The Truth Behind the Dairy Industry



Every cow in the dairy industry is a mother

A cow only produces milk after she gives birth to a calf. As a result, cows in the dairy industry are repeatedly impregnated, through artificial insemination.

She is constantly in a cycle of pregnancy and giving birth. After nine months of pregnancy, her calf is taken from her – immediately after birth. If her calf is male, he’s sent to the meat industry; and if it’s a girl, she too is destined for the dairy industry. Absolute separation from the mother is a traumatic experience for the calf. She is now an orphan, deprived of the care and nurturing that all babies need. The mother also expresses her distress and shows signs of grief – sometimes crying for days after the two are separated.

A cow used for milk is generally imprisoned all her life in a cold, desolate building, the concrete floor swimming with urine and feces. She never goes out to graze. The filth and constant relocation cause serious leg injuries and hoof infections, requiring routine treatment. The routine violence with which this treatment is carried out causes more fear and sometimes further painful injuries.

It is in the dairy industry’s interest to increase milk yield as much as possible. Ruthless selective breeding has created a cow so far from natural as to constitute genetic distortion. Her udders are disproportionately inflated in size compared to the rest of her body.

The amount of milk taken from a mother cow has increased over time from 8 liters per day to over 40 liters. Her body hasn’t adapted to these changes, so she is prone to diseases, pain, and disability. The enormous pressure on her udders causes blood vessels to tear. The tendons of her udders become weak, the udder drops, and inflammation and infection quickly develop.

Cows can live for over 20 years, but in today’s dairy industry they usually won’t make it to the age of six. The intense production of milk results in the rapid degradation of her bones, and her body quickly reaches total exhaustion. She is usually slaughtered after 3 or 4 years of relentless milking. This is because her physical condition deteriorates and her milk output decreases below what is profitable. When they are taken away, many cows collapse just from the movement of the truck. This results in serious injuries and torn ligaments.

The Truth Behind the Dairy Industry

Why is the calf separated from their mother as soon as they are born?

So that they do not suckle and ‘waste’ valuable milk.

What is genetic distortion and how has milk yield increased so much over time?

In reality, what the dairy industry terms “genetic improvement” actually amounts to genetic distortion. The term “improvement” makes sense when dealing with oranges or wheat, but becomes much more problematic when applied to living, sentient beings. This is because it is carried out at the expense of the animals’ health and well-being, causing them more and more pain, disability, and illness. It is the embodiment of profitability over compassion.

The premise is artificial selection (selective breeding over many generations), which, like natural selection, is capable of creating creatures with very different characteristics to the animals they evolved from. Natural selection, however, operates over vast spans of time, benefiting animals by increasing immunity to disease and making them better adapted to their environment. Here, artificial selection distorts certain characteristics of animals to generate higher profits – even when this means that their own bodies will become a perpetual source of suffering and pain. Learn more about genetic distortion in animal agriculture here.

Shouldn’t the industry have an interest in cows being healthy and living longer?

Not necessarily, if it requires greater spending (on food, medical treatment, less crowded and dirty conditions) or a reduction in income – for cows to be healthier and live longer, we would need to drastically reduce the amount of milk taken from their bodies. The dairy industry is run as a business where cows are expendable commodities – the rates of exhaustion and ‘productivity’ are derived from cold economic calculation.

What about sheep or goat milk? Aren’t conditions there better?

Sheep and goat milk products have a more natural image than dairy products from cows – it’s often assumed that sheep and goats are treated more humanely or that their living conditions are more natural. However, undercover investigations of commercial sheep farms indicate that the situation there is very similar to that seen on cow farms – and it is just as bleak.

We conducted undercover investigations of one of the largest sheep-rearing facilities in Israel, at Kibbutz Geva, where the milk is produced for Tnuva’s sheep’s cheeses. We found the widespread use of hormones, forced pregnancy, traumatic separation of mothers and their baby lambs, and sheep suffering from disease and udder infection.

And sadly, sheep, goats, and cows all end up in the same place when their milk yield decreases – the slaughterhouse.

Want to find out more about delicious and varied dishes that don’t use dairy milk? Check out our dairy-free recipes and join our free plant-based support group for more inspiration.

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