One question that I have is what happens to the males born on these factory farms. Are we only eating the poor mothers that have reproduced so many offspring that she is dried up and no longer ‘useful’? That appears to be the way it works. For the chickens I found the exact answer, males are thrown away at birth. I never found an answer for pigs, but for dairy cows, the males are sold and slaughtered for veal. There might be an exception in the beef industry, but probably those male calves are used as veal.
Shockingly enough, the first website that came up on my search was a place called Dairy Farming Today. I was prepared for a horrendous sight that would blind my eyes with pain and suffering because of the awful pictures I see most of them seem to be of a dairy cow. I guess because the oversized, swollen utters are a clear picture of a suffering animal. I was shocked again with something quite different. The site has a blue and green, grassy and fresh theme. They had videos, pictures, a dictionary, a Q&A which I’ll be using after I finish researching this and get a list of questions, a FAQ, explanations of what goes on at a dairy farm. As far as the writing content goes, it didn’t go into great detail and I wasn’t too impressed, but then I watched the videos and that changed. Had I just happened to hear a rumor that the dairy industry was a smelling a little iffy then I would be set. I’m no expert and I’m not sure what I should be looking for, but the place that was featured in these videos was just about spotless. They had pictures of cows eating grass, the greenest grass I’ve ever seen. If I didn’t know anything about this subject, I could sleep peacefully for the rest of my life. I don’t know a lot, nor have I see a lot, but I know enough to understand that not all dairy farms are like this.
This site states that 99% of all dairy farms are family-owned and that most don’t have more than 200 cows. This may or may not be true. I haven’t been to them all to know.
My issue is that everything they do from what they feed them (some grass, but a combination of feed and they call themselves ‘recyclers of nutrients’. I’ve heard of everything from cement mix to same species meat to manure being put into the feed. So yes, they are in fact recycling) to the antibiotics that they give are so nicely described it’s hard to second guess. It truly sounds like cow heaven. While some places are probably this nice (I doubt any place is that clean which that is part of working with animals) and I know that sometimes animals just get sick, I’d like to believe that all farms are this peaceful, but I just don’t think that is the case.
So what is really going on in some of these dairy farms?
Machines are used to milk the cows. If the machines are not properly maintained, they can send a painful electric shock though the udder several times a day.
In order for a cow to produce milk, they must be either pregnant or just have had a calf. The mothers are kept pregnant their whole life. Each time she would be artificially inseminated on what the industry calls a ‘rape rack’ or with a farmer’s arm. Interestingly enough, I didn’t see very many calves in any of their pictures. That’s because the calves are taken away immediately after birth to avoid bonding between the mother and her child. A male calf is usually turned into veal. Mother cows have been known to break down the stall door to find their calf.
While I was looking at videos, I saw one about dehorning cows to ‘protect the workers’. One guy commented that he had worked with cows for 30 years and that cows could be extremely aggressive. He had seen them barge through a barn door and not be the least bit phased and just kept running on their merry way. Could it be that they had a reason to do this? Could it be that they were running away from something or after something? I might be completely alone in this, but I happen to believe that most animals have a reason to do what they do. It’s called self-defense. Not always, but most of time animals have a reason for their violence. Especially in the wild. Wild animals are… well, wild. If a person gets killed by a wild animal it’s their own fault.
A cow’s natural life span is about 20 years, but most cows are lucky if they live three years. Despite the heavy use of hormones and antibiotics, usually by this time, they are ‘dried up’ and they’ll turn into what we call ‘ground up’ meat.
A male calf born to a dairy cow is the wrong breed to profitably be raised for beef. His fate, unfortunately, is much worse. Veal is the soft, pale, anemic flesh of a calf. Veal calves are kept inside in a crate barely bigger than themselves. Chained at the neck, they can’t even turn around. They are fed a liquid diet deficient in iron, so their muscles don’t develop properly. Many people recognize the cruelty in raising veal and will not eat it, yet are unaware of the intimate connection between the dairy and veal industries. Supporting one supports the other.
Tail docking is when up to 2/3 of a cows tail is remove either by getting it cut off or banded so the circulation is cut off and the tail falls off. This is suggested to promote cleanliness of the cow, utter health, milk quality and worker health. Study after study has concluded that these are not realistic results of tail docking.
Dehorning is something that was not mentioned. There are many methods used to dehorn cows. I don’t believe that this isn’t completely unnecessary because I’m sure that a person or another cow could be seriously injured by these accidently. But I do think that dairy isn’t essential to the human diet and if we didn’t drink it and didn’t cause other people to force themselves on a cow then we wouldn’t have to consider doing this at all. I also think that it’s horrible that cows are subjected to this horror while they’re awake and that the people removing them are so careless.
Like all the other animal sections of factory farming, these cows are treated cruelly. They are also injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) to increase by up to 25% the already exorbitant amount of milk they produce. Of the 9 million dairy cattle in the U.S., 7-25% are injected with BGH. The use of BGH to increase milk production results in increased udder size and increased frequency of infections such as mastitis. This causes abnormally large udders and produce problems walking, so a cow’s legs are usually spread apart, distorting the normal configurations of her pelvis and spine. Mastitis and other untreated infections injuries aren’t rare sights on these farms. Once the damages have taken their course and render the cows immobile, the cows are termed ‘downers’ are sent to be slaughtered. If you’ve seen Food, Inc. then you know that they aren’t treated very kindly at this stage either.
And those are just a few horrors that you’ll find in some dairy farms. Stay tune because the next post will give solutions to some of these problems.