Dairy cows, like all mammals, only produce milk for their young after giving birth. For humans to have milk, we separate the new born calves from their mothers at just a day or two after birth and take the milk meant for them from their mothers.
The mothers are kept in a constant cycle of being pregnant and giving birth so we can take it! This puts cows under huge physical and psychological stress, which often leads to disease and exhaustion. After a few years, when they don’t produce as much milk any more, they are killed around 10 years earlier than their natural lifespan.
Every part of dairy farming causes stress and compromises the beautiful mother cows’ emotional and physical wellbeing.
Death by chocolate! We investigated dairy farms that supplied the hugely popular chocolate company Cadbury. We filmed the shocking fate of male calves – they were shot. ‘Useless’ to the dairy industry because they can’t produce milk, the little boy bulls were killed and sent for pet food or fed to the hounds from the local hunt. The ones not killed will go to the veal industry.
We also saw zero-grazing conditions (more on that below), leading to diseases and infections like lameness (an inflammation of the hooves) and mastitis (infection of the udder).
Zero-grazing is a farming system where the animals are kept inside cramped, intensive sheds, with minimal light and no fields or grass to be seen. They are kept on concrete floors which quickly fill up with the cow’s poo and have to be blasted clean with hoses (though most farms don’t do this often enough). The cows are often too big for the small bedding areas, which only have a scattering of straw.
They’re not allowed to move around freely, all their natural instincts are frustrated because they’re indoors, and it’s a breeding ground for diseases and infections.
But goats and sheep and even camels and buffaloes! We farm them all for their milk. Goat milk and cheese is the most popular in the UK apart from cow’s milk.
Goats suffer just as much as cows – their babies are taken away and we take the milk meant for the little goat kids. We also mutilate them by burning out their horns – all so that we can cram them in sheds together without them hurting each other.
The young male goats are similarly disposed of, and it’s not uncommon for the dead billy goats to be fed to the hounds of the local hunt.