Letter: Dairy farming is cruel to animals, environment | The Brattleboro Reformer

Editor of the Reformer,

I’m writing in response to Kenney Aldrich’s letter (“Dairy is not the enemy,” June 6).

I am concerned about animal welfare and the environmental impact of dairy farming. Mr. Aldrich’s grandfather’s dairy farm that he mentions was nothing like today’s large high production dairies. Upwards of 90 percent of dairy cows no longer graze in fields. In some dairies they are kept in tie-stalls where they can’t move around. Cows are kept indoors and fed more nutrient rich food, all for the benefit of the dairy and not the cow. Cows suffer joint and muscle damage in these conditions due to the confinement. What kind of a life is this?

Calves are taken from their mothers within hours or days of birth, and then isolated in small plastic huts. Mothers grieve the loss of their babies. Cows are very social creatures and need to be in group situations for their well being. Apparently that doesn’t matter in the profit formula.

Dairy cows are impregnated much more often than in nature to keep them lactating. This has an impact on their overall health and longevity. Dairy cows from high production operations are sent to slaughter around five years of age. The normal lifespan of a cow is close to 20 years.

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Eggs and dairy are not the most effective and least costly method of protein delivery, as Mr. Aldrich stated, if you consider the impact of the production of these products on the environment and the animal cruelty involved. Rice and beans provide a complete protein for less money and less environmental impact. Many cultures have been surviving on these foods for thousands of years. Plant based foods and milks use a small fraction of the resources that meat and dairy use and result in much less greenhouse gas emissions.

Today’s high production dairies are able to function because of a lack of humanity towards the animals. They can’t exist without abuse. The cows are treated as cogs in a massive industrial machine. This is not the way we, as compassionate human beings, should be treating other creatures who share our world. This is the animal equivalent of racism, and it is called speciesism, which is the concept that we consider ourselves to be more important than other species on this earth and that we have a right to exploit other creatures for our own gain.

As an industry dairy farming uses a tremendous amount of water. When you add up the water use by a cow, for drinking, raising their food and cleaning the barns the average dairy cow uses 4,954 gallons of water per day. There are approximately 9 million dairy cows in the United States. That amounts to approximately 45 trillion gallons of water use per day in the U.S. California produces 21 percent of all dairy in the U.S. and is prone to persistent droughts.

Bob Switzer

Sullivan, N.H., June 17

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