I feel for our dairy farmers—I really do.
I can’t imagine how it would feel to have everything you’ve ever known dwindle around you. To have your livelihoods rendered worthless. To be thrown into unfair debt. I have no doubt that dairy farmers have the best intentions—and maybe some of them really do look after their animals. But even so: dairy is a destructive industry, where animals are objectified as means to an economic end—and this isn’t okay.
Before you abuse me, take a moment to consider my words—humour me.
Let’s think about the practicality of dairy and how we actually get milk—cows don’t just magically produce it: it results from pregnancy. Like humans, cows carry their young for nine months. Unlike humans, most cows will have their young taken away within 12-14 hours after birth due to their economic strain. Calves less than 30 days old—known as bobby cows—will often be sent to the slaughterhouse. In Australia, this is around 400,000 calves per year. This “cruel separation” is a traumatic experience, destined to be repeated over and over for a cow’s workable lifetime— every 13 months. These calves will never even taste their mother’s milk.
There are 1.6 million dairy cows in Australia. While cows will naturally live around 20 years, cows in the dairy industry are only expected to live around seven to eight years. Australian cows also produce around 5730L of milk per year—which is incredible, as the average is only 2900L. Our farmers are struggling, and no matter how beloved certain cows may be, farmers simply need to get as much as they can from their livestock. But is money worth these drastic measures?
Speaking of drastic measures, let’s talk about industry standards. Yes, there are standards—and yes, they’re a lot better than a lot of other countries. They do genuinely try to provide better lives and treatment for cows in terms of welfare. But some aspects are still quite barbaric, such as dehorning and castration. Dehorning is a common practise for male and female cows, which involves sensitive tissue being sawn off. Castration, while considered a major operation for older bulls, can be done to males younger than six months by anyone—no matter how inexperienced. Shockingly, there are no laws required for pain relief.
Is cruelty and objectification not enough to convince you of a change of heart? Well, let’s look at health factors.
For decades, we’ve been fed the idea that dairy is best—that we need it. But consider who would have encouraged this propaganda: that’s right, the for-profit dairy industry. Yes, dairy is the source of calcium and other vitamins, but to put it bluntly: it’s not meant for us. It’s meant for a rapidly growing baby calf.
Dr Mark Hyman said consuming dairy is actually not in our best interests, and that we’ve been force-fed many ideas that are not factual. For instance, milk doesn’t reduce fractures—it may actually increase the risk of them by 50%. By consuming five to seven portions of fruits and veggies per day (and no animal products), a person can reduce their risk of heart disease by 47%, strokes by 26%, and cancer by up to 18%. Furthermore, about 75% of the population is lactose intolerant. Know why?
Because. We’re. Not. Meant. To. Drink. Another. Animal’s. Milk.
Think about it. Think about what they’re not telling you. Do you think animals should be used purely for economic gain? Even if you don’t think it’s wrong for them to be killed for our consumption, I’d like to think that—as reasonable agents—we can agree that cows should at least be treated well—starting with stricter industry standards and better policing. Even if they’re going to be slaughtered, at the very least, they should live fulfilling lives.
Does this make you feel sad? Do you wish things were different? Well, they can be—and you can help. Change begins with education. Even one mind changed can start a revolution. As it is, we don’t need dairy—there are plenty of plant-based sources of calcium, like dark leafy greens, beans, pulses, nuts, brown bread, enriched fruit juice, plant-based milks, soy mince, tofu and so on. Dairy is dwindling—the number of farms in the last two decades has decreased by two thirds. Maybe there’s a reason for it.
Dairy farmers, I feel sorry for you—that you’ve been brought into this war and are struggling. That you’re only paid 37 cents for a litre of milk, despite it costing 38 cents to produce. But instead of supporting our farmers by buying their product, why don’t we encourage them and donate to them to create new and sustainable livelihoods—livelihoods that don’t rely on forced slavery.
Some things are meant to change—and I for one choose compassion.