More than 9.3 million cows were used to produce milk in the United States in 2008, and more than 2.5 million dairy cows were slaughtered for meat. Cows used by the dairy industry are intensively confined, continually impregnated, and bred for high milk production with little concern for their well-being. Far from being the “happy cows” the industry makes them out to be, these typically playful, nurturing animals endure immense suffering on factory farms.
- Like all mammals, dairy cows must be impregnated in order to produce milk. Cows in the dairy industry spend their lives in a constant cycle of impregnation, birth, and milking with just a few short months of rest between pregnancies.
- Nearly all cows used for dairy in the U.S. are eventually slaughtered for human consumption. At an average of less than 5 years of age, exhausted cows are considered “spent” and sent to slaughter, and millions of them are eaten by Americans as hamburger. In a natural setting, a cow can live more than 20 years.
- Usually just within hours of birth, calves are taken away from their mothers. Calves can become so distressed from separation that they become sick, lose weight from not eating, and cry so much that their throats become raw.
- Because male calves will not grow up to produce milk, they are considered of little value to the dairy farmer and are sold for meat. Millions of these calves are taken away to be raised for beef. Hundreds of thousands of other male calves born into the dairy industry are raised for veal. Many people consider veal to be cruel, but they don’t realize that veal production is a product of the dairy industry.
- In the vast majority of dairy operations in the U.S., cows spend their lives indoors, typically on hard, abrasive concrete floors, frequently connected to a milking apparatus.
- In 2007, the average cow in the dairy industry was forced to produce more than 20,000 lbs. of milk in one year — more than double the milk produced 40 years before. Breeding cows for this unnaturally high level of milk production, combined with damage caused to the udders by milking machines, contributes to high levels of mastitis, a very common and very painful swelling of glands of the udder.
- In the name of increased milk production and profit, some dairy cows are repeatedly injected with bovine growth hormone, a genetically-engineered hormone that has been shown to increase the risk of health problems like mastitis and lameness.
- Arguing that it improves hygiene, dairy producers cut off cows’ tails, called “tail docking,” either by placing a tight rubber ring around the tail until it falls off or by cutting it off with a sharp instrument. Each method causes chronic pain. Cows use their tail to swish away flies and can suffer immensely during fly season.
- Investigations have found that cows who collapse because they are too sick or injured to walk or stand, known as “downers” by the industry, are routinely prodded, dragged, and pushed around slaughter facilities.
Cows Used for Meat
In 2010, 34.2 million cattle were slaughtered for beef in the United States. Often beginning their short lives on rangeland, calves are soon separated from their nurturing mothers and endure a series of painful mutilations. Before they are a year old, young calves endure a long and stressful journey to a feedlot, where they are fattened on an unnatural diet until they reach “market weight” and are sent to slaughter.
- After being taken from their mother, calves’ cries can be so intense that their throats become irritated.
- Calves raised for beef may be subject to a number of painful mutilations, including dehorning, castration, and branding. Even though each of these procedures is known to cause fear and pain, pain relief is rarely provided.
- Because it is thought to improve meat quality and tenderness, male calves are castrated at a young age. Methods include removing testicles surgically with a scalpel, crushing spermatic cords with a clamp, and constricting blood flow to the scrotum until testicles die and fall off. Each method is known to cause pain that can last for days.
- Cattle in the U.S. are often branded by having an iron hotter than 950 °F pressed into their skin for several seconds. This is done so that beef producers can identify cattle and claim ownership.
- Between 6 months and a year of age, cattle are moved from pasture to feedlots to be fattened for slaughter. Calves gain weight on an unnatural diet and reach “market weight” of 1,200 pounds in just 6 months.
- The majority of cattle are fattened in feedlots in just four U.S. states. Since calves are born all over the country, they often endure long and stressful trips from their place of birth to these states without food, water, or protection from the elements.
- Once they reach “market weight,” cattle in the beef industry are trucked to slaughter. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act requires that livestock be rendered insensible to pain before shackling and slaughter; however, investigations have found that some animals are still conscious when they are shackled and have their throats cut.