Five cows—actually PETA members in cow costumes—were frantically searching for their missing babies at the American Cheese Society’s annual conference in California, the nation’s biggest dairy-producing state. The somber cows, who were joined by other concerned PETA members, carried “missing” posters and mourned for their calves, whom the dairy industry stole from them so that it could make cheese and other dairy products.
Cows produce milk for the same reason that people do: to feed their babies. But in today’s factory dairy farms, female cows are artificially impregnated over and over again so that they’ll produce a steady supply of milk. Their babies are taken from them shortly after they’re born so that humans can have the milk that was meant for the calves. Male calves are sold for veal, and female calves are forced to repeat the same cycle that their mothers endured.
Separating the newborns from their mothers is traumatic both for the babies and the cows, who typically cry out for their calves. In An Anthropologist on Mars, Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote of a visit that he and livestock industry expert and adviser Dr. Temple Grandin made to a dairy farm and of the great tumult of bellowing that they heard:
“They must have separated the calves from the cows this morning,” Temple said, and, indeed, this was what had happened. We saw one cow outside the stockade, roaming, looking for her calf, and bellowing. “That’s not a happy cow,” Temple said. “That’s one sad, unhappy, upset cow. She wants her baby. Bellowing for it, hunting for it. She’ll forget for a while, then start again. It’s like grieving, mourning—not much written about it. People don’t like to allow them thoughts or feelings.”
But cows do have thoughts and feelings, and anyone who consumes cheese and other dairy products is supporting cruel practices that cause them to suffer. If you don’t want to support such cruelty, choose vegan cheese and other plant-based foods.