Most people understand why vegans don’t eat meat products but I’m often asked about dairy. Does it really hurt a cow to be milked?
Increasingly, the answer is yes. As a series of exposes bring the cruelty of the dairy industry to the public’s attention, more and more of us are realising milk farms are not only as cruel as meat –actually they’re far worse.
This week, The Independent revealed that Coombe Farm in Somerset has given dead cows to the local hunt as free food for hounds. Last month, footage from the same dairy farm showed workers shoving tubes down the throats of terrified newborn calves, a calf thrown to the ground and struck in the face, and exhausted cows chained in shackles.
All this took place on an organic farm – the kind of farm that sells its milk at higher prices because the standards are supposed to be higher. When you can see what’s happening and you know that the official body for organic farm certification, The Soil Association, has refused to suspend the farm in question, it makes you wonder if the PR labels and logos mean anything at all.
The undercover footage from Coombe Farm is deeply distressing but so are the everyday practices of most dairy farms. From around the age of 15 months, female cows are artificially inseminated. This practice sees farmers mechanically draw semen from a bull, and then push the female cow into a narrow trap, known as a “cattle crush” by some farm workers and a “rape rack” by others, and artificially impregnate her.
When she gives birth her calf will be removed within 36 hours so dairy farmers can steal the milk that is meant for her baby. Experts testify that the separation is traumatising for mother and calf, and cries of anguish, which often go on for days, leave no doubt.
The fate of the separated calf depends on its sex. If he is male, he is no use to the dairy industry, so he will either be killed immediately, or sold for veal, in which case his throat is slit within months.
But if she is female, she will be pushed into the same rapacious hell as her mother: starting at 15 months, a merciless cycle of forced impregnation and theft of her baby, until her body is too exhausted to continue, at which point she will be sent for slaughter. Her day of execution usually comes when she is around five years old. If she had lived naturally she could have lived to 25.
Have you no shame, dairy farmers? It seems not, because it is not just cows that die because of these cruel practices. The badger cull is designed to prop up the dairy industry, because supporters, driven by dairy bosses who claim that badgers are responsible for the spread of bovine tuberculosis, say it might help to control the cattle disease. Yet a major 10-year study by top scientists showed that badger “culling” would not control TB in cattle. Instead, the dairy industry should de-intensify its operations and perform proper testing. Last year, 19,724 badgers were killed in the cull.
It’s time to stop supporting this wicked industry. You can now buy delicious and healthy plant milks, vegan cheese and non-dairy ice creams from most supermarkets. If you can enjoy these products without exploiting and killing animals, why would you not?
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