What’s So Wrong With a Little Milk??

If the dairy cow doesn't have to die for milk consumption, then what's so wrong with having just a little milk?

After I give a lecture, the number one comment people make to me is, “I’ve been vegetarian for years, but I just can’t seem to give up dairy!. Yet when you face the reality of what dairy cows must go through to produce dairy, it becomes hard to look at yourself in the mirror and still be able to eat those dairy products.

Many vegetarians explain their dairy consumption by saying, “Well, the cow didn’t have to die to give me this cheese.” However, if you think about it, at least a beef cow has a short life before it is slaughtered in terror; the dairy cow lives about 5 long years of misery and pain in inhumane conditions… and then she is slaughtered in terror. Given the way our society treats dairy cows, if the cow had a conscious choice, I expect she would prefer to be slaughtered early than to live out her days in such pain.

Meet Crystal the dairy cow: Crystal was taken away from her mom at birth, put into a veal crate and sent to slaughter at 8 weeks old where she was rescued at the last minute by the kind people of the Gentle Barn Animal Sanctuary. She was so sick when they first got her, that they didn’t know if she would live. But now she is one of the leaders of their cowherd. To make a donation for Crystal, click on the image above.

Others try to justify their dairy consumption by saying, “It’s just a small amount of creamer for my coffee,” or “It’s just a little sprinkling of cheese,” but the fact remains that we vote with our wallets: every time we choose a small amount of creamer or a little sprinkling of cheese we are directly responsible for the pain and misery of these animals. 

The Truth behind the Dairy Industry

Laurelee Blanchard is very familiar with the atrocities that happen in factory farms, dairy farms and egg farms. As the founder of Leilani Farm Sanctuary, she has made it her life’s mission to teach people about farmed animals, and encourage them to start loving the animals and stop eating them. She has kindly provided most of the following information on dairy cows: 

“Dairy cows on large factory farms are typically housed indoors or on dry feedlots year round and lactating cows are often kept restrained in tie stalls or stanchions. Most dairy calves are removed from their mothers immediately after birth. The males are mainly sold for veal or castrated and raised for beef.

“Bob veal” calves are killed as soon as a few days after birth; those used to produce “special-fed veal” are typically kept tethered in individual stalls until they’re slaughtered at about 16 to 20 weeks of age.

The female calves are commonly subjected to tail docking, dehorning, and the removal of “extra” teats. Although they don’t reach mature size until at least 4 years old, dairy cows first give birth at about 2 years of age and are continually bred again beginning about 60 days after each birth. Each year, approximately one quarter of the cows who survive the farms are sent to slaughter, most often due to reproductive problems or mastitis. Cows can live more than 20 years; however, they’re usually killed at about 5 years of age, after roughly 2.5 lactations.”

Meet Faith, the rescued dairy cow.  She was taken away from her mom at only a day old, put into a veal crate, and while she was there had untreated conjunctivitis that caused her to go blind. When she came to The Gentle Barn she would spin in circles, never having walked a straight line before. With the help of our volunteers, Faith learned not only how to walk a straight line but how to run, play and receive love. To make a donation for Faith, click on the image above.

Be Honest with Yourself

Let’s face it: if the anti-cruelty laws that protect pets were applied to farmed animals, many of the most routine U.S. farming practices would be illegal in all 50 states. Disregard for farmed animals persists because few people realize the ways in which these individuals are mistreated, and even fewer actually witness the abuse. Once aware, most people are appalled. 

I think we don’t want to face the cruelty of the dairy industry because we don’t want to give up our favorite foods. Once you realize that you are suffering from a type of food addiction, and that most of those foods are still available to you in a cruelty free, plant based format, you will realize what all vegans do: Being vegan is actually easy! Shifting away from dairy products and toward healthier, cruelty-free foods is easy – and tasty – with so many amazing alternatives available today. I challenge any skeptic to make a grilled cheese sandwich using Daiya brand cheese with Earth Balance buttery spread, or scoop up a helping of Coconut Bliss Ice Cream for dessert.


 Cover image: Shutterstock.

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Writter & Reviewer

The Conscious Vegan Columnist

Sarah Taylor is the author of Vegan in 30 Days, and runs the popular blog "The Vegan Next Door".

She has a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University, is on faculty at Joel Fuhrman's Nutritional Education Institute, and has been featured on many television and radio shows internationally.  

Her next book, Vegetarian to Vegan, will be available in 2012.

More about Sarah

Check out Sarah's blog – The Vegan Next Door