Animal Profile: The Life of a Dairy Cow


December 17, 2012

Care of Bonnie Shulman

Got milk? Pity.
If you’ve ever seen documentaries about farm animals like Peaceable Kingdom you’ll already know that cows are emotional animals with strong family bonds. Mother cows care for their calves and even other cows nearby will come over to meet a new calf and help out where they can.
Farm Sanctuary, with shelters in New York and California, have endless stories to tell about the cows on their farms, such as Queenie, who escaped from a factory farm and immediatey began conversing with the other cows at the sanctuary.
But for dairy cows, the chances to express themselves amongst others of their own species are virtually non-existent. A dairy cow’s life is a continuous cycle of impregnation, birth, and milking to provide one thing only – a constant supply of milk for human consumption and profit. A dairy cow will be milked for 10 months out of the year, including seven months of each of her consecutive nine-month pregnancies. Two to three times a day, seven days a week, she will be attached to an electric milking machine. In her narrow, concrete stall she can do nothing but await the next milking.
When she does give birth, her calf will be forcibly taken from her, and the cries of both mother and baby are pitiful to hear. Male calves will either be sold for pet food, killed at just a few days old to make veal or raised for beef. A dairy cow will not live to her natural lifespan of 25 years, but will survive only four years of her imprisonment. When she can no longer keep up the demanded level of milk production, she will be packed onto a crowded truck for transport to her final destination – the slaughterhouse.
Mercy for Animals, an animal welfare group, recently released a graphic video showing workers at Conklin Dairy Farms Inc., beating cows with crowbars and stabbing them with pitchforks. People who saw the footage were shocked – the traditional image of a dairy farm has always been happy cows frolicking in meadows.
Many people have been so overcome with grief that human beings could inflict such cruelty and hatred at the most benign of creatures that they have sworn off dairy altogether and adopted a completely plant-based (or vegan) diet. If you like milk, ice cream and cheese, please know that there are many delicious plant-based alternatives and substitutes.

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