Dairy cows

People who regard milk as “the perfect food” rarely think about milk as a commercial product – prone to the hazards of mass-production. John Robbins, author of “May All Be Fed”, puts it well; “The modern-day Bessie is now bred, fed, medicated, inseminated, and manipulated for a single purpose – maximum milk production at a minimum cost.”

While sometimes permitted to range in open pasture, dairy cows still spend most of their lives chained by the neck in milk stalls, reduced to lethargic milking machines. Even Ottawa’s Experimental Farm, known for relatively “humane” standards, says its dairy cows are chained by the neck 23 hours a day during winter months.

In order to produce milk, a dairy cow must give birth. To maximize their milk supply they are artificially inseminated every year, meaning they are pregnant for a physically demanding 9 months out of every 12. Their calves are traumatically taken from them shortly after birth. The resulting surplus of calves feeds the veal industry.

With genetic manipulation and intensive production technologies, Canadian cows produce an average of 9,519 kg of milk per year7a — seven times more than they would produce naturally. When their milk production wanes after about four years, dairy cows are sent to slaughter where their worn out bodies are ground up into hamburger.

These unnatural conditions make the modern dairy cow highly prone to
stress and disease.

Veal calves

Dairy cows must produce offspring every year to keep their milk supply flowing. The result is large surplus of calves. According the Ontario Farm Animal Council, “Veal farming has made it possible to turn by-products of the dairy industry into a positive contribution to our food chain.”7b Unfortunately that comes at the expense of the animals involved. Male veal calves are sold to the veal industry and raised in dark sheds. Motherless and alone, they may suffer from anemia, diarrhea, pneumonia, and lameness and see the light of day only on their way to slaughter. Female calves are added to the dairy herd or are slaughtered for the rennet in their stomachs (used to make cheese).

Many calves are isolated in stalls, a practice described by Agriculture Canada as “thought to have a negative effect on animal well-being” in the form of restricted movement and lack of outlet for natural behaviour. As well, “anemia can affect special-fed veal calves during all stages of growth,” which is caused by iron reduction to make their flesh pale.

There are approximately 500 – 700 veal farms in Ontario worth about $450 million.

Beef cattle

After being castrated and dehorned, these animals may initially be permitted to run free with their mothers on the open range for 6-11 months. After that period of freedom, however, calves are taken from their mothers, with whom they share a powerful instinctive bond, and are shipped to barren feedlots. On some larger feedlots, thousands of cattle can be lined up side by side in cramped quarters.