Why You Should Care About Cows

Why You Should Care About Cows

The life of a cow raised for their flesh

Discover the difference between the life of cows farmed for their flesh versus cows living free by using the slider on the image above.

Honey and her son Elliot.
Honey and her son Elliot.

Mutilations at a Young Age

Cows raised for their flesh are often born on the range or pastureland.


Most calves are branded without pain relief. Hot and freeze branding are two of the most common methods. Both are painful and leave scars.

Ear Tags

One or both ears will be punctured for ear tags. Once removed, the hole remaining is permanent.


While many breeds of cows raised for their flesh are naturally polled (born without horns), disbudding is performed on calves with horn buds. The most common practice is using a hot iron or a caustic chemical paste. Both methods result in prolonged suffering and pain. Dehorning occurs after 8-weeks when the horn is more firmly attached to the skull. Dehorning is a dangerous procedure resulting in extreme pain, infection, and excessive blood loss. 

Disbudding and dehorning are management practices employed to reduce the bruising of flesh. Horned cows sell for less at the market and are considered less desirable.

Dehorning a calf using a hot iron.
Dehorning a calf using a hot iron.


Male calves are castrated while fully conscious and without pain relief.

A calf is branded with a hot iron. It’s so hot that it melts the calf’s flesh into its mold.
A calf is branded with a hot iron. It’s so hot that it melts the calf’s flesh into its mold.

Forced weaning is stressful

When calves reach 6-8 months old, those raised for slaughter are removed from their moms. Under natural conditions, a calf may nurse for over a year. After that, producers want to be able to breed the cow again. Research shows weaning is one of the most stressful periods in a calf and cow’s life. In addition, it makes the calf more prone to disease.

Some farms sell weaned calves immediately at auction. Others move calves to a second location for a few months of a mixed diet. Calves will forage on a natural diet while also being conditioned to an unnatural diet of high-processed grain. This process takes 3-4 months before the calf is moved to a feedlot.

Feedlots are overcrowded & disgusting

At about a year of age, calves are moved to a dirt feedlot. They are primarily fed grain, which can cause digestive and hoof problems. Calves remain on the feedlot until 18-22 months old and are then sent to slaughter. Feedlots with a capacity of more than 1,000 cows make up 5% of all feedlots but sell 80-85% of all fed cows to slaughter. 40% of all fed cows sent to slaughter come from feedlots with a capacity of 32,000 individuals or larger.

These crowded and barren lots are often unprotected from the elements. In the winter, mud is often ankle or knee-high for animals. Summer days are brutal, with little or no shade structures. Feedlots typically house far too many animals to fit underneath those that do exist.

Waste & dust are destructive

The accumulation of waste in feedlots makes the stench unbearable. The dust produced causes pollution and respiratory illness in both cows and humans.

The unnaturally high levels of ammonia take a toll on animal health. A 2011 study found that at least 21% of all feedlot cows suffer from respiratory distress. In addition, respiratory-related ailments comprise an estimated 45-55% of all feedlot deaths before slaughter.

Have you ever smelled a feedlot? Can you imagine living in one?
Have you ever smelled a feedlot? Can you imagine living in one?

The laws that mean so little

Regardless of where and how they were raised, all cows end up on the crowded stock trailer, taking them to slaughter. Cows are prey animals, and the experience of being rounded up and herded onto a truck is frightening. Electric prods are commonly used. 

In the United States, farmed animals can be transported for up to 28 hours without food, water, or breaks. There is no single federal law prohibiting the transport of animals in extreme weather. Overheating is common in the summer.

This is the last thing that animals experience.

The Humane Slaughter Act mandates that large mammals be stunned or shot with a captive bolt gun before having their throats slit. But fast-moving, assembly-line style kill floors allow a greater likelihood of human error. Improper stunning often leads to terrified cows having their throats cut while fully conscious.

Animal Place kindly asks that you eliminate cow products, including leather. New alternatives are being released constantly, making transitioning to a vegan lifestyle easier. Impossible and Beyond burgers are delicious and can be used in many recipes. So many plant milks are available in grocery stores. Animal lovers, we ask you to challenge yourself to cut animal products out of your diet. The cows will thank you!


The life of a cow raised for their milk

Discover the difference between the life of cows farmed for their milk versus cows living free by using the slider on the image above.

Separated at birth

Like any other mammal, a cow must give birth to produce milk. In the same way, a dog, cat, or even a human would lactate to feed their young, a cow lactates to nourish her newborn calf. 

Dairy cows are first impregnated when they reach around a year of age, just babies themselves.


Pregnancies are exhausting and taxing on any animal’s body, and cows are no exception. A cow’s gestation is the same length as humans - about nine months. 

But for dairy cows, pregnancy ends in tragedy when their newborn babies are taken within hours of birth. Virtually all calves are removed from their moms within 24 hours of birth.


If male, life is generally brief

Because male calves do not get pregnant and only a few bulls are needed for breeding, most male calves are slaughtered before they reach their second birthday.

The primary breed used for dairy production is the Holstein. Male Holstein bull calves can grow as quickly as “beef” type breeds within their first year. So most Holstein male calves are raised for “cheap dairy beef” and comprise more than 20% of the “beef” produced for consumption.

Other dairy breeds, like Jerseys, do not grow as quickly as Holsteins. Male Jersey calves are often sold for veal production. Calves on veal ranches are raised in hutches without access to other calves. They spend 18-24 weeks in these crates before being sent to slaughter.

Females endure a life of suffering

Female calves spend their first few months in solitary confinement, unable to interact with any other calves.


Female calves are disbudded, in which a hot iron burns the horn tissue down to the skull. This painful procedure is done without sedatives or pain relief. 

Where it is legal, some farms still practice tail docking. When she reached 8-9 months of age, her tail is forcibly broken. Tail docking is done on farms using a milking parlor that requires workers to attach suction cups behind the cow. To prevent worker irritation from tail swishing, a cow’s tail is brutally broken.

Forcibly restrained, artificially inseminated

When a female calf reaches 10-13 months of age, she will be physically restrained. An employee will insert their arm and an insemination rod into her body. She will be artificially inseminated. Her pregnancy lasts nine months. 

After she gives birth, she will be milked for approximately 10 months. She will be kept constantly pregnant so that she is always producing milk for human consumption.

Producing too much milk is harmful

The breeds used for dairy production produce 5-10 times more milk than is normal. High milk production and constant pregnancies increase the risk of udder infections and reproductive disease. 

Being in a high energy state requires the addition of grain. Constant grain feeding can lead to metabolic disorders that cause lameness.

Reproductive disease and lameness are the two primary causes of sending a cow to slaughter from the dairy farm. Instead of living 15-25 years, cows on dairy farms are considered “spent” after 4-6 years.


An average of 2-3 million “spent” cows are sent to slaughter every year. These exhausted mothers are given their “retirement” by being ground up into hamburgers and other cheap, low-quality flesh products.

Whether a dairy cow is kept on a filthy, crowded commercial lot or rare green pastures, her life is filled with loss and suffering.

Take Action

All dairy cows, even those from farms with slightly better welfare practices, will be on a truck to slaughter at the end of their lives. 

Animal Place encourages you to eliminate dairy from your diet for the animals suffering from this cruel industry. We ask you to challenge yourself to ditch dairy. The cows will thank you!

Samuel was rescued as just a day-old calf from a dairy operation.
Samuel was rescued as just a day-old calf from a dairy operation.

Join our Moo-News and stay informed on the happenings at Animal Place as well as ways you can help make this a kinder, more just world for farmed animals!

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