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‘Happy Cows’? Yeah, Right!

Written by PETA | November 10, 2009

Newsflash: Cows on dairy farms aren’t happy. In fact, they are quite the opposite.

So how is it that the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) can continue to claim that the “best” cheese comes from California’s supposedly ecstatic cows?

You know the ads—the one with a handful of free-roaming, robust cows cavorting sassily under a cheerful California sky? Apparently we’re expected to believe that all cows used on dairy farms in California look like this …


theinspirationroom / CC
CA Happy Cow


… as opposed to this:


Dairy cow


In the past, we’ve had some choice words on the subject of California’s supposedly happy cows. In 2002, PETA filed suit against the CMAB for false advertising—but the California Supreme Court refused to hear the case on the grounds that as a government agency, the CMAB can’t be sued for violating California state advertising laws.*

But we kept fighting the good fight against the CMAB’s false advertising with a series of “Unhappy Cow” demonstrations and public service announcements, including a few starring the man himself, animal crusader James Cromwell. And now, on the heels of our most recent undercover investigation inside a dairy farm, the time has come to return to the trenches.

We’re filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, calling on it to make the CMAB stop lying to consumers about the way cows on dairy farms are treated. “Happy cow” ads mislead consumers into believing that California dairy cows are pasture raised, free roaming, and grass fed and live in conditions that make them “happy” (i.e., that they are well cared for, content, comfortable, and healthy). In reality, these cows are drugged up, over-milked, and denied even the most basic care. Doesn’t sound like a “happy cow” to me.

Written by Amanda Schinke

*Let’s put aside how alarming one might find the idea of a government not subject to regulation.


Commenting is closed.
  • Cynthia says:

    Please go vegan and don’t support animal cruelty.

  • annie says:

    that is AWFUL the cruelty that those intellegent majestic animals undergo is horriffic and i am discusted with the fact that i actually believed them! never i repeat Never will i eat land o lakes or so called “happy” cows dairy again!!!!! im a vegetarian but want to be a vegan but im only 13 am not allowed though but when im 18 no more eggs or dairy! thanz to peta exposing the truth your the reason i became a vegetarian in the first place so thank you PETA!

  • Ed says:

    Anyone who believes this is stupid.

  • Sunny says:

    Just had to comment on this because every time I see these ads on t.v. I CRINGE. I live in Cali took but I didn’t have to read this article to know anything about this because I have a friend who owns a dairy and BELIEVE me it AIN’T on a sunny grassy hillside. These cows live in a big stinking pile of manure urine with the dead cows literally laying on the side in a seperate area of the “farm”waiting for the rendering truck to come by pick them up. It’s disgustingthe stench of the dead cows was overwhelming even moreso than the manure. A few of the live cows had some sort of weird eye disease that made one of the eyes pop out and become pusfilled. There are flies everywhere etc.nothing remotely close to the “grassy hilly pastures” that are depicted in advertising it smells to high hell. I’ve experienced this firsthand at my friend’s dairy so I know all about the lies of the “happy cows” ad. Makes me sick. Plus if you ever drive down the freeway in Cali on the way up north there are a bunch of these kinds of places where the cows are standing in manure urine. The stench in the area goes on for a few miles. Oh yeah and enough with the Biblethumping rhetoricthis isn’t a religious debate. It’s about cows not God so get a life.

  • Stephanie says:

    To jen and other milk lovers I posted once before I have the goat dairy in California. I strongly urge you to educate yourself go to the farms and check out the animals’ quality of life before you support them. If they are trying to turn a quick dollar you will be able to tell immediately. People can come visit my girls during the day and see that they are happy and healthy. So many farmers have turned agriculture into an ugly moneymaker but there are a few of us who love our animals and put them first find them and support them please.

  • Michele Braa-Heidner says:

    If we want to stop this kind of cruelty we have to stop the demand for it by not buying the products produced from these businesses. If people didn’t consume their products they would have no business. We need to boycott the agribusinesses that treat their animals like car parts and only if we continue to eat dairy andor meat buy from local farms where we can physically go to the farm and see how their animals are treated while they are alive. I don’t understand the reasoning behind not only killing and eating these animals but also putting them through a life of torture and suffering ta boot!! If we are going to eat them andor drink their milk we should be providing them with the best lives possible!! They are providing us with sustenance and we are disrespecting them in return!! And certain kinds of meat like veal and fuagra should be banned due to the inherent cruelty to the animals to produce it!

  • Jen Stewart says:

    is there any humane way of drinking milk at all? Do I need to buy my own cow? I have tried silk.. I can’t help it I love milk but hate how they get it from the poor cows! Is there something that tastes just like milk? Ok so I realize I will be stoned for this post but I am really curious is there a way?

  • Scruffy says:

    I quit drinking milk last week. It are disgusting.

  • Kim Lores says:

    I don’t understand why people are invoking religion jesus or the devil in this conversation. This is about cruelty. Yes we use animals. We eat animals we even wear them. But do we have to torture them? Do we have to make their living conditions so abominable and atrocious? Do we have to mass slaughter them and take pieces of them while they are still alive? Because this is what happens people. For anyone who thinks differently educate yourselves please. 5 minutes on a nice farm is great. The majority meaning worldwide is not loving and caring for these animals. Jason you continue to call me out personally to you and your kind i can only wish you education empathy and a grammatically correct future. By the way you’ve made spelling errors. Grow up and join this movement. This is not about me and i will no longer be a part of this conversation. There is work to be done and it’s not happening here unfortunately. My best to all of the animals. People you are on your own. Join PETA. Join the National Resource Defense Council. Join the Humane Society. ASPCA. See “Earthlings” and “Food Nation” and open your hearts and minds. I beg of you.

  • Kurt K says:

    Saucy its always a pleasure. Again there are also passages in the Bible that suggest man not only can but should eat animals. You call these contradictions. My question is pretty straight forward. How do you know that the passages that you believe in are not the contradictions? I do choose love and I choose who to love. In some ways I have love for you along with most humans. There are some I could never love. But then again I am not God I am a human. We have faults and God knows that. I love nature but probably not in the way you do. I love it in the sense it sustains my family and I and because of its natural beauty and in many ways its simplicity. I don’t get emotional over animals because I believe it is unnecessary. Sorry but that is what I believe along with the majority of the world. Remember evil only exists in the absense of love.

  • Sonali says:

    Well to all of you my friends. Whoever says that meat eating is natural food chain for men and that Jesus advocated meat eating. And gelatin for pills etc. We are not here in a Blame game are we?? I thought we all are going to hold hands towards a better us and a better World? Humans are not meat eaters use your own logic do we have claws and sharp front teeth say like a leopard or fox. Do we have shorter intestinal tracts like meat eating animals so that rapidly decaying meat can pass out quickly? no ours are like herbivorous animals. Further our stomach acidsjust like any herbivore animal are 2025 times weaker than meat eating animals they have strong hydrochloric acids in their stomach to digest meat. Jesus is an unlimited person and he said “thou shall not kill” some people may say that is for humans as in murder only?? Why you think he was so limited that he just cared about humans only?? We get the word meat from ancient translations well “meat” means to eat in ancient languages …. you love you pet it is your best companion. Its a part of your family… Would you in your dreams think about killing and eating it??? So why this other poor animal?Give it a thought

  • Saucy says:

    THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS VEGAN! Genesis 129 Kurt why do we have to keep going over the same thing with you? It is in Laviticus. By Moses. All you need is a brain to discern the overall meaning of the Bible. Consuming the blood of beasts is forbidden. You have to weave through the contradictions in the Bible to get to the truth. Chose Love Kurt. And you do not need to eat animals to survive. At the very least you should know that by now.

  • Kurt K says:

    Saucy Where does it say that eating meat is against the will of God? Your interpretation of the Bible may be different from others. Have you every thought about that? Why do you think yours is the only interpretation that matters. You speak of love. I love my family and I will provide my family with food from this earth. The animals I eat are in the natural food chain. By your thought process all animals that eat meat are the work of the devil. Why would God make any animal capable of eating meat if it is so evil? I don’t hate the animals I eat. I don’t eat them because the devil is telling me to. I eat them to survive.

  • Saucy says:

    Tom Our dominion is to act in accordance with the laws of LOVE. The dominion you speak of is the dominion of satan. The table of satan as it is referenced in the Bible.

  • Mel says:

    Debby the reason there is no grass on those lots is that cattle bite down on the grass to just below the root where it can regenerate. That’s why it’s so dirty it’s NOT because it’s always been dirt. If you go to some of the lots you’ll see grassy patches there because they do tend to ignore some of the grass. And no even in cattle towns they don’t smell manure as money they smell work accomplished. Can the big city folk really say anything negative about this when the toxins produced in the city cause just as much if not more harm to us as the manure does SOMETIMES from the cattle? Me I’d rather deal with the stench of a cattle farm which ISN’T as crowded as you’d love to claim than the stinking toxic wastes of big cities and refineries with a bunch of yuppies telling farmers that they’re a bunch of hicks for trying to support their families and produce at least the gelatin for your headache medicines.

  • Alicia says:

    The bad walking this Earth and go along putrifying The beautiful.

  • Debby Brown says:

    I am sick and tired of seeing the “happy cows” ads. We lived in southern California for awhile and had to go past the “zone” where the farms were once a week. The cows don’t even know what a blade of grass is. They stand in their own urine and feces and muddirt. Some do not even have shelter from the hot California sun or rain. The smell is unbelievably horrendous. I don’t know how even the farmers can live by it. I guess it is the smell of money to them. Land O’ Lakes is one of the biggest of the farms. We never buy anything that they make. We have not eaten beef for about 30 years. No doubt that it is the run off from these farms that cause some of the salmonella infecting the vegetables.

  • Jason says:

    Furthermore Kim yes there are bigger issues at hand take a look at the Amesty International website. A little more important than a freakin’ yodelling cow methinks.

  • Tom says:

    Saucy First The ad isn’t “deceiving millions of people” So you really think people believe that cows in California are singing and yodeling? Second eating cheese isn’t gluttony unless you eat a lot of it. Third as you invoke God God gave up dominion over the animals to use as we need.

  • Stephanie says:

    This is my first time posting on your website. I agree with you that many many dairies treat their animals in a horrifying cruel manner. I am trying to change that. I have a small goat dairy on the central coast in California where the animals graze on certified organic permanent pasture all day and proudly wear name tags. Each lady is under the watchful eye of my vet and I would say visitors who are invited to the farm agree they all live the happy life. They are milked twice daily and come running into the milking parlor to help us produce delicious hormone free cheese. When the time comes for them to retire they get to live out their lives on my property never taken to the auction yard to be harrassed or stressed after providing me with their lifetime of a wonderful partnership. Some vegans have made an exception and enjoyed our wonderful cheese once they meet the ladies at our farm. I wish more dairies would take the animals into consideration. I appreciate those of us who stand up for the animals.

  • Kurt K says:

    I don’t know how they do it in Cali but here in southern Indiana the dairy farms that I’ve been to which is quite a few the cows aren’t mistreated like this article suggests. One of my best friends grew up on a dairy farm. For extra credit in our biology class we video taped a veternarian performing a surgery on a cow with a flipped stomach. I’ve larned two things from that procedure. 1 The farmer cared enough about this cow to pay a good amount of money for the opperation. 2 Cows are very resilent animals whose pain threshold is much much higher than that of a human. Cows can literally get hit by a truck and walk away unharmed. I guess I did learn one other thing spending many summers helping to put up hay bails at this farm. Cows really aren’t the brightest animal. I’m not trying to be negative I am just reporting firsthand experience.

  • Kim Lores says:

    Hey Jason! I didn’t write that comment insulting Sarah’s intelligence even though i happen to agree with it. I wrote the comment above it. Before you start correcting people why don’t you check yourself. And really who cares about someone’s grammer. Aren’t there bigger issues at hand?

  • Mel says:

    The cow is in mud. The slurry is not consistent with feces. Anyone who is a farmer knows the difference. Seriously have any of you actually been to a farm or even seen a cow in real life? I want to make it clear if a cow is TRULY mistreated I want the perps to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. HOWEVER this cow isn’t sitting in its own feces. Put this up I don’t give a damn what you guys say to me about it because I’m in the rural area I have lived on a ranch and DO know the difference.

  • Jill says:

    Before any of you can speak maybe you should take foot on an actually dairy farm. Remember now cows are animals not human beings!

  • Saucy says:

    Tom it is never innoculus to DECEIVE millions of people in an instant while doing the devils bidding and DESTROYING THE EARTH. It is not innoculus to KILL STEAL AND DESTROY creatures crafted by the HAND OF GOD. Greed and Gluttony are not innoculis. The Devil is a Liar and so is the CMAB and Purdue and all those other ruthless killers of animals. And PS Sarah Cows are Cool not stupid.

  • Rachel says:

    Oh this just makes me sick to my stomach. How can a person be so cruel..? I don’t understand it. Whatever people say and try to justify this with they can look in that poor creatures eyes and know she’s suffering. Thanks SO much PETA for being strong and standing up for these animals. Its good to know there are some people left in the world with consciences.

  • Jason says:

    Kim. Before you attack Sarah for not being bright perhaps you could take some lessons in correct usage of the English language. It’s you’re not your…..on topic the mistreatment of animals is undeniably abhorrent but when idiots like Howeser automatically lump all farmed animals under one banner it does nothing to support your correct usage of the word there Kim cause. And yes Howser I do know a little on the subject I was raised on a farm and no our animals were not treated cruelly.

  • Joanna says:

    Not all milk farmers in Calif are using the standard confined feeding operation CFO type system. One thing they all have in common is the repeat breeding immediate separation of calves and lifelong milking at maximum production rates. When you buy regular milk you are getting milk from cows in huge CFO barns with stinking cesspools on sewage amonia clouds so strong they burn your nose and a short intense life of contant boredom and lack of nurture for their babies and NEVER a green pasture. When you buy top of line organic milk you support a better farm with better conditions. However all milk is brought to market at huge costs to the individual cows. Those ads are not meaningless. Do you think they would be spending millions on those ads if they did not make people think milk is good? Milk makes you sick. Mucus and congestion from drinking milk cuases constant sinus problems ear infections and stomach problems. No human needs cows milk! Pesonally I feel the lifelong suffering of milk cows is more disturbing than the taking of the life of an animal for meat. A meat can be umanelt raised and butcherd but making acow live and die to produce milk can never be made humane.

  • Carla says:

    wow Sarah.. Your obviously not that bright either!!!!!!

  • Kim says:

    Shocking and sickening. To anyone who thinks that farmed animals are not abused you are completely clueless as well as dangerous in your ignorance. Yes advertising dollars are spent to encourage even lie to promote consumer spending. There are entire industries built on this concept. Government Agencies should be held just as accountable as private corporations in regard to upholding the law. Any law! Bastards. Hiding their cruelty behind privilege. Go Peta!

  • Howser says:

    I found this video about how they say they treat their cows on their website. Seems like they try pretty hard to take care of them. Has anyone seen this? httprealcaliforniamilk.comhappycows

  • Christina Moschella says:

    thank you peta for attacking those stupid ads. I lived in california for five years in the middle of the central Valley and believe me those are not happy cows. It’s appalling to drive past a dairy farm and see hundreds of sad filthy animals slogging through piles of feces. The farms are an eye sore and the smell is something you cannot even imagine. The farmers let the manure pile up and the winter rains rot it so the smell is absolutely sickening and cloying and drifts for miles. I also sadly worked in a cattle auction for a short time and was a first hand witness to the end of the lives for these so called “happy” california cows. They were trucked in by the dozens thin and boney and covered in filth. Many had been fed only tomatoes because they were cheap and so the cows all had raging cases of diarrhea. Some could hardly stand or walk through the ring and had to be prodded with paddles and hotshots. I have also seen tiny baby calves who had to be carried through the ring because they were so young they had not yet learned to walk. These poor babies destined to be veal were certainly not happy. California Cheese council you should be ashamed of your blatantly false advertisements! Go Peta!

  • Laura says:

    Omg I just saw this ad this morning and was appaulled by it. So stupid.

  • Tom says:

    Firstly proving the level of “happiness” in a cow is an impossible task. Secondly I don’t know anyone who takes those ads into account when buying cheese anyway. people have a brand they like and they stick with. The bottom line is it’s a cute innocuous ad that does very little to influence consumption

  • Saucy says:

    OUTRAGE! Absolutely Outrageous! Those ads make me so angry and to think the California Supreme Court COWARDS won’t here the case because the laws of advertising don’t apply to government agencies. That is very alarming. Buyer Beware! Especially when it comes from a “government agency”

  • Shelly says:

    Sara your statement about cows not being bright is incorrect. That cow is pictured covered in feces not mud. She was too ill to get up and move out of the crap. Obviously you’ve never seen a healthy well taken care of cow because they do not lay in their own feces. Howser CA cows are treated even worse. Check out the episode of 30 Days on FX website where Morgan goes to live with vegans in CA. They show “happy” cows.

  • carla says:

    Milk sucks!!!!!!! And furthermore I do not trust the government at least when it comes to MY health and MY body!!!!!

  • Vitor Rangel says:

    A goalkeeper expected to play for Germany at the World Cup died after being hit by a train in what police suspect is a suicide. He was 32.Whom who gave face for animal issues.He was a PETA face. Enke forever BenficaPortugal remenbers you. VRangelPortugal

  • Gregory A. Reiner says:

    That poor cow should have been killed immediately not left to linger in that pathetic state. And those pukes that kicked the poor animal in the ribs and shocked and dragged it should have been arrested and made to answer to criminal charges for animal cruelty. I don’t know what more proof one ought to require in order to prove such charges than having it all caught on camera. There is no excuse for this conduct.

  • ACarLessFamily says:

    About 10 years ago pre vegan!I lived next door to a dairy farmer. His small herd lived in green pastures where milked twice a day had NAMES. They where well conditioned gleaming coated happy beasts yes I know calves were still disposed of but as I said..PREvegan days! I thought thats how all dairy cows lived. When I moved my husband started work at a milk processing plant next to the main dairy farm. These cows lived in barns with no bedding stood and lay in sht everyday where milked THREE times a day and where listless bags of bones. He quit within a few weeks and we started onthe road to veganism. YOu are so right. When people see adverts of “happy” cows they can spend their lives justifying dairy to themselves. And the farmer with the happy cows? He went bust and had to sell up. His happy girls didnt produce enough milk for the dairy he supplied to and he was unwilling to force more from them. Bankrupt for having a conscience

  • sarah says:

    taking a picture of a cow in the rain is hardly abuse. cows no matter how big of a barn you build will stand out in the rain or lay in the mud its just cattle. there not the brightest bulb in the farm animals box

  • Clare says:

    God what kind of jerks could be so cruel??

  • Shari says:

    GO TEAM PETA! As a former truck driver who witness the abuse crimesthat were comment against these cows we must always do everything we can to bring out the ugly secrets of this business for the public to see.

  • Sammy Girl says:

    Happy cows huh? it sure dosen’t look that way to me! Awesome work fileing complaints on this matter! I know that PETA will keep working until this problem is resolved! p.s I will never use a happy cow produt again in my life not after what I just saw and read. I recomend that ENYONE WHO READS THIS BLOG PROTESTS HAPPY COW PRODUCTS WITH ME!! Sammy Girl

  • Brien Comerford says:

    I’ve seen these loathsome and dreadful adds about Happy cows and I’ve also seen those horrific Perdue chicken commercials that lie about the “humane” treatment of their extremely mistreated birds. Complete scumbags profittering off cruelty and carnage.

  • Jim says:

    Sad but part of the fiction corporations use to sell productsHappy Cows remember Elsie cows on factory farms live anything but happy lives they are used milked and produce produce then die miserably…Go Peta!

  • roxanne says:

    Media and Govt are corrupt and killing us and other specie. This is blatant false advertisement. It should not be permitted!!!!!

  • Howser says:

    Might be a stupid question but is California different from other states? Do they treat their cows differently? Curious because the under cover research wasn’t in CA.

  • Kelley says:

    I’ll bet even the “happy” cows in the ads cry when their babies are taken from them and turned into veal chops. The dairy industry sucks.

  • Kristina Bowman says:

    When I see those “happy cows” commercials my stomach turns because I KNOW how they are really treated. It is TOTAL false advertising and should NEVER be allowed to air anywhere!!!