Cow Appreciation Day: How you can save the moo’s
Cows sure are cute, aren’t they? This Cow Appreciation Day, we want to make sure everyone is caught up to speed about all things cattle. Meat production, sustainable farms, animal rights, and the ultimate cow appreciation: veganism! Whether you eat meat or not, hopefully this information will change your mind about the factory farming system, or at least educate you more about it. Moooooo.
Beef and milk production
The way in which beef is produced so that we have food on our table is actually kind of disturbing. Cattle are shoved into small quarters exposed to extreme heat and cold during summer and winter, depending on their location around the country. After about a year of grazing and living on one farm, they are shipped to an auction lot where they are sold to various farmers to raise and eventually slaughter them. Cattle on large lots are fed a very unnatural diet to make sure they grow as big as they can possibly be. Their food often also contains antibiotics and other chemicals to try to fight infection and keep them alive in the extreme conditions they are exposed to. These antibiotics are consumed by all of us (which is not good), and they also infiltrate the water supply in the surrounding area. Throughout their life, these cattle are filled with fear and pain. When they are ready to be slaughtered, they are shot in the head to kill them and prevent them from feeling pain. This doesn’t always work though because of unskilled workers, so some unlucky cows are slaughtered while still completely conscious. Pretty brutal.
The reason cows produce milk is the same as humans: to feed their babies. Millions of female cows are artificially inseminated with sperm every year, forcing them to give birth so that they produce milk. As soon as the calf is born it is separated from it’s mother, which causes a lot of distress. The mother is then hooked up to milking machines multiple times a day, and sometimes they are even given drugs to make them produce more milk. Cows may be given recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which is partially responsible for mastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder. Sometimes, this produces puss which then gets carried into the milk that you drink. Ew. A cow’s life span is typically about twenty years, but if they are in the dairy industry they are killed or die after five years because of constantly being pregnant and lactating, which is not natural.
If you want more extensive information about cattle in the factory farming industry, look here.
If you are going to eat meat even after learning how the factory farming system works, you should try to do so sustainably. But wait, is it even possible to eat sustainable beef? Doing research on this topic is even difficult, since it is actually a bit hard to define sustainable farming. One definition includes components of sustainable farming, “impact on protected wildlife, biodiversity, soil and land quality, water resources usage and quality, deforestation, land use and management, social responsibility, nutritional security and community and financial viability.” If you can find a farm that positively affects all of these things, you could call it sustainable. However, it’s very rare to find sustainable meat at your typical grocery store. Look at farmers markets and other small vendors for local farms who participate in ethical farming practices. One of the best things you can do is simply ask where your food comes from. There is no harm in knowing what you are putting into your body! Learn more about sustainable farming here.
If you truly want to appreciate cows and all of their cuteness, simply don’t eat them. Vegetarianism is a great option for those who don’t want to consume any animals. However, veganism is the only option that truly eliminates your participation in the cruelty to animals in the process of getting food to your table. Being vegan means that you don’t consume, wear or use any products made from animals. There are three main advantages to going vegan: avoidance of animal mistreatment and slaughter, elimination of certain health risks, and reduction of environmental footprint. Going vegan might sound really scary and impossible, but it’s actually a lot easier than you think. Think of it as a new lifestyle, rather than a restricting diet. Check out this website for meal ideas, grocery lists, and general advice about going vegan.