|A few personal words|
I remember quite clearly my first encounter with a so called "spent" Dairy Cow. I looked twice to see, was she really a cow? She was bony, and yet an absurdly huge udder mounded up from where she lay. It was July 2006 and she was panting heavily, unsheltered in the hot 98 degree sun in a far corner of the auction property.
She looked like nothing was left of her yet she was alive, her eyes expressive. Her bones poked up from her skin like tent poles. She was foaming from the mouth, her knees were bleeding, and milk dripped from her enormous udder.
She suffered quietly, like all "Dairy" Cows do. The auction workers joked about her appearance and referred to her as "Cheeseburger." One worker said to me, "These are all going to -----," naming a national fast food chain. I gave her water. Later that night, she was relentlessly shocked with an electric prod to make her rise and struggle horribly to get to the sale ring where she sold for $50.
Hours later, as sick as she was, she was loaded onto a double deck truck to be, I am sure now, injured further as she was shipped for immediate slaughter.
It is exactly 4 years later. She was not unique but the first of hundreds to be encountered at auctions nationwide. But she was the first and in my mind she stands out unforgettably.
Since July 2006 Animals' Angels has worked to alleviate the suffering of "Dairy" Cows. We can achieve much better treatment and conditions for all of these animals. Much of the investigating, documenting, filing of complaints, first & second rounds of meetings, is already done or in full swing. We have the ability, a good body of work and certainly the will. The time to dedicate a High Priority Campaign to "Dairy" Cows is now.
This month's newsletter focuses on the "Dairy" Cow, her life as it is and how we can bring about the widespread and enduring change needed to make right conditions for these animals.
|What you probably didn't know about "Dairy" Cows|
- "Dairy" Cows typically never graze in a pasture. With a barren drylot it only takes few workers to manage 10,000 cows.
- 75% of "downed animals" are "Dairy" Cows according to the USDA.
- 84% of "Dairy" Cows at slaughter suffer with laminitis lesions.
- 33% of "Dairy" Cows die or are culled for slaughter because of Mastitis, an infection of the teats caused by strep, staph and e-coli.
- The natural lifespan of a cow is 20 to 25 years; however, most "Dairy" Cows in the US are slaughtered between age 4 and 6. They age rapidly, their bodies thoroughly worn out from intensive milk production.
- "Dairy" Cows are kept continually pregnant in order to maintain peak milk production, calving every 13 months.
- Calves are taken away shortly after birth, the stressed mothers calling for them for hours, even days. Male calves, an unwanted byproduct of the dairy industry, are either killed immediately or shipped to auction when they are only hours or days old and sold for veal production. Females remain on the farm to replace the worn out mothers.
- A "Dairy" Cow gives approx. 19,900 lbs of milk per year, an increase from 8,000 lbs in 1965. Clear, strong evidence shows that genetic manipulations for increased milk yield translates to increased disease and dysfunction. Among those known are ovarian cysts, mastitis, milk fever, difficulty walking and various digestive disorders.
- Most "Dairy" Cows are in intensive factory farms with as many as 40,000 cows. Unable to compete, smaller dairies have been slowly forced out of business.
- Physically used up and depleted, "Dairy" Cows are slaughtered at a relatively young age. Once they are deemed too sick or worn out to give an average of 65 lbs of milk per day (numbers are based on a 305 day milking period followed by a 60 day dry period), they are targeted for shipment to auction and slaughter.
|At the auctions|
Dairy" Cows are a major concern - in our experience, they are the ones that suffer the most. The summer months are especially hard on these that are already weak and lame. Most people have seen, and few can forget images of "Dairy" Cows unable to walk being moved with a forklift. "Dairy" Cows are the most likely to become "downers" at auction.
AA investigators have repeatedly confirmed that the plight of "Dairy" Cows at auction is extremely poor. The most basic care for them is unavailable. There is no water available, no shelter, and/or pen space is inadequate at 95% of the auctions we have visited. Perhaps worst of all there is no euthanasia protocol at all, so downer cows are simply left on the "dead pile" to lie in pain and distress until they die.
Overall, AA has found that at auction, personnel are permitted to remain untrained or unresponsive to the special needs of "Dairy" Cows. That many auctions accept animals in such terrible condition and do nothing to ameliorate their suffering is completely unsupportable.
(Warning-some images might be disturbing to viewers)
Yet the cows do not get in this condition over night but over the course of weeks. That some producers milk the cows into worsening condition until they are so weakened and calcium depleted they can just barely walk or rise, and then take them to auction, is calculated and cruel. We believe that by working to prevent the auctions from accepting cows in such condition, we will observe producers operate in some respects with greater regard for the animals' well-being.
|What we are doing: Achieving convictions, Auction Guidelines, Downer Euthanasia Protocol|
Animals' Angels has collected evidence from hundreds of auctions across the US, identifying common problems and the worst auctions. We have filed complaints and gotten convictions against several auctions that refused to work with us. We continue to closely monitor high risk auctions and identify new "problem locations." Most importantly, we have achieved the desired outcome of significantly improving animal care and handling at several auctions that have agreed to sit down at the table with us.
The possibility or even likelihood that AA will visit an auction is in itself a very important aspect of 'what we are doing.' Our continuing presence helps shape and habituate procedures that help animals.
Among the other tools to improving conditions are guidelines recently developed by AA and produced as a sturdy, cleanable, pocket-sized pamphlet. The pamphlet is easy for auction employees to carry and keep handy, and has been an important tool for both improving conditions as well as providing a clear course of action when an animal is suffering and past recovery. The special needs of "Dairy" Cows are identified, and so for example the auction pamphlet provides straightforward, easily implemented steps for preventing cows from becoming downers.
Several auctions already have adopted the guidelines as part of their daily standard operations. Monitoring of these auctions so far has shown much improved conditions and the clear alleviation of suffering.This is a tool we definitely want to distribute for use at many more auctions.
Essential to the pamphlet, the euthanasia protocol helps auction personnel clearly recognize, assess and implement appropriate steps for euthanization in a timely manner. A trained employee is required to be present at the auction at all times to euthanize animals with no hope for recovery.
The auction pamphlets have not yet been produced on an adequate scale for larger distribution. Please keep Animals' Angels in mind for even a modest donation. Once funding for printing and distribution is secured, we plan to enlarge our scope to additional "problem locations" in PA, MD, OH and CA.
Consumers' awareness of actual conditions for "Dairy" Cows rather than those advertised, our refusal to be misled, our demand for dairy products, and raising our voices can all lead to needed change.
Help us by raising awareness among friends and family. Small practical ways of doing this are to blog your local newspaper's website, post on your networking websites, distribute the link to our dairy video or post flyers on community bulletin boards.
By whatever means, creating awareness about the life of "Dairy" Cows empowers people to make informed choices about the purchase and consumption of dairy products and fast food burgers. With your help a consumer-based groundswell of concern will raise concerns within the industry.
|In This Issue|
| A few personal words
What you didn't know about "dairy" cows
Auction situation and what AA does to improve conditions
Long Distance Transport Film
|Quick Links |
Animals' Angels is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible
|Animals' Angels works to improve conditions for farm animals. We closely cooperate with law enforcement and government agencies to fight animal cruelty. Our investigators are out in the field nationwide, visiting auctions, feedlots and slaughter plants. |
|Animals' Angels provides footage for: |
Visit website and preview trailer