Even if you go out of your way to find the best milk in Australia, there are some shocking truths about our dairy industry that are inescapable. So, before you take your next sip of milk or tuck into your next bowl of ice cream, consider the facts and statistics below:
1. Male calves are considered “waste products”
For the average person, it’s tough to see a baby being called a product at all, let alone a waste product. However, this is precisely how baby boys are viewed in Australia’s dairy industry. Known as “bobby calves,” these little boys are sent for slaughter when they are barely a week old as, otherwise, they would need to consume the milk the industry intends to bottle and distribute to supermarkets.
2. Dairy cows are kept perpetually pregnant
Like humans, cows only produce milk when they have a baby that needs feeding. So, to ensure consistent supply, dairy cows are forced into a continual cycle of birth and impregnation for the duration of their productive years.This means that they have to go through repeated artificial insemination at the hands of humans, then pregnancy, birth, and the loss of their babies. Cows are gentle, loving creatures with strong maternal natures. From their bellowing alone, it is clear that every lost baby cuts deep.
3. Farm numbers are decreasing, but herd sizes are growing
If you thought massive, inhumane factory farms were only an issue in the US, the stats in Australia say otherwise. According to Dairy Australia, the number of cattle farms has dropped from 21,994 in the 80s to 5,055 at last count. At the same time, herd sizes have been growing, with the average herd size tripling in that timeframe. This demonstrates a major ongoing shift towards concentration farming and away from the diversity and gentler farming practices of the past.
4. Organic milk may be better for you, but the cows? Not so much
It’s true that cows on organic farms are not dosed with antibiotics. Their feed is organic, and they do tend to experience better conditions than their comrades on non-organic farms. However, the facts listed above remain the same for organic dairy cows.No amount of tasty feed can make up for a life of endless impregnation and stolen babies. This may sound dramatic, but no hyperbolic language has been used here. It sounds extreme simply because what’s done to these creatures is extreme.
5. The life of a dairy cow is getting tougher by the year
Genetic manipulation has allowed the dairy industry to increase the amount of milk the average cow produces. Over the last 40 years, they’ve managed to double milk production, which is a big win in terms of efficiency. For the cows, it means dealing with massively engorged udders, malnutrition, mastitis, and other flow-on health problems.When they are no longer able to meet their quotas, they don’t get to enjoy a quiet retirement in a beautiful back paddock somewhere. Those who’ve read Animal Farm will remember what happened to old Boxer the workhorse. Dairy cows are treated no better.
Study after study has proven that cows are intelligent and emotional creatures who have incredible memories and fascinating social norms. They are among few creatures who will solve puzzles for the thrill of it, not just for an edible reward, and they are capable of forming loving friendships with each other that last a lifetime. With so many delicious dairy-free alternatives available, it’s worth considering whether dairy products are truly necessary in your life.