Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dairy-What about the calf?

This will be one of the  times in my overall blog that I'm going to talk about the ethical aspect of raising animals for food.  People often try to put an order to which form of animal agriculture is the worst for the animal.  I often hear egg layers in battery cages, foie gras ducks, female pigs in gestation crates, veal calves in veal crates, and dairy cows.   Dairy is certainly one of the  worst possible condition for all animals as it encompasses so many aspects of abuse and and slaughter. Ever since I learned about the "secrets" of dairy, 20 years ago, it's been my main issue that I've always felt needed the most exposing, as the real evils of it are really not understood by most people.  Everyone goes around thinking dairy is benign. When you tell some you're  Vegan or you're on a plant based diet, they always ask "What's wrong with dairy? They don't kill animals to make dairy, do they?"  Sorry to say they  do.  Even people who become vegetarian (as opposed to Vegan) still eat dairy products thinking it's "OK" because the cows aren't killed (and because they think they need the calcium and protein in milk)  So aside from dairy products being the worst food in the human diet, it turns out that dairy is also one of the worst situations from the animal's miserable life.

Here's the story of how dairy is produced and what we have to do to have a cow produce milk. First of all, a cow is a female mammal, like cats and dogs, giraffes, bears, what have you...and humans.  Human females do not have milk or lactate until they have gone through pregnancy and have given birth. The same is true for cows.  In order for a cow to give milk, she has to first be pregnant and then give birth to a calf.  The typical dairy farm (in the US or anywhere) is comprised of all female cows, since they're the ones that produce milk.  

With today's modern techniques, most cows are artificially inseminated. This assures the farmer of a "take" and the ability to buy a prize specimen, and have continuity in his production and lineage.  If it's the cows first time, they simply wait it out until she gives birth. If it's her second or third, then she's also milked during each pregnancy as she's in a state of constant lactation, with a short time off possibly.  So when her calf is born, they allow the calf to nurse for a day or two, to get the milk flowing then they take the calf away.  This is a VERY emotional and distressing event for both the mother and the baby.  No motherl wants to lose her baby, especially right after birth. Some farms don't even wait a day or two as they want to get the first drops of milk to sell for the increased collagen content.  (some people , incorrectly, think this is a "health food")  If the baby born is a male, he is of no use to the dairy farm. It doesn't pay to keep him around or to raise him for meat. Dairy cows are very different from beef/meat cows and do not have the same quality to their flesh for the more prime cuts (lower grades, yes)  The baby boy is immediately sold to a veal farm. Most people know about veal, and always tell you immediately "oh I don't eat veal, that's so cruel"  Well , by drinking milk and eating cheese, they are creating these veal calves...surplus male dairy calves.  The vealer comes and picks the calf up and takes him to his veal farm.

Most veal calves spend the next 16 weeks of their lives in a small wooden crate, 2 x4 feet, chained at the neck and unable to move. They can barely lie down and are often covered in their own feces. They are fed a liquid iron -free diet, which keeps them anemic and keeps their flesh white.  Hence the term milk-fed veal.   Since they never take a step , their leg muscles are weak and soft, which gives their meat that extra tenderness that veal lovers expect. After 16 weeks, these baby veal calves are trucked off to the slaughter house and are killed and packaged into veal and sold in the markets.  The life of a veal calf is certainly one  of the worst possible conditions for an animal to be in.

If the calf born is a female, she is kept in the herd and will replace an older female. Female cows are impregnated every year and are constantly either pregnant or lactating and always being milked. (and fed growth hormones and antibiotics and special grains or food so they produce way more milk than they were capable of before all this type of farming started)

A normal cow might live 20-25 years. But on a dairy farm, the typical age might be 3 -5 years before they ship HER off to the slaughter house also...the same slaughter house that kills beef cows.  A female dairy  cow is used for chopped meat, low grade cuts, pet food, soups etc.  There a are a hundred other things cows bodies are used for but I won't go into all that now. (The most obvious being leather)  Did you know that gelatin capsules and jello come from boiling down the hooves and horns of cow?   The young female calf will soon replace one of these aging cows and become a milk machine herself, then suffer the same fate. 

Impregnation,  birth, separation  of calf, baby males going to veal farms, and then ending up in the slaughter house herself.

All this because humans think they need dairy for it's nutrients?  All plant based doctors and nutritionists and specialists  will tell you that dairy is the first thing in the human diet that should go. Humans are  lactose intolerant. More humans on the planet do not eat dairy than do eat it.  Asians and Africans and other civilizations don't have dairy on the menu (unless they are becoming more westernized )  

Next blog we'll look at the health aspects of dairy.

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