken away from their mothers when they are just 1 day old. They are fed milk replacers (including cattle blood) so that their mothers’ milk can be sold to humans.

Female cows are artificially inseminated shortly after their first birthdays. After giving birth, they lactate for 10 months and are then inseminated again, continuing the cycle. Some spend their entire lives standing on concrete floors; others are confined too massive, crowded lots, where they are forced to live amid their own feces. 

Cows have a natural lifespan of about 20 years and can produce milk for eight or nine years. However, the stress caused by the conditions on factory farms leads to disease, lameness, and reproductive problems that render cows worthless to the dairy industry by the time that they’re 4 or 5 years old, at which time they are sent to be slaughtered.

Male calves are often taken away from their mothers when they are as young as 1 day old to be chained in tiny stalls for three to 18 weeks and raised for veal. Calves raised for veal are fed a milk substitute that is designed to make them gain at 2 to 3 pounds per day, and their diet is purposely low in iron so that their flesh stays pale as a result of anemia. In addition to suffering from diarrhea, pneumonia, and lameness, calves raised for veal are terrified and desperate for their mothers.

Environmental Destruction
Large dairy farms have an enormously detrimental effect on the environment. Overall, factory-farmed animals, including those on dairy farms, produce 1.65 billion tons of manure each year, much of which ends up in waterways and drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that agricultural runoff is a major cause of polluted lakes, streams, and rivers. The dairy industry is the primary source of smog-forming pollutants; a single cow emits more of these harmful gasses than a car does. Two-thirds of all agricultural land in the U.S. is used to raise animals for food or to grow grain to feed them. 

The cruel cycle on dairy farms

  1. Cows produce milk for the same reason why humans do – to nourish their young.
white and brown cow on brown soil
Photo by cottonbro on

2. To keep the milk flowing, cows are artificially inseminated every year.

3. Nine months later, their calves are born, and a strong bond instantly forms between them. But they won’t have much time together. The whole thing isn’t painful for the cow, it’s more of an uncomfortable experience that takes about a minute. The simple fact that a cow is being manipulated and used for the gain of humans is unethical.

4. Typically, after one to three days, their babies are taken away from them, which causes both cow and calf extreme distress. They will never see each other again.

5. The male calves are usually sold to the veal industry. There, they are kept in tiny crates to keep their flesh tender, They will be killed after just a few miserable months of life.

6. The female calves will likely follow in their mothers’ footsteps in the dairy industry. But first, they will be dehorned. Dehorning is a procedure in which cows have their horns removed by means of saws, sharp wires, hot irons, guillotine dehorners, or caustic chemicals.  It’s extremely painful.

7. The cows will spend the rest of their lives as milk machines, forced to produce 4.5 times what they normally would for their calf. But cows used for milk are usually slaughtered for low-grade meat when they’re around 4 years old. That means four years of repeated artificial insemination, udder infections, and having their calves traumatically torn from their side shortly after birth.

When you buy dairy products, you’re supporting this cruel cycle.

When not on a factory farm, cows can live to be 20 years old.

As a mom and an animal advocate, I can’t help but think of all the mother cows imprisoned in factory farms, forced to endure so much pain and suffering behind the closed doors of the dairy industry. Their newborn calves ripped from their sides within days. Their milk, meant to nourish their young, stolen from them.

These mothers must repeat this cruel cycle, ultimately slaughtered for meat long before their natural life spans should end. With your help, we can break this cycle of abuse.

Be part of the solution – reduce the global demand for dairy by minimizing your consumption. Together we can make a difference!

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