The Unnatural Existence of Calves
Male calves are deemed the dairy industry’s “collateral” and are killed soon after birth, at a few days old or, if reared for veal, they are killed at 3 months. Female calves are retained to perpetuate the dairy industry’s cycle of misery. Calves are the victims of one of the cruelest, most animal exploitative and unnatural productions. The dairy industry admits that bobby calves have lower priority on farms than other animals.
Calves are competition for humans for cow’s milk and are removed from their mothers as quickly as possible, within 12 to 24 hours of being born. In a natural environment female calves suckle for around 9 months and stay with their mothers for the rest of their lives. Males suckle until they are a year old and then leave the female herd.
Just being born and giving birth is stressful. Cows and calves then have to endure the terrible stress of being taken away from each other. Mothers bellow their grief at the loss of babies, sometimes for days and weeks. Another indicator of her stress, the whites of her eyes, will increase as she seeks out her baby. For calves it is traumatic and frightening. They barely receive colostrum from their mother before being moved to a shared enclosure and have to try to learn how to drink from a bucket – if the farmer has the time or inclination to ensure the calf is being fed. A great percentage of calves do not even have access to water.
Many of these baby animals die in the saleyards. Transportation is a major welfare issue with distances from farm to slaughter being excessively long with little room for calves to lie down. Calves have to stand where they defecate and electric goads are used to load and unload them. Often trucks are used as holding pens for long periods of time. Trucks used in Australia are of inferior standard to those in other Western countries.
Bobby calves are worth very little financially. Bobby calf by products are more lucrative than their meat which is exported to USA and often used for human baby food. Their fourth stomach is dried and used for parmesan cheese and rennet for other cheeses. Other parts of their bodies are used for pharmaceutical products.
There is now a push in Australia to increase the market for bobby veal. So rather than slaughtering male calves at a few days old industry is looking to further maximise profit by feeding them up and then slaughtering them at 12 weeks of age for meat “connoisseurs.”
Induction is another unnatural component of the dairy industry. To regulate the animals to fit the system it is common for cows to be induced to give birth so their milking cycle keeps in synch with the rest of the herd – “seasonal calving.” Induced calves are predisposed to being stillborn or are born weakened and ill – industry term – “non-viable”. Cows that are induced often suffer retained placenta, photosensitisation (skin is sensitive to sunlight) and decreased immunity leading to susceptibility to infection and death. Dairy farmers in Victoria are currently inducing up to 100,000 premature births per annum.
Female calves are mutilated in a variety of ways. They are disbudded (growing horns are removed by heat cauterization or by using a knife or scoop tool – they are restrained in a crush and terrified during this agonizing procedure which is done without anaesthesia). Tests show that even local anaesthetic has little effect in alleviating the distress and pain caused by disbudding with a cautery iron. At 1-2 months of age any “spare” (supernumerary) teats she may have are cut off – without anaesthesia. Industry believes this makes her “look more appealing” and the spares won’t clutter up the milking machine.
Dairy farmers in Victoria continue to tail dock dairy cattle despite there being no welfare justification to support this mutilation. The amputation is performed either using a tight rubber ring, a sharp knife or a heated docking iron and is done without anaesthesia. It is done for no other reason than the ease of milking. It causes her acute and chronic pain including the continued growth of damaged nerve axons that result in the formation of a mass of tangled axons called a neuroma. Neuromas are associated with chronic pain and may play a part in post amputation pain in humans. These also occur after debeaking of hens and tail docking of pigs.
The Unnatural Beginning
There is a school of thought that believes that if we suddenly stopped eating animals or exploiting them they will procreate in their zillions. The reality is that there is no species used by meat and dairy in Western society that conceive on their own any longer. It is all done through human intervention. Many animals have been so “modified” that they are simply unable to breed naturally. Bulls ejaculate into an artificial vagina (cylindrical tube with rubber lining) and cows are inseminated by hand using a catheter. Insemination ensures the animals fit the system in that they are all impregnated at the same time for the benefit of the farmer.
Unnatural Diseases in Dairy Cows
“The dairy cow is exposed to more abnormal physiological demands than any other class of farm animal” – John Webster, Emeritus Professor of Animal Husbandry, Bristol University’s Clinical Veterinary Science Department
Humans continue to exploit and squeeze the maximum they can out of animals and of-course this comes at a colossal welfare cost to cattle. Of all animals used for food, cattle are perhaps the most exploited. A dairy cow is conceived via human intervention, her birth frequently triggered by induction, she is then mutilated without anaesthesia and has her first pregnancy at 2 years of age. All her offspring will be taken from her. She is kept pregnant to keep lactating for no other reason than so humans can continue taking from her. She is spent at 7 to 8 years, trucked to slaughter and due to the toll on her body her meat is regarded as “low quality” and is turned into burgers, soup and baby food. In the wild cattle live for over 2 decades.
It should not be surprising to know that disease in dairy cows is rife particularly when you consider the average yield per cow rose from 2,750 litres in 1974/5 to 4,980 litres in 2004/5.
Mastitis and lameness are common diseases in dairy cattle. Australian farms report about 25% of animals suffer lameness (which has been likened to crushing all your fingernails in the door then standing on your fingertips.) Industry reports indicate that only 40-45% of lame cows are detected. The pain will cause her to lie down as much as possible, she goes off her food and suffers weight loss, her milk production is reduced and it can take her up to 40 days longer to conceive. The distension of her huge udder causes her back feet to splay out. Those that aren’t lying down will stand with arched backs and lowered heads trying to take the weight off their hind limbs.
Mastitis is inflammation of the mammary gland and is the most common affliction of dairy cattle around the world. Industry and veterinarians describe this as causing severe pain and distress. The risk of a dairy cow getting mastitis is increased by 30% for every calving she has. It is difficult to control because many different bacteria are capable of infecting the udder and producing the disease. Cattle (ruminants) are docile and stoic and it is difficult to ascertain the severity of her mastitis. In days of old when farmers hand milked they could see grossly abnormal milk. Machinery does not pick this up. The very action of conventional milking machines causes swelling, redness, damage to the teat canal lining resulting in scar tissue and udder deformities. Part of fragile teat damage comes from the fact that the front teats are emptied of milk but the machine, while taking milk from the rear teats, continues its ferocious sucking of the emptied teats.
Pasteurization may not destroy all food borne pathogens in milk so humans may ingest pus and blood . The cow’s body, in response to infection, generates white blood cells (somatic) that go to the affected area to try to combat the infection. These cells, cellular debris and dead tissue are a component of pus which is excreted into milk. Hard cheeses developed from infected milk are most vulnerable to retaining these. There is also the potential for consuming antibiotic residue associated with the treatment of dairy cattle.
Milk Fever (hypocalcaemia – low blood calcium) is caused by calving and milk production which dairy cows today unrelentingly endure. A cow will present with tremors in her body and head, then staggering, then go into a “sitting” position, ending up on her side before circulatory collapse, coma and death.
Unnatural Human Diseases linked to Dairy consumption
Think dairy is good for you? Think again. Professor T. Colin Campbell Ph.D was raised on an American dairy farm and believed, as many do, that consumption of animal products is the bedrock of good health. He has studied nutrition and diet and cancer for 40 years and completed the most exhaustive and what has been described as the most comprehensive and epic study of the connection between diet and disease in world medical history. Professor Campbell spent two decades on The China Project (published 2005). In a nutshell his data conclusively proves that what we in Western society consider “normal” illnesses of ageing are in fact not normal. His findings indicate that the vast majority, perhaps 80 to 90% of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented, at least until very old age, simply by adopting a plant based diet.
China has now started to import dairy cattle from Australia and New Zealand. Governments would do well to mandate for warning notices on dairy cheese and milk products and advocating a vegan lifestyle to help bring down the spiralling national cost of health care.
Because the dairy industry propaganda machine is pervasive, persuasive and funded by millions of dollars, most Westerners don’t question its claims. People accept that it’s “normal” for humans to be the only animal that, once weaned, continues to suckle – from another species. One of the most obvious myths propagated at the expense of good health is that dairy milk is necessary to prevent osteoporosis. 70% of the world’s population does not consume milk and those people have low to nil incidence of osteoporosis. Excess protein (dairy and meat) makes the human body highly acidic which leeches calcium from bones to alkalize the blood which in turn is passed out through urine. Far safer to get your calcium from green leafy vegetables, legumes, figs, strawberries, sweet potatoes, oranges, prunes, tofu, almonds and walnuts, ramp up your exercise for strong bones and get sufficient Vitamin D.
Additional reading: “Cornell-Oxford-China Study – The China Report” – 2005 – Professor T. Colin Campbell, “White Lies” – 2006 – Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation, “The Devil In Milk” – 2007 – Professor Keith Woodford, Nurses Health Study – Harvard University, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000 – University of California.
Unnatural devastation caused to the environment
The ABS keeps records of water usage in Australia. About 25,000 giga litres is used annually. Here is where 70% of that water goes:
4,000 glasses of water to create 1 glass of milk.
550 litres of water to produce enough flour for a loaf of bread and 7,000 litres of water to produce 100 grams of beef.
A dairy cow typically produces 57 litres of manure each day and around 20 tons per annum. 200 dairy cows can produce as much nitrogen in their manure as a town of 10,000 humans. Small to medium sized dairies can generate 900-1800 litres of wastewater daily while larger operations can generate up to 4,500 litres in a single day. A lactating cow excretes 73-81% nitrogen which can contaminate both surface and ground water.
Crops grown for farm animals in the US requires almost half the water supply and 80% of the agricultural land. Animals raised for food in the US consume 90% of the soy crop, 80% of the corn crop and 70% of its grain. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas – around 21 times more potent in greenhouse terms than carbon dioxide and sheep and cattle in Australia are producing around 14% of Australia’s total greenhouse emissions. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions than transport.
In 2006 the dairy industry in Australia spent more than $500 million on grains and concentrates and became the single biggest user of feed grain of all the animal industries.
Meat and dairy consumers are having the greatest impact on environmental sustainability while vegans have the least impact on sustainability.
It is a travesty that animals must endure mutilation, suffering and exploitation so that prosperous societies can consume second hand protein that causes long term health problems, damages the environment and contributes to Third World malnutrition.
If we are all, as we must, living to ensure that the footprint we leave is minimal then our first step must be to change our diet to a plant based one.