A recent article in Beef Magazine reveals the heartbreaking way the beef industry regards cows. With as much thought and compassion as one would give an inanimate object, the author discusses ideal times to send cows to slaughter and how often to breed them for maximum profit.
The article weighs the pros and cons of two types of calf operations: conventional and high turnover. Conventional calf operations have cows of all ages to replace the ones they ship off to slaughter. While a cow’s natural life span is 15 to 20 years, the author acknowledges that it is difficult for beef farmers to keep a cow alive even 10 years:
In my own words they are in the business of trying to make old cows. I say trying because if we are honest not many cows will make it to ten years. They get culled for injury, disposition, coming up open, or losing a calf. If we use the theory of having ten years to pay for herself, many cows will never accomplish their goal.
The author argues that high-turnover calf operations are superior moneymakers. In these operations, “momma cows” are sold at just five years old, along with cows who are not bred and male calves. He states:
A good five-year-old cow is worth a heck of a lot more in the market than an old weigh cow or feeder heifer. By marketing this way they accomplish two things. One is they sell the overvalued animal and get a much bigger paycheck; and two they are deflecting the depreciation expense of making old cows.
The author goes on to compare cows to pickup trucks when describing how an animal’s value goes down as she gets older. He writes:
I am sometimes asked what depreciation looks like. My knee-jerk reaction is to say “rust.” Depreciation is easy to spot on a pickup. Rust, dents, miles on the odometer and that kind of thing. Sometimes it’s easy to spot on cows too, some simply look old and are in poor condition.
After comparing a cow’s age and condition to rust on a truck, the author discusses how breeding a cow can add to her sale price. He mentions that stage of pregnancy does not affect the price of a cow and that her condition is a better judge, saying, “Fat is a pretty color on cows.”
While the coldness of these words may horrify many animal lovers, this is the way the animal agriculture industry regards cows and other living beings. They are treated as unfeeling objects to be bought and sold. The industry also exploits their reproductive systems, forcing animals to breed future victims.
Despite what this author writes in Beef Magazine, cows are incredibly complex and intelligent. They are social animals who enjoy spending time with and sleeping close to their friends and family. Cows also have amazing memories and can learn and respond to their names—much like the animals who share our homes! And just like humans, cows carry their young for nine months and suckle them for nine to 12 months, creating a lifelong bond.
Cows (and all farmed animals) deserve so much better. You can stand up for them by swapping animal products for delicious plant-based foods. Download our free Vegetarian Starter Guide to learn how.
Cover Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Israel Against Live Shipments / We Animals Media