‘There is no such thing as cruelty-free milk’ – NYT touts animal rights activists war on drinking milk: ‘Is Dairy Farming Cruel to Cows?’


By: - Climate DepotDecember 31, 2020 8:54 AM

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/29/science/dairy-farming-cows-milk.html?smid=tw-share

By Andrew Jacobs
Dec. 29, 2020
SCHODACK LANDING, N.Y. — The 1,500 Jersey cows that Nathan Chittenden and his family raise in upstate New York seem to lead carefree lives. They spend their days lolling around inside well-ventilated barns and eating their fill from troughs. Three times a day, they file into the milking parlor, where computer-calibrated vacuums drain several gallons of warm milk from their udders, a process that lasts about as long as a recitation of “The Farmer in the Dell.”

Mr. Chittenden, 42, a third-generation dairy farmer whose family bottle-feeds each newborn calf, expresses affection for his animals. It’s a sentiment they appeared to return one recent afternoon as pregnant cows poked their heads through the enclosure to lick his hand.

“I’m in charge of this entire life from cradle to grave, and it’s important for me to know this animal went through its life without suffering,” he said, stroking the head of one especially insistent cow. “I’m a bad person if I let it suffer.”

Animal rights activists have a markedly different take on farms like Mr. Chittenden’s that satiate the nation’s appetite for milk, cheese and yogurt. To them, dairy farmers are cogs in an inhumane industrial food production system that consigns these docile ruminants to a lifetime of misery. After years of successful campaigns that marshaled public opinion against other long-accepted farming practices, they have been taking sharp aim at the nation’s $620 billion dairy industry.

The typical dairy cow in the United States will spend its entire life inside a concrete-floored enclosure, and although they can live 20 years, most are sent to slaughter after four or five years when their milk production wanes.

“People have this image of Old MacDonald’s farm, with happy cows living on green pastures, but that’s just so far from reality,” said Erica Meier, the president of the activist organization Animal Outlook. “Some farms might be less cruel than others, but there is no such thing as cruelty-free milk.”

The effort to turn Americans against dairy is gaining traction at a time when many of the nation’s farms are struggling to turn a profit. Milk consumption has dropped by 40 percent since 1975, a trend that is accelerating as more people embrace oat and almond milk. Over the past decade, 20,000 dairy farms have gone out of business, representing a 30 percent decline, according to the Department of Agriculture. And the coronavirus pandemic has forced some producers to dump unsold milk down the drain as demand from school lunch programs and restaurants dried up.

During his Academy Awards speech last February for best actor, Joaquin Phoenix drew rousing applause when he urged viewers to reject dairy products.

“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “And then we take her milk that’s intended for the calf and we put it in our coffee and cereal.”