Like all mammals, cows produce milk for their young, not so we have something to put in our coffee. On dairy farms, cows are impregnated over and over in order to keep that milk flowing, while their calves are seen as no more than a by-product. If we didn’t artificially inseminate cows, they wouldn’t produce milk, and if we didn’t take their calf away from them, the milk would be theirs.
Naturally, cows would choose their mate, would give birth infrequently, and spend time suckling their young, forming a bond and protecting them. But the milk industry is ruthless, and to keep the milk flowing, cows are impregnated year after year, no matter the toll it takes on the animals’ bodies. And the toll is huge. These gentle creatures are so broken physically, psychologically, and emotionally by their treatment that they are considered ‘“spent” by the time they are just six years old. Their natural lifespan is around 20 years.
As for their calves, we never really wanted them; we just wanted their milk, so what happens to them? The females may be reared and used as living milking machines, perhaps to replace their own mom, when she breaks down. In that case, the calf will endure the same repeated cycle of forced impregnation, birth, and loss of her young until she too is broken and sent to the slaughterhouse. If the calf is male, he may end up on a veal farm, he may be allowed to grow and then be slaughtered for low-grade meat, or he may be shot at birth if money cannot be made from his body in another way. Whatever their fate, the calves are taken from their moms to stop them from drinking the milk that was made just for them. So, cows don’t need to be milked. They need to stop being forcibly impregnated and having their calves taken away.