Cows are not the only mammals exploited for milk: in addition, sheep, goats, donkeys and even horses are also kept for the production of milk.
A female cow, goat (or other mammal), does not just ‘give’ milk on her own. Like humans, she has to be pregnant first. This is not voluntary: the female is artificially inseminated. This is an invasive and cruel process of sexual exploitation of the females and the males from whom the semen is collected.
Cows are inseminated again about 3 months after giving birth.
After a 9-month gestation period, where the mother and baby begin bonding, a cow will give birth to her calf. After a calf is born, s/he is removed from the mother almost immediately. The baby is put into a plastic crate by himself. The mother mourns and the baby is terrified and alone. The female goes through this every year of her short existence. The stolen baby is fed milk replacer while humans consume the milk created for them.
Male calves have no value in the dairy industry. They do not give milk, and it does not take many bulls for seed to get a cow pregnant again. The bulls are taken to a ‘fattening farm’ to become veal. They are slaughtered after a short, sad existence of about 6 months.
Calves are mutilated to remove their horns in a process called disbudding. This happens to cows, goats and sheep. Disbudding is a process that burns horn buds and is done to calves from just a few days old to 6 weeks old with a hot-iron disbudder. It is incredibly painful and terrifying.
In addition, many more female calves are born than are needed for the replacement of old dairy cows. More than half of calves born in the dairy industry end up in the veal industry. The ‘veal’ industry is a way of exploiting babies who are unwanted by the dairy industry.
A female cow in the dairy industry has one use: to produce as much milk as possible. To ensure that she continually creates milk, she is impregnated and gives birth. Each time she gives birth her calf is taken away from her. From being hooked to machines every day and repeated milking, cows get udder infections(antibiotic use leads to resistance) and painful hoof problems that can cripple her. Dairy cows are bred specifically to produce large quantities of milk.
By nature, a cow can live to 20 years. But in the dairy industry, cows are used for milk for4-5years old on average. When she can no longer produce milk and becomes of no value to the dairy industry, she goes to slaughter and ends up as a meat product on the supermarket shelves.
Because of emissions of: methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide –all of which are toxic greenhouse gasses –the dairy industry is extremely harmful to the environment.
In some places, the dairy industry contributes to the conversion of natural habitat to agricultural land –a leading cause of deforestation. Local water resources are under threat due to the poor handling of manure and fertilizers.
All of these issues also negatively impact wildlife. Apart from the ethical aspect of leaving dairy, it is recommended to leave dairy because of the climate crisis we are currently facing.