dairy

Dairy: The Life of a Cow, From Birth to Slaughter

jenny Animals, Investigations 6 Comments

Real-life undercover footage of the dairy industry shows the truth about animal agriculture

Animal Outlook’s new video takes viewers on an intimate journey through the life of a farmed animal in the dairy industry from birth to slaughter, using real-life original footage from its undercover investigations. In this video — the first in what Animal Outlook will release as a series spotlighting different aspects of animal agriculture — viewers meet Winnie, a cow farmed for dairy, and learn the truth about the short, often painful lives of the millions of cows in the dairy industry.

The video, narrated by actor and singer Daniella Monet, uses Animal Outlook footage from dairies in California and Pennsylvania; a calf ranch in Colorado; and slaughter facilities in California and New Jersey. It depicts animals in crowded and dirty conditions and covered in flies; calves taken from their mothers shortly after birth and force-fed milk replacer via tube; kicking, shoving, throwing, and other mistreatment and neglect of male calves due to their low value to the dairy industry; female calves subjected to hot-iron disbudding to remove horns without pain relief; cows artificially inseminated, hit, sprayed, kicked, punched, shocked, and hoisted by a metal hip clamp and dragged in an effort to get them to move; and finally killed, often in botched attempts that prolong their suffering.

The dairy industry wants you to believe that milk comes from happy cows — but our investigation footage shows the heartbreaking reality. Behind every sip of milk or scoop of ice cream that comes from a cow, there is unacceptable abuse and exploitation; sadly, our investigations have shown time and time again that commonplace industry practices are so severely abusive that they’d result in criminal cruelty charges if inflicted on the dogs and cats in our homes. 

Although cows have a natural lifespan of about 20 years, cows farmed for dairy are generally slaughtered for beef — largely low-grade meat like hamburger or pet food — at around six years old, as soon as milk production begins to drop. This short lifespan increasingly raises questions about the welfare and ethical use of cows for dairy, according to a 2020 report.

Plant-based milk—already a sizable category accounting for 15 percent of all sales of retail milk—experienced significant growth in 2020. Worth $2.5 billion, this category alone accounts for 35 percent of the total plant-based food market, according to market data from The Good Food Institute. 

In stark contrast, there were 2,550 fewer licensed dairy operations in 2020 than in 2019, when the number dropped by 3,261. The overall number of licensed operations in the U.S. has marched steadily downward since data collection began, declining by more than 55 percent, from 70,375 in 2003 to 31,657 in 2020, according to market data provided by the Farm Bureau.

Subsequent videos in this series will examine the lives of farmed ducks, chickens, turkeys, pigs and more. To learn more about Animal Outlook’s undercover investigations, visit animaloutlook.org/investigations.

Comments 6

  1. If these farms are being investigated and we know what’s really happening then why aren’t they being shut down? This is horrible and all animals deserve a great life and shown compassion. This sickens me to know that nobody is doing anything about it after these undercover videos are released. The Governors and Mayors need to know whats really happening and watch these videos. Please help these poor babies from their pain and suffering

  2. It is terribly disturbing the way these poor animals are treated. Every one should be shut down till they prove to do better

  3. I got off dairy almost 10 years ago and haven’t looked back. I just couldn’t live with myself if I had it. These precious creatures we share the Earth with deserve so much better. I’m so encouraged by the trend toward plant-based milk alternatives

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