"Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel."
- Proverbs 12:10.
photo by Lee Cannon at flickr.com
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"Ignorance is Bliss"
I find that most of us are blind to animal cruelty simply because we are so detached from where we buy our food. Most dairy is purchased from locations that practice "factory farming". In factory farming, a cow is raised its entire life in a small pen, being fed an unnatural diet of genetically modified grains. After her calves are taken from her at birth, she is then milked continuously with little regard to her health (dangerous antibiotics are prescribed for common infections). Finally, once the cow can no longer produce milk, she is slaughtered for meat.
The Way it Should Be...
I believe that the "Fias Co Farm" is a good example of a humane dairy farm: "We don't breed our goats any more than they would naturally breed in the wild. We do not believe in taking the babies from their mothers at birth (which is a totally different stance than many goat breeders). Our goats raise their own kids and we share the doe's milk. Milk for the babies is the first priority; we get what's left. Our goats like to be milked and they produce enough milk to feed their babies and share with us. You can get milk in a fair and humane manner as a part of a relationship with an animal. Our goats do like us, and they like to be milked. They make plenty of milk for us and their babies both. By us using their milk, we can do our best to avoid factory farmed milk. I see nothing wrong in having our goats and using their milk" (Link).
Step 1: Grass Fed Dairy
Grass Fed Cows will be healthier and happier because they are free to...
- Graze (cows are meant to eat grass, not genetically modified grains).
- Enjoy sunlight.
- Socialize with other cows.
- Rest when tired.
Improving the Lives of Chickens
Step 2: Calves are NOT Separated from Mothers
In the following video, we witness the trauma a mother cow goes through when her calf is taken from her. Even the person taking the calf away says, "sometimes it drives the mother cows crazy when we take their babies away". As we see in the "Fias Co Farm" example above, truly humane milk is only taken after the calf has fed first.
Can Dairy Save Cow's Lives?
Like a family that treats its pet dog or cat well, farms that raise cows in a humane way have the potential of providing that cow with a safe and enjoyable life. Also, if humans stopped protecting cows for their milk, it is possible that even more cows would be killed for meat (either by humans or by other predators). Of course, dairy cows might prefer death over Factory Farming if given the choice. Then again, I can see how a humanely raised, grass fed dairy cow could live a happy life.
But aren't male calves sold for slaughter?
At most dairy farms, calves are separated from their mothers shortly after birth. However, at farms where cows are are grass fed, female cows are often eventually reunited with their mothers on the pasture. But what about male calves? In countries that eat a lot of beef, male calves are usually sold for meat. Many vegans argue that since many of the cows for meat initially come from dairy farms, the dairy industry has "blood on its hands". However, I would suggest that demand for meat - not dairy - is the reason why male calves are sold for slaughter. For example, in cultures that do not eat as much beef such as India, bulls are often seen in a city hub looking for food handouts from people. In most of India, it is actually illegal to kill cows. In addition to providing milk for humans, cow manure has been used for thousands of years in India both as fuel and fertilizer.
Improving the Lives of Chickens
If you ever see an ad for a free-range egg farm, you see lots of happy hens running around. This is an awesome thing and a huge improvement over the tiny cages in most factory farms. However, roosters are nowhere in site. The reason for this is that farms generally separate the hens from the roosters shortly after birth. Often, the roosters are killed on the spot. Otherwise they're raised and sold for meat. There are four main reasons that roosters aren't allowed to live.
1) Roosters don't provide eggs
2) Roosters tend to fight and cause other trouble
3) Roosters crow
4) Feeding and housing roosters can be expensive.
In very rare cases, there are farms that do allow roosters to live. One farmer detailed his success at letting roosters live, though the roosters would fight each other in order to try and mate with the hens. As a result, he separated the roosters from the hens, and was surprised that this put an end to their fighting and competing (Link). Other forums have detailed similar success stories (Link). So, as long as a farmer is willing to deal with the crowing and the extra money for feeding and housing roosters, it's evident that roosters lives can also be spared.
Another possible option is to allow roosters to live in the wild, similar to how cows live in India. Wild chickens are actually quite common in tropical environments such as Hawaii and Thailand. Check out this town in south Georgia that voted to protect wild chickens instead of killing them for their meat: