By People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
At least half of the 10 million dairy cows in the United States live on factory farms, crowded into concrete-floored pens or barns, milked two or three times a day by machines that cut their udders and give them electric shocks.
Cows of the 1990s live only about four to five years, as opposed to the 20-25 years enjoyed by cows of an earlier era. To raise the animals' milk production, dairy farmers keep them pregnant constantly through artificial insemination.
Farmers also use an array of drugs, including bovine growth hormone (BGH); prostaglandin, which is used to bring a cow into heat; antibiotics; and tranquilizers to improve behavior.
BGH causes cows' udders to become so heavy and swollen that they can drag along the ground. A full udder can weigh 60 pounds. The cows' accidental stepping on their udders causes the teats to become injured and infected. Perhaps the greatest pain suffered by cows of the dairy industry is the repeated loss of their young.
Female offspring may join the ranks of the milk producers, but the males are generally taken from their mothers within 24 hours of birth (before the cow develops an attachment to him) and sold at auction either for the notorious veal industry or to beef producers. If the calf is killed when young, rennet from the membrane of his fourth stomach is also used in cheese-making; it contains rennin, an enzyme used to curdle milk for cheese.
Within 60 days the cow will be impregnated again. A typical factory-farmed dairy cow will give birth three or four times in her short life. When her milk production wanes, she is sent to slaughter, most likely to be ground up into fast-food burgers. Write People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510. To call, dial (757) 622-PETA.LINKS, this issue: