The dairy industry loves to brag about its “happy cows.” They put photos of smiling cows standing in the middle of lush pastures on their products to create the illusion that the milk cows from a quaint little farm. We’re lead to believe that cows spend their days lounging on grassy meadows, wandering around and snacking. After all, their sole purpose is to provide humans with milk … so they must be more than happy to oblige!
The reality of the matter, however, is that dairy cows are treated horrifically on factory farms. The only way cows can produce milk is if they’ve recently given birth. So dairy cows are routinely impregnated via a device colloquially named a “rape rack.”Disturbed yet? It gets worse. After birth, the cow’s babies are snatched away to make sure they don’t drink any of the valuable milk, a cruel act that unsurprisingly leaves mother cows severely depressed and wailing for their babies.
Well, shockingly enough, it appears cows are not as happy as farmers would like them to be. Five to ten percent of North American dairy cows suffer from hypocalcaemia, a disease that cows are at risk of contracting immediately before and after they give birth (meaning there are many opportunities for them to get sick). This condition is associated with immunological and digestive problems, decreased pregnancy rates, longer intervals between pregnancies, and ultimately lower-calcium milk. Considering calcium is one of the main ways the dairy industry has tricked us into thinking we need milk, this poses a bit of a problem for dairy farmers. After all, if milk is void of calcium, what is the point of drinking it?
Well, don’t worry everyone, farmers have figured out a solution: inject cows with serotonin! Of course! Why have we not been doing this from the get-go?
By using serotonin, cows are happier (chemical-wise) and produce milk with higher levels of calcium in it. These serotonin injections have only been tested on two breeds of cows, Holstein and Jersey, and while there are still some details to be ironed out – such as when in the lactation cycle is best to inject the cows – it looks like this may just start to be the norm in the animal agriculture industry. Researchers are even discussing using the injections as a preventative measure for the disease.
In case it wasn’t obvious, this is yet another wildly invasive procedure. Yes, cows are essentially getting Prozac for their depression, but who are we to decide this for them? The real solution would be to truly improve the conditions for farm cows, or you know, find an alternative to calcium and let cows live peacefully. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the dairy industry will begin to support either of these initiatives any time soon.
As consumers, we have the power to put an end to this unnecessary suffering. By choosing from the plethora of milk and dairy alternatives on the market today, we are choosing to not support these cruel and destructive industries. You can choose to create a more compassionate world with this simple choice every day.
Image source: Hopko/Shutterstock