14 Irrefutable Facts About Dairy Farming

From commercials with cows grazing on open green pastures to images of kind farmers gently milking happy cows, the dairy industry spends millions of dollars on advertising to deceive the public. But we’re not buying its lies.

There are lots of misconceptions about the dairy industry, so we’re here with facts to help dispel the myths.

1. Cows must give birth to produce milk.


Yes, you read that right. It may seem obvious, but many people have no idea that to produce milk, cows must be pregnant or have just given birth. Like all mammals, cows lactate to nourish their babies.

2. Calves are stolen from their mothers.


Just hours after they are born, calves are taken from their mothers. Understandably, this forced separation is traumatic, and the mothers bellow for hours or days, pacing and searching for their stolen babies. This heartbreak happens at every dairy farm.

Case in point: In 2013, locals in Newbury, Massachusetts, called the police because of crying they’d heard from a nearby dairy farm. Upon investigation, authorities discovered that the cries had come from mourning mothers whose newborns had been ripped away.

3. Cows are impregnated over and over.


At factory farms, cows are forcibly impregnated, a highly invasive and stressful procedure that is repeated about every 12 months. Cows used for dairy are kept in a constant cycle of pregnancy, birth, and lactation.

Studies prove that the mother-child bond is not exclusive to humans. Imagine the anguish and stress mother cows endure—giving birth again and again only to have their babies torn away.

4. Male calves are often killed for veal.


Since male calves don’t produce milk, they are useless to the dairy industry and often sold for veal production. Veal is a direct byproduct of the dairy industry.

5. Female calves are kept to continue the cycle.


Female calves are raised as “replacements.” For cows in the dairy industry, the cycle of abuse lasts about five years until they are considered “spent” and sent to slaughter.

6. “Spent” cows become hamburger meat.


What happens when cows can no longer produce enough milk? They’re brutally killed.

No milk means no money for farmers. So after having baby after baby stolen from them, and at just a fraction of their natural lifespan—which could be as long as 25 years—cows are callously sent to the slaughterhouse and violently killed, mostly for ground beef. Yes, inside nearly every hamburger are the remains of cows from America’s dairies.

7. Cows’ horns are burned or sawed off.


At dairy factory farms, workers burn or saw off cows’ horns without anesthetics. This painful and grisly practice, which often leads to infection, is considered standard.

8. Cows’ hair is burned off with torches.


Every four to five weeks, dairy farmers use a propane torch to singe the hair around cows’ sensitive udders.

9. Calves’ tails are cut off.


This involves cutting through sensitive skin, nerves, and bones without any painkillers. Animal welfare experts condemn this unnecessary and inhumane practice.

10. Cows suffer painful infections.


Through genetic manipulation and drugs, cows produce abnormally large amounts of milk. This unnatural production and the physical damage caused by milking equipment often lead to mastitis, a painful udder infection.

11. There is pus in the milk.


Mastitis generates pus, which gets into the milk. The USDA reports that one in six cows suffers mastitis, and this infection is responsible for one in six deaths at dairy factory farms.

Because mastitis is so prevalent, the U.S. dairy industry demands that American milk retain more pus-causing cells than that of any other country—a million cells per spoonful. So gross!

12. Dairy farming is destroying the environment.


The U.S. dairy industry has a record of egregious water pollution. In fact, animal excrement and other agricultural runoff from large-scale farms have polluted nearly one-third of rivers in the U.S.

13. Dairy farming wastes a lot of water.


Dairy production is incredibly water-intensive. According to Mother Jones, it takes 30 gallons of water to make one glass of milk, 50 gallons to make two slices of cheese, and a whopping 109 gallons to make one stick of butter.

14. The dairy industry exploits farm workers.


A report compiled by the Workers’ Center of Central New York and the Worker Justice Center of New York reveals that 93 percent of New York dairy farm workers are undocumented immigrants, who are easily exploited. Shockingly, two-thirds of dairy workers in New York have experienced one or more injuries on the job, with 68 percent of these injuries serious enough to require medical attention.

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Fortunately, consumption of cow’s milk in the U.S. has fallen 40 percent since 1970, while sales of dairy-free milk alternatives have soared by 30 percent since 2011. In fact, a recent survey reveals that half of U.S. dairy consumers also use vegan dairy alternatives.

You can help protect cows, workers, the environment, and your health by withdrawing your financial support from this gruesome industry. Join the millions of people who are ditching dairy and adopting a compassionate vegan diet. Click here to get started!

For a list of dairy alternatives, click here.