12 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Dairy

1. Dairy Cows Must Give Birth to Produce Milk

Though it may seem obvious, many people have no idea that in order to produce milk, cows have to be pregnant or have just given birth. Like all other mammals, cows lactate for their babies.

2. Dairy Destroys Our Rivers, Lakes, and Streams

The U.S. dairy industry has a record of egregious water pollution. In fact, animal excrement and other agricultural runoff from large-scale farms have polluted nearly one-third of rivers in the U.S.

3. Dairy Cows Are Impregnated Over and Over

A cow bellowing in pain from a birth gone wrong.

On many farms this is accomplished through artificial insemination, a highly invasive and stressful procedure that is repeated approximately every 12 months. Cows used for dairy are kept in a constant cycle of pregnancy, birth, and lactation.

4. Male Calves Are Often Killed for Veal

A baby calf languishing in a veal crate.

Because male calves don’t produce milk, they’re of no use to dairy farms and are often sold for veal production. Veal is a direct by-product of the dairy industry.

5. Dairy Is Linked to Cancer

Cow’s milk increases the risk of prostate cancer by 60 percent for every two glasses consumed each day, and women who switch from dairy to soy products reduce their risk of breast cancer by a shocking 43 percent.

6. Baby Calves Are Stolen From Their Mothers

Newborn calves are typically taken away from their mothers within hours of birth. After forcible separation from their calves, cows often bellow for hours or even days, pacing and searching for them.

7. Dairy Production Is Unsustainable

A cow being dragged by a tractor on a dairy farm.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, carbon dioxide emissions from raising farmed animals make up about 15 percent of global human-induced emissions, with beef and milk production as the leading culprit.

8. Dairy Cows Endure Painful Infections

Bleeding udders.

Subjected to intensive genetic manipulation, cows produce abnormally large quantities of milk. This unnatural production, combined with the physical damage inflicted by the milking equipment, contributes to mastitis, a painful udder infection.

9. Dairy Cows Are Killed After Only Four Years

A cow being tortured with a high-powered hose.

While their natural lifespan is 25 years, cows raised on dairy factory farms become so physically exhausted that they’re often slaughtered at only four or five years of age.

10. Dairy Is Sucking Us Dry

A cow having her tail chopped off. A standard practice on dairy farms known as tail docking.

Dairy production is incredibly water-intensive. According to Mother Jones, it takes 30 gallons of water to make one glass of milk, 50 gallons of water to make two slices of cheese, and a whopping 109 gallons of water to make one stick of butter.

11. Many Dairy Cows End Up Hamburger Meat

A cruel farm worker punches a cow in the face.

Weak, lame, sick, and injured, “spent” dairy cows are often brutally electrically prodded, beaten, and even dragged before being slaughtered and processed into ground beef.

12. Milk Consumption Is Falling

Baby calves being roughly tossed in the back of a truck.

Since 1970, cow’s milk consumption has fallen a whopping 40 percent in the U.S. while sales of nondairy milk alternatives have soared by 30 percent since 2011.

Luckily, consumers are able to withdraw their financial support from farmers who routinely abuse animals by adopting a healthy and humane vegan diet.

Click here for tips on how to make the transition to a cruelty-free lifestyle.