Are you looking for the no-nonsense facts behind the production of dairy and how it can affect your health? Here is the lowdown with links for you to check the facts for yourself.
Facts About Dairy
Forced Impregnation of the Cows
Dairy cows are artificially inseminated on an annual basis, giving birth to a vibrantly alive, newborn calf every year.
It is well known that the herd’s breeding efficiency impacts the profitability of a dairy farm. The farmer’s goal of having a calving interval (CI) of 12 months applies everywhere in the world, Economic studies confirm that maximum profit is reached when the CI is kept between 12 and 13 months.
In order to sell the milk for human consumption, the calves are forcibly removed from their mother anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days after birth. This separation is devastating to both mother and child.
The female calves are raised separately. At the age of 2 years old, they will be impregnated in order to replace their mothers’ spent bodies in the mechanically operated milking stalls.
The dairy farmer’s goal should be to raise healthy, well-grown heifers that calve and enter the milking herd by 22 to 24 months of age. Producers should strive for an average calving age of 23 months. Research and field data indicate that lifetime production and profitability increase with calving slightly below 24 months of age.
— Penn State Extension ‘Dairy Heifer Production’
Male dairy calves are surplus and unnecessary to the dairy industry. They are also the wrong genetic makeup for beef production. Some are sold as bob calf, where at a few hours old, still steaming from the womb and some with their umbilical cords attached, they are either shot, killed by electrocution or are sold at live auctions.
Shivering and still learning to walk, they are goaded with electric prods by handlers to move around the auction arena. When sold to the disadvantaged community as a live food source, the calves will often starve to death from inadequate nutrition or succumb to infections due to being deprived of vital colostrum they should be receiving from their mother’s milk.
The importance of feeding high quality colostrum (especially in the first feeding) cannot be over emphasized. True colostrum (first milking) has up to twice as much total solids, five times as much protein and three times as many minerals as whole milk. It is also higher in energy, vitamins, and immunoglobulins (antibodies). These immunoglobulins from the colostrum are essential to the calf’s survival and subsequent performance.
— Utah State University ‘Normal Biological Growth of Dairy Calves’
The above video depicts the typical journey of a South African bob calf to the auction and into the disadvantaged community. Although there are no scenes of graphic violence, it is still upsetting to see how insensitive the handlers are to these young and vulnerable calves.
Other bullock calves are bred as veal calves, fed an iron deficient diet and kept in dark enclosures where they will never see the sun. Chained by their necks or with their heads built into the bars or wooden walls, they are effectively immobilised for the entire duration of their short, miserable life. They continuously try to get free or lie down. Calves are by nature very active and love to run and play. Many veal calves suffer from chronic and acute diarrhea.
Most young male offspring of dairy cows are generally sold for veal, and may be referred to as veal calves.
There is an initiative underway to reduce the number of male calves born into the dairy industry. Unfortunately, the main reason for dairy cows being bred is to initiate a new milking period, so this will only result in an unwanted surplus of female calves who will also have to be sold for meat.
With “Sexed Semen” or Gender Enhanced Semen (GES), it is possible to increase the proportion of live female calves born yearly. However, more pregnancies are needed to return cows to the next lactation than are needed to produce the necessary herd replacements. Producing more heifers than are needed by the dairy industry is not desirable.
Normally a cow will produce no more than 1,200 litres of milk a year with the production graph representing a bell curve that corresponds to the demand of her calf. She will only produce milk in the year she has a given birth, and only for as long as the calf is suckling. Farmers manipulate her productivity to achieve the maximum profitability possible. A dairy cow is literally milked to death. She is subjected to a regime of being milked till she is dry with mechanical milking machines, on an 8‑12 hour cycle.
Cows have the potential to live up to 30 years of age. However, a dairy cow will be sent to slaughter at the tender age of 4 to 8 years old following a decline in her milk production, a persistent infection or lameness.
Laminitis and other painful leg disorders are a part of life for the dairy cow. This results from overdeveloped udders and excessive milking which results in the calcium being leached from her bones. She will struggle to make the journey to the slaughterhouse and in the end lose even her dignity while being dragged by one leg along the production conveyor belt.
The goal should be to have less than 10% lame cows in the herd.
— MilkProduction.com ‘Long Live Cows’
Her udders which are unnaturally enlarged and painful, can develop mastitis and become infected. Despite the presence of infection, she will continue to be milked.
Infected cows must either be culled, segregated from the milking herd and milked last or milked with separate milking units.
— VirginiaTech ‘Staphylococcus aureus Mastitis: Cause, Detection, and Control’
Udder infections from over milked cows result in somatic cells and bacteria in the milk. Dairy farmers control these infections with antibiotics which also end up in the milk. Antibiotics use is reduced in organic dairy production due to human health concerns, which causes even more suffering for the cows.
The somatic cell count ‘SCC’ records the white blood cells and infected skin cells shed from the inside of a dairy cow’s udders when infection occurs. They are always present in all dairy products.
An individual cow SCC of 100,000 or less indicates an ‘uninfected’ cow, where there are no significant production losses due to subclinical mastitis. A threshold SCC of 200,000 would determine whether a cow is infected with mastitis. Cows with a result of greater than 200,000 are highly likely to be infected on at least one quarter. Cows infected with significant pathogens have an SCC of 300,000 or greater. Milk with an SCC of more than 400,000 is deemed unfit for human consumption by the European Union.
— DairyCo ‘Somatic Cell Count – Milk Quality Indicator’
Cheese and Rennet
Cheese is produced by adding rennet to the milk to initiate the curdling effect. Rennet is an enzyme found only in the stomach of a suckling calf. Unless the cheese says vegetarian, it isn’t. Even vegetarian cheese requires a life of suffering followed by the painful death for all calves and all dairy cows.
Traditional animal rennet is an enzyme derived from the stomachs of calves, lambs or goats before they consume anything but milk. (Ours is all from calves.)
— New England Cheesemaking Supply Company
It is simply not possible to ‘humanely’ produce milk to feed modern society’s huge demand.
- According to the USDA it is estimated that 275.8 million tonnes of milk will be produced worldwide in 2014.
- This equates to the exploitation of approximately* 38,6 million dairy cows, the slaughter of 6.4 million dairy cows and the slaughter of 19,3 million veal calves every year.
There is not enough land on the planet to raise all of these animals on so-called ‘free-range’ farms. It is also not possible to operate a viable dairy farm without repeatedly impregnating the cow, removing her calf, milking her excessively and ultimately slaughtering both her and her calf.
Dairy farming is a business. Cows are the resource. Milk is the product. And their calves are the byproduct.
Facts About Milk Consumption
We Do Not Need The Calcium From Milk
Cow’s milk is specially created for their calves. Human bodies are not designed to digest cow’s milk and are the only species who drinks another species’ milk. Humans would normally stop producing lactase the enzyme required for digesting lactose (milk sugar) when we are weaned. However, due to our consumption of dairy for generations some people have adapted by continuing to produce lactase for a longer time in decreasing amounts as they age. Subsequently cow’s milk causes health problems due to the allergic response triggered when our bodies don’t produce sufficient lactase to digest it.
Calcium exists in every unprocessed food on Earth. In fact, sesame seeds contain more calcium than milk and all green leafy vegetables contain generous amounts of calcium.
Low calcium intake is not the main cause of osteoporosis. Other contributing factors are a sedentary lifestyle and the lack of weight bearing activity, being deficient in Vitamin D, high salt and caffeine consumption, and a diet high in acid-forming animal proteins. Your body leaches calcium from your bones in order to restore the pH balance in the blood, as well as creating urea in the liver, which has a diuretic action in the kidneys.
Animal protein induces calcium excretion in the urine, compared to dairy, the calcium retention from vegetables is higher. All green vegetables are high in calcium. Studies demonstrated that individuals who drank one glass or less of milk per week were at no greater risk of breaking a hip or forearm than were those who drank two or more glasses per week. It was also noted that high total calcium intake and milk consumption did not protect against osteoporotic fractures.
— Dr Fuhrman ‘Osteoporosis’
Is Sudden Infant Death Really Heiner Syndrome?
The protein in milk causes allergic reactions in children ranging from skin rashes, ear infections and stomach problems to respiratory symptoms. Heiner syndrome is a lung disease that develops from a food hypersensitivity and is largely due to the protein in cow’s milk.
Bovine casomorphin from cow’s milk is suspected to increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome, or crib death) based on the elevated blood levels in babies suffering acute life-threatening events and their relative inability to clear it from their systems.
— Dr Michael Greger NutrionFacts ‘Cow’s Milk Casomorphin and Crib Death’
What You Can Do
- Take your first step towards going vegan today, it is the single most important thing you can do to save our environment, free the animals and heal your health.
- Any product made with dairy can be made using delicious alternatives. Non-GM soya, rice, oat and almond milks; Cheezly and Sheese vegan cheeses, or make your own cashew nut cheese; as well as vegetable shortening for baking.
- You have the power to create a demand for ethical, compassionate food. If you can’t find the dairy substitute you’re looking for at your local supermarket, ask for it. Simply fill in the customer request forms available at the tills, or speak to the branch manager.
- Take a moment to read the labels before buying any food and drinks. Dairy is a hidden ingredient in many processed foods. Avoid these products: sodium caseinate, lactic acid, milk solids, cream, butter fat, buttermilk, curds and whey.
- If you’re a chef with artistic flair, create cruelty-free cakes, pies and convenience foods and sell them to the public – we need you to help people discover how scrumptious vegan food really is.
- Veganism isn’t a diet. It isn’t about restricting yourself, or feeling deprived. There is no will power required. A paradigm shift occurs and dairy is no longer seen as a food choice. For calves, yes. Not humans.
- Please do not switch to goats milk. Goats suffer as much, if not more than cows. Does can birth up to 5 kids a year, who are sold for kid leather and barbaric ritual slaughter.
- Have a zero tolerance policy towards suffering. Protecting all sentient beings’ inherent right to a life worth living, full of joy and the ability to express natural behaviours; and a life that continues until a natural death; this is a concept worth striving for, isn’t it?
- Be motivated by love and compassion. Take a moment to visualise the cow as she lovingly nurtures her calf. Say a prayer for them every time you choose dairy-free products:
Bless the cow and her calf take them into your heart with compassion. Celebrate in the knowledge they can now be free, joyously reunited and safe from harm.