This article is going to explore the reality of dairy. You may read something and wish you never had, but once you know you can’t unlearn it.
The harsh reality of rows of cramped pens, each imprisoning a solitary calf, will shock those who still believe in the fairy tale of the pastoral dairy farm, where blushing maidens perched on a stool milk smiling cows.
Calves should only be held in solitary pens until they are eight weeks old according to the animal welfare legislation, but Animal Equality claims that the battery calves it photographed at Grange Dairy in Dorset are up to six months old – too large for their hutches.
Marks & Spencer has since claimed that it was disappointed to see the report but has refused to drop the supplier.
The horrid fact is that this is a common reality and most suppliers are already aware of it, the daily practices of most dairy farms are more distressing than those of meat production.
How the dairy industry works:
Starting from the age of 15 months, female cows will usually be artificially inseminated. Farmers mechanically draw semen from a bull, push the female cow into a narrow trap and then brutally impregnate her.
When she gives birth, her calf will be removed within 36 hours, despite the strong bond which is formed between the two immediately after birth, so the farmers can steal and sell you the milk that is meant for her baby. Mother cows will cry and scream for days, wondering where her baby has been taken.
The answer depends on the gender of the calf. If male, he will probably either be shot and tossed into a bin, or sold to be raised for veal, which delays his death by just a matter of months.
But if the calf is female, she will usually be prepared for her own entry into dairy production, where she will face the same cycle of hell that her mother is trapped in: forced impregnation, the theft of her baby, and a return to the cattle crush two or three months later.
For at least six months of the year, she will often be confined inside dark sheds. But a growing number of dairy farms have a zero grazing system in this country, which means that cows spend their entire lives indoors.
A dairy cow is often pumped with antibiotics and hormones so she produces an unnatural amount of milk. This is done to keep up with the demand that we have created but it puts the cow under a huge amount of stress.
Under normal circumstances, she would generally only have a maximum of two litres of milk in her udder at any one time, but rapacious farmers may force her to carry 20 litres or more.
The udders of a dairy cow have been known to become so heavy that it makes her lame and she often develops an agonising infection called mastitis.
The strain this puts on her body means she is exhausted by the age of five. Soon, her milk yield will no longer be considered profitable.
Then, after being dragged off by a tractor, squeezed into a cramped truck, and driven to the slaughterhouse to be killed and turned into burgers or baby food.
You have a choice as to whether or not you contribute to an innocent animals torture.
Smaller businesses are starting to buy more ethical alternatives. The Fields Beneath cafe in London stopped offering cow’s milk and are replacing it with vegan milks, like almond or oat milk.
It posted a notice in its window, explaining that it took the move after watching the powerful five-minute YouTube video entitled Dairy Is Scary. The notice added: “We didn’t think it was either.”
We can see the impact of ethical buying if we look at dairy farm closures. 10 years ago there were around 21,000 dairy farms in England, Scotland and Wales. Industry analysts believe there will be fewer than 5,000 left by 2026.
Some reading this may think this is sad, but dairy closures mean more cows are being spared a horrid life trapped indoors, being brutally impregnated and only living for the purpose of milk.
One person can make a change.
Will you be thinking more about your food choices after reading this? Let us know in the comments on this video.