A look into the reality of male cows in the dairy industry
By Kathleen Willey of Plant Based Advocates
I made a new friend recently, a beautiful and gentle soul with long eyelashes named Argyle, who loves to have his head scratched. He is a male dairy cow, and was considered a waste product to the industry because he will never produce milk. He is one of the rare lucky ones who was rescued and will live out his days at a farm animal sanctuary called Sweet Farm in Half Moon Bay.
Even though I have always been a passionate animal lover, I grew up eating a Standard American Diet of meat, dairy and eggs. As a teenager I made the connection and stopped eating “anything with a cute face,” occasionally eating fish or chicken, but was still consuming lots of dairy. I assumed I wasn’t hurting cows because they “needed to be milked.” Packaging assured me dairy comes from “happy” cows and showed pictures of loving moms serving their children a glass of milk.
Then I learned the truth. A female cow is forcibly impregnated and her calf is taken away at a day or 2 old so humans can take her milk. The mother cow cries out for weeks as she mourns the loss of her baby. She will live in a windowless shed or a manure-filled yard with thousands of others just like her, and will be hooked up to painful machines two to three times a day to be milked.
If her baby is female, she will be put in a lonely crate and fed formula instead of her mother’s nurturing milk. Once she is old enough, she will also be forcibly impregnated and then suffer the same fate as her mother. This cycle repeats itself over and over again until she is so exhausted her milk production wanes. She is then sent off to slaughter at around 5 or 6 years of age. A normal life span for a cow is around 15 to 20 years.
If her baby is male like Argyle, he is either killed right away or confined to a tiny crate—those white hutches you see near farms, where he can barely move to prevent developing muscle tissue. He will become someone’s veal dinner at around 4 months old.
I also suffered from many health issues my entire life including painful heartburn, IBS, unexplained hives and asthma. My asthma was so bad that as a teenager, I could not participate in PE class with my friends. Even after a severe asthma attack I was never told to try giving up dairy. Instead I was just prescribed powerful drugs and inhalers that made my heart race so quickly I thought I would have a heart attack! I was also given prednisone which made my face swell up and led to weight gain which triggered a terrible eating disorder as a teenager. Now when I see drug commercials for asthma medications listing all the horrible side effects, it makes me sad wondering how many people would get better if they removed dairy from their diet.
There is a lot of misinformation about dairy, even among medical professionals. It causes a lot of inflammation in the body, including the bronchial tubes. It increases the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, asthma and certain cancers. Marketing tries to convince us we need dairy for strong bones, yet the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are also the countries with the highest dairy consumption. There is a similar correlation with cancer.
I initially gave up dairy for health reasons and then I was horrified to discover the cruelty I had been supporting for so many years. No matter how cleverly it is marketed - organic, humane, ethical etc., there is no dairy milk unless the cow is forcibly impregnated and her baby is taken away. I don’t miss it because there are so many excellent non dairy cheeses, yogurts, ice creams and plant based milks that are so much healthier and kinder to the animals and our planet.
Once I adopted a whole foods plant-based diet, my lifelong asthma, heartburn, IBS and hives all went away. I am medication free and I run faster than I did 20 years ago and beat people half my age up hills on my mountain bike!
So, waste product Argyle, thank you for being an ambassador to the approximately 20 million male dairy cows that are killed globally every year in the dairy industry. I may cry sometimes as I hug you and think about the others that are not so lucky, but I am so glad you are here on this Earth to be my friend.
About: Kathleen Willey is a busy mom of twin boys and lives locally with her husband and her beloved vegan Labrador retriever, Honey. Her passion for plant-based eating led her to start a local Facebook group, Plant Based Friends, and then Plant Based Advocates, a Los Gatos-based group that serves plant based meals to some of the local homeless communities. She received a certification in plant based nutrition and works for a non profit to educate kids about their food choices and the impacts they have on the environment, health and animals.