From the meat industry’s rampant abuse of animals and environmental devastation to the tremendous health benefits of a vegan diet to helping end world hunger and deplorable working conditions in slaughterhouses, there are countless reasons why more and more people are leaving meat off their plates for good and embracing a healthy and humane vegan diet.
In the U.S., more than 29 million cows suffer and die in the meat and dairy industries every year. When still very young, many cows are branded (burned with hot irons), dehorned (their horns are gouged out or cut or burned off), and castrated (male cattle have their testicles ripped out of their scrotums)—all without painkillers.
Once they have grown large enough, cows raised for beef are sent to massive, filthy outdoor feedlots, where they are fattened for slaughter. Cows on dairy farms are repeatedly artificially impregnated (in order to keep their milk flowing) and then traumatically separated from their newborn calves until finally their bodies wear out and they are sent to be killed, too.
Like animals of all species, cows form strong maternal bonds with their calves, and on dairy farms, mother cows can be heard frantically crying out for their calves for several days after they have been separated.
Cows are gentle giants—curious, clever animals who have been known to go to extraordinary lengths to escape from slaughterhouses. They are gregarious, preferring to spend their time with other cows, and they form complex relationships, much like dogs in packs.
Cattle may be transported hundreds of miles in all weather extremes, typically without food or water, to the slaughterhouse. Cows who don’t die on the way to slaughter from exposure or traffic accidents are shot in the head with a captive-bolt gun and hung up by one leg then have their throats cut before finally being skinned and gutted. Some cows remain fully conscious throughout the entire process. In an interview with The Washington Post, one slaughterhouse worker said, “They die piece by piece.”
The average lifespan of a dairy cow is only 3-5 years, compared to their natural 20-25 years. At least once a year, she is forcibly inseminated, on a frame referred to in the industry as the ‘rape rack’. This is because cows only lactate when they’re pregnant. Then, to get all of the milk she produces, her calves have to be taken away from her at birth.
This process will be repeated over and over until she stops producing enough milk, or collapses from exhaustion, at which point she is slaughtered for meat. Over this time, she will be milked so frequently, usually by a machine, that her udders will swell and she will regularly contract mastitis, an infection of the udders that causes soreness, swelling, and bleeding, along with bacterial discharge. Most countries have an acceptable level of the blood and pus from these infections allowed within milk products.
The female calves taken from their mothers will also become dairy cows; the male calves will be killed for veal within 4-6 months, their short lives spent in small crates to limit their movement. Upon separation, both mother and calf cry out for each other for days. They never see each other again. (contributed by Arwen Lewis)