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

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Photo credit to Cariliv

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. They are seen as milk-producing machines, genetically manipulated and given 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) while their mothers’ milk is sold for human consumption.

Female cows are artificially inseminated shortly after their first birthdays. After giving birth, they are milked for 10 months before being inseminated again, continuing the cycle.

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 kept in tiny stalls from birth and are raised for veal. Calves raised for veal are fed a milk substitute that is designed to make them gain 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 humans do – to nourish their young after giving birth. To keep the milk flowing, cows are artificially inseminated every year. The whole thing isn’t painful for the cow, but the simple fact that a cow is being manipulated and used for the gain of humans is unethical.

Photo credit to Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals / hAttp://

2. Typically, one to three days after giving birth, the calf is taken away from the mother. This causes both cow and calf extreme distress.

Photo credit to Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals / hAttp://

3. 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.

Animal Equality’s photograph shows calves penned in solitary hutches at Grange Dairy in East Chaldon, Dorset. Photograph: Animal Equality/PA

3. 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. 

Note: due to consideration for our sensitive viewers we chose not to share an image of dehorning.

4. 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. Cows used for milk are usually slaughtered for low-grade meat when they’re around 4-5 years old. That means four years of repeated artificial insemination, udder infections, and having their calves traumatically torn from their side shortly after birth. You can help break this cycle of abuse simply by eliminating dairy products from your shopping list.

Dairy cows at a farm. Free public domain CC0 image.

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