Unleashed Note: A little while ago, 4_da_animals1 posted a thread to the forum describing her experiences doing part time work at a small dairy farm. Most of us already know that male calves (who obviously can't produce milk) are killed as a waste product of the industry. But we were intrigued and disturbed to hear about her day to day encounters, so we asked her to write a guest blog.
With all the dairy chocolate gobbled up at Easter, we thought this would be the perfect time to share her story:
Having recently turned vegetarian, I can now tell you one way to guarantee to become vegan is to work on a dairy farm.
Needing a job for the summer holidays, I was skimming through the country paper and saw an ad for a job on a dairy farm. Mum had been breathing down my neck to get a job; nothing much else was on offer; and to be honest I was curious to see how dairies treat their animals first hand, so I rang the manager to see if the spot had been taken. It hadn't.
I would be in charge of feeding gorgeous baby calves for a few hours a couple of times a week, and being paid for it. What could go wrong? Turns out being a calf feeder is not all I thought it would be. I had heard stories about the dairy industry being cruel - male calves taken from their mothers and trucked off to slaughter every week - but nothing really hits you in the heart more than seeing the kinds of day to day cruelty these poor creatures go through firsthand.
With images of gorgeous happy calves skipping up to me for a feed, I headed down to the farm with a smile on my face, and high expectations. These expectations, however, were crushed within a few mere hours.
The first thing I clearly remember from stepping outside the car was the smell. The smell of mass amounts of faeces. In front of me were hundreds of cows packed in a small iron pen, one by one being pushed through these huge machines with tubes being attached to their udders - a person behind them, making loud noises and hitting their behinds with a rubber tube, to push them forward.
I was told to throw some rubber boots on, and get in with the cows. The lady pushing the cows forward would be in charge of me, to teach me what to do. As I headed towards her, all I could see were piles and piles of faeces in the pen - so large that I would get stuck in it. The cows were forced to move through the sludge, which the workers called "mud" to get onto the concrete in front of the milkers. Some cows would trip and fall into the "mud" face first. Some cow's behinds were covered in sores and dried "mud", others were limping, but all were forced further and further forward to be finished by break time.
The one thing I will never get out of my head is the sadness in those cow's eyes. With hung heads, you could tell they could feel every hit, and if you tried to approach them, they would run off, with genuine fear in their eyes of you, the two legged being with a big stick.
Once a cow had given birth, a worker would take the baby away from the mother, and shove him into a tiny trailer attached to the back of the quad bike, awaiting a calf feeder to take him down with the others. Some calves were stuck in that cage for up to 12 hours.
The calves were placed 5 or 6 to a pen. To move a calf into a different pen, they were picked up and thrown over the fence, then left to gather their own feet. Standing in front of the calves' pens for the first time, I looked to my left and was faced with a pile of dead calves covered in flies being thrown on the back of the quad to be taken to the "death pit". In front of me, in the pens, were cute wobbly calves, covered in all different shades of faeces - from other sick calves and calves with the equivalent of diarrhea, which is lethal to a baby calf if not treated within days of getting sick.
It's a calf feeder's responsibility to separate the sick calves from the healthy, and tell the manager when more medicine needs to be ordered. If the manager isn't told, it doesn't happen, and the calves suffer and die as a result. This happened frequently, as the majority of workers just didn't care. They were simply there to get their hours.
Deprived of a mother to drink milk from at a leisurely pace, calves have two opportunities to drink milk per day, having to consume 2 litres of milk on both occasions. If a calf refused to feed from the plastic feeders on the fence, they had a tube shoved down their throat and were forced to feed, with a quiet moan escaping them as the tube slid in. As you make sure each calf consumes its 2 litres, you cannot escape the overwhelming wails of the mother cows that have just had their babies taken from them.
Every single male bobby calf, and any female that was born with a male as twins gets sent to slaughter. The female twins are included, as they have a higher rate of future miscarriage. Miscarriage means no baby, which means no production of milk. Every five days, the truck comes to take the bobby calves to slaughter and their miserable life comes to an end.
Needless to say, I didn't last long working there. And my time there has triggered my decision to go vegan. I do not know of many people who would agree to this treatment of such kindhearted creatures. This was a small country dairy, I could not possibly imagine the kinds of things big companies get away with.
I'm glad I can now give people a first hand account of how animals are treated on dairy farms. And I'll be taking every opportunity I can to inform others! We, as consumers need to show through what we choose to eat and buy that we do not agree with ill-treatment of other living creatures!
Want to uncover more dirt on dairy? Check out this video, tracing the life of a bobby calf: