Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy Cows Do Not Come From California

The commercials are ubiquitous and brought to you by the California Milk Advisory Board. They exclaim that "Happy cows come from California." They have a website where you can download desktop wallpaper of various "Happy Cows," watch "Happy Cows" television commercials, purchase a cow painting from the "Happy Cows" artist or visit their online shop to buy "Happy Cows" t-shirts, commercial DVD's, neckties and more. There's even an online game kids can play showing an idyllic image of a farm where the cows seem to be able to do just about anything they want. This deceptive gimmickry and dairy propaganda is genius advertising, but in light of critics, even the chairman of the California Milk Advisory Board has himself said that "the campaign...is not meant to be a realistic representation of cows or actual dairy farms." That is because, for many cows, life on a dairy farm is anything but happy, especially in California, which has now surpassed Wisconsin and New York as the largest milk producer in the United States.

While there are some small dairy farms that permit their cows to graze in open fields, they could never produce the amount of milk that Americans demand today and so small farms are continually being replaced by enormous CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) or factory farms that can manufacture milk in larger quantities at greater speeds. Regardless of the type of dairy farm (small or large, free range or organic), the dairy industry is inherently self-serving and inhumane as its main interests are in profits, not cows.

For starters, although dairy industry representatives attempt to intimate concern for the calves born on these farms, their sentiments only go so far as females are concerned. That's because male calves born on dairy farms are completely useless to dairy farmers as they cannot provide milk. As a result, male calves are separated from their mothers- despite their cries and pleas- immediately after they are born and shipped off to the beef and veal industries. The veal industry is a direct byproduct of the dairy industry as it was created solely from the surplus of unwanted male calves born on dairy farms. Sadly, many male calves die before they even reach the meat producers because they are without their mother's care and nourishment. Male calves are among the youngest downers- too weak, sick or crippled to even stand. Their value is so low (less than a few dollars), that if sick or injured, they are often left for dead on a pile by the road. Those who survive typically last no more than five months chained inside two-feet-wide veal crates before they are sent to slaughter. Male calves who are killed the same day they are born are referred to as "bob" veal and are used mostly for cheap meat products like TV dinners. Without the dairy industry, these unwanted baby male cows would never exist to suffer so needlessly.

Female cows don't fare any better. Another not-so-little dirty secret that the dairy industry doesn't want to talk about is the constant breeding of cows necessary to produce milk. Like humans, cows have a nine-month gestation period. On dairy farms, they are forced to deliver a calf every year in order to produce milk on a steady basis. Many cows are also artificially impregnated so they persistently produce milk. As a result, today's dairy cows produce 100 pounds of milk a day, ten times more than they would produce naturally for their own calves. This overproduction takes a toll on cows, causing them a number of severe health problems. Milk fever or hypocalcaemia occurs when cows are forced to expel more milk than they can replenish, causing calcium depletion that results in brittle bones and weak bodies. In addition, the use of growth hormones to produce high quantities of milk has led to mastitis, an extremely painful udder infection that causes sores, and laminitis, a hoof ailment that makes it hard for cows to stand due to the excess weight they are forced to carry. Rather than reduce the quantity of milk cows produce, farmers have opted to treat the problem with huge quantities of medication and antibiotics so as not to slow down production. In fact, about 70 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are now used to treat animals- not people- due to the health problems animals endure as a result of being bred for food. Americans unknowingly end up ingesting many of these drugs by consuming cow's milk and milk byproducts, and by eating their antibiotic-ridden corpses.

Regardless of the type of farm, all dairy farms are under intense pressure to keep up with demand, and the animals bear the ultimate sacrifice. Even though organic dairy farms are forbidden from using growth hormones, many "organic" factory farms don't allow their cows to openly graze in pastures and their male calves suffer the same fate as on any other dairy farm. When dairy cows are "used up" and can no longer keep up with milk production, they, too, are sent out to be slaughtered just like all the others. There are no natural deaths for these cows who many farmers craftily claim are just like members of their own families.

While the California Milk Advisory Board maintains that the "Happy Cows" juggernaut is just an ad campaign, it's strikingly disingenuous to make this assertion while spending millions of advertising dollars if they didn't think they could increase dairy consumption by convincing people that "Happy cows come from California."

Truly happy cows are those who live their lives free from fear and harm, who aren't forced into machinelike milk production, who reproduce as they desire, and who are able to raise their calves in a loving and nourishing environment that any human family would want for their own children. Truly happy cows bring up their own young and produce only enough milk necessary to feed their calves as nature intended- no more, no less.

Happy cows do not come from California or any other dairy producing state, and no one knows this better than the cows themselves, who live the nightmare every day of their sad and short lives.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bethany,

Thank you for writing this informative article. I myself have a dairy allergy so do not consume any dairy products, at least I try hard not to. I have found many substitutes for cheese, milk and sour cream to cook with and enjoy eating. Many times I have made dishes for company with a dairy substitute that have received compliments. People are always surprised to find out that what they just enjoyed was made with rice, tofu or soy. One time a made two sour cream dips set them out side by side, seasoned the exact same way, one was made with real sour cream and the other tofu sour cream. The tofu dip was gone in minutes with people asking "how did you make this dip, it is so good".

Jennifer, NJ

Anonymous said...

Jesus christ the pic!! :( It's so depressing.

So glad I'm vegan. The dairy industry is so horrific I'd rather have Toffutti dairy free products and store brand soymilk any day.