What Is Life Like for Cows on Dairy Farms?
On Australian dairy farms, cows are repeatedly impregnated and then separated from their newborn calves so their milk can be sold and fed to humans instead of to their own babies. Cows are often artificially inseminated to ensure that they give birth every 13 months in order to keep their milk production as high as possible. When cows’ bodies wear out and their milk production wanes, they are sent to slaughter.
Babies Torn Away From Their Mothers
Cows form instant maternal bonds with their calves, and mothers can be heard frantically crying out for days after their calves have been taken away.
Of the estimated 800,000 calves born on Australian dairy farms each year, most females are forced into the same harsh cycle of pregnancy and milk production as their mothers, while the hundreds of thousands of male “bobby calves”, unwanted “by-products” of the dairy industry, are slaughtered within a few days of birth.
Male dairy calves are not bred to gain weight as animals raised for meat are, so they’re of little value to the meat industry. Common (and legal) killing methods include shooting them or hitting them on the head with a hammer. For those sent to the abattoir, current legislation allows up to 30 hours of travel time with no food or water. Imagine taking a newborn baby from his or her mother, tossing the infant into the backseat of a car and driving the child continuously without food or a break for 30 hours.
Worked to Death
Because of genetic manipulation, a typical cow used for milk today produces about twice as much milk as her counterpart did in 1979. This excessive milk production often leads to malnutrition (if cows cannot eat enough to replace the nutrients excreted in their milk), mastitis (infection and inflammation of the udder) and lameness. When a cow is no longer able to produce enormous quantities of milk, she’s forced onto a truck and transported to the abattoir.
Some cows die on the way to slaughter, while those who survive are shot in the head with a captive-bolt gun, are hung up by one leg, have their throats slit and are then skinned, gutted and dismembered. Some cows remain fully conscious throughout the process. As one abattoir worker described it, “They die piece by piece”.
Cows are intelligent animals who have long memories, interact in socially complex ways, develop friendships and even hold grudges. It’s time we started treating cows with the compassion and sensitivity they deserve and not as milk machines.
What You Can Do
- Switch to dairy-free drinks such as soy, rice, oat and nut milk. Order PETA’s free vegetarian/vegan starter kit today for more information and recipes.
- Encourage retailers and supermarkets to offer more non-dairy milk options.
- Tell your friends how dairy products are produced and especially how cows and their calves suffer in the process.
- Contact your local MP to let him or her know you want improved legal protection for cows used for their milk.