One of my reasons for being vegetarian is the discomfort, or even revulsion,
at the nature of much of the factory farming that ends up supplying our food. Even for
non-animal-based produce, the degree to which the manufacture of our grocery
items are industrialised from start to finish is breathtaking. Equally
breathtaking is the degree to which the advertising and marketing of our foods
departs from the reality, either by distorting or avoiding the realities of the
food lifecycle. Most large-scale food producers do not want you to know where
your food comes from.
There are exceptions of course, and there are many small and medium food
producers that use alternative production techniques and delivery as a
differentiator, targeted at those who value those things, and who can afford
them. The reason that the remainder of producers get away with it is that
consumers do not want to know. Like climate change until recently, the modern
food mass-production situation is an “uncomfortable truth” that has not yet had
the attention and scrutiny it deserves.
While the large-scale production of meat gets the bulk of the attention of
those against unnecessary animal suffering, the dairy industry has mostly
escaped the negative press. Animals
Australia is looking to fix this with its campaign
on so-called bobby calves, the uncomfortable truth of milk production.
The campaign points out that in order to produce milk,
dairy cows need to give birth every year. Because the calves aren’t all
necessary to either replace or grow existing dairy stock, and male calves less
so, they are mostly slaughtered, often for veal. The calves are removed shortly
after birth, shipped to slaughterhouses, sometimes taking to days to get there
without food or attention, and then disposed of. In the meantime, the mother
cow is giving the milk destined for the calf to a milking machine to be
consumed by humans.
The campaign is not recommending abolishing the dairy industry; it is
attempting to put reforms in place to reduce the suffering of the calves before
slaughter. Understandably, the dairy industry is resisting these reforms. For
more information on this and other campaigns, check out the Animals Australia site.
People… think that cows are placid animals without much of an emotional
life. […] Cows have strong emotional lives. They form friendships with two,
three, or four other cows, and, if permitted, will spend most of their time
together, often licking and grooming each other. On the other hand, they can
form dislikes to other cows and bear grudges for months or even years.
At Lawnel Farm, Lovenheim watched a cow give birth, and begin to lick her
calf, but forty minutes later a famrhand came and took the calf away. The cow
sniffed the straw where the calf had been, bellowed, and began to pace
around. Hours later she was sticking her nose under the gate to the barn in
which she was confined, bellowing continuously. Meanwhile her calf was in
another part of the farm, lying shivering of a concrete floor. Within a few
days he was dead, and his body was lying on the farm’s compost pile [ref
Although the natural lifespan of a cow is around 20 years, dairy cows are
usually killed at between five and seven years of age, because they cannot
sustain the unnaturally high rate of milk production. Male calves that
survive are sent to auction at an age when they can barely walk.
Disclaimer: I am a financial supporter of Animals Australia.