A report released May 19, 2017, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), reveals some startling facts about milk production and consumption. Basically, dairy cows produce massive amounts of milk on a regular basis to keep up with the insatiable demand of Americans. In fact, the report states that "milk production in the United States during April totaled 18.3 billion pounds, up 2.0 percent from April 2016," and "the number of milk cows on farms in the United States was 9.39 million head, 69,000 head more than April 2016, and 8,000 head more than March 2017."
In this blur of milk production and distribution, one voice is often silenced. If dairy cows had a voice, there are three things that they would want us to know.
The milking machines are physically exhausting. I am sometimes milked for 10 months out of the year, including the time I get pregnant. I am milked two to three times a day, seven days a week, and continuously attached to milking machines. I develop mastitis in my mammary glands. I have watched friends die from this disease. After milking, I am returned to my lonely, cramped, concrete stall to wait for my next milking. That is my life.
"Production per cow in the 23 major States averaged 1,967 pounds for April, 20 pounds above April 2016. This is the highest production per cow for the month of April since the 23 State series began in 2003." (USDA 2017)
I miss my baby. I didn't get to bond with my baby. I didn't get to nurture my baby. When my precious baby was born, something terrible happened shortly thereafter. I was nursing my beautiful calf, and then someone took her. They ripped her away from me. I tried to call for her, but it did no good. No one listened. No one cared. My life is stressful. I know that one day she will be artificially inseminated and begin the vicious cycle that I currently endure. I had no time to mourn though. I was quickly put back to intensive milk production.
"Abrupt and early weaning, such as occurs on the typical dairy farm, appears to be distressing for both calf and cow," says Weary. "The calves will engage in repetitive crying and become more active," he says, "and sometimes you'll see a decline in their willingness to eat solid food."-Daniel Weary, an applied animal biologist at the University of British Columbia. The Emotional Lives of Dairy Cows, Mary Bates
My days are numbered. I would normally live 20-25 years, but I will only survive three to five years because of this intense, cruel life. I look around, and each and every day I see faces disappear. I know one day it will happen to me when I can no longer keep up and produce the high level of milk demanded of me. One day I will be packed onto a crowded truck to be transported to that place. It's called a slaughterhouse. The truck was here just yesterday. It was a sad day. After the hard life of servitude that I have endured, knowing I will one day end up as food on someone's plate is just too much to comprehend.
There is a ray of hope. There are many organizations out there that speak for me. Organizations like Free from Harm, Milk Hurts, Mothers Against Dairy, and Occupy for Animals, tell my story. There are countless others as well. They are my voice and the voices of many. I hope you listen to their messages. I hope my story inspires you to start your vegan journey. What is my life worth to you?
About Tabatha James
Tabatha James is a wife, mom, and children's book author navigating her way through a vegan way of life!