What’s in a glass of milk?
Australians consume a large amount of dairy each year. According to an RSPCA figure, it takes 1.6 million cows producing 5 000 litres of milk each day to meet our demand for dairy products in Australia (1). The enormous scale of commercial milk production has led to practices that compromise the welfare of the animals involved, such as:
The management of bobby calves
Many people forget that in order to produce milk, a female cows needs to be pregnant or lactating. The majority of male calves (as well as some female calves) become surplus to the farmer’s needs, meaning they are rendered useless (or even detrimental) to the milk production process. These calves are called bobby calves and are separated from their mothers shortly after birth and transported to slaughter at 5 days old.
Bobby calves are seen as detrimental to the milk production process because if they remain with their mothers after birth, they will deplete the amount of milk available for farmers to sell to us.
Sometimes if a calf is not born within the desired time for calving, the mother will be induced and forced to deliver her calf early. This premature birth often poses health risks to both mother and baby.
Dehorning and disbudding
The Australian dairy industry recommends that farmers remove the buds or horns from calves in order to avoid injury to humans or other animals. These painful procedures are performed without the use of anaesthetic or pain relief.
The high consumption of dairy products is partially fuelled by industry claims that dairy is integral to the maintenance of strong bones. However the World Health Organisation recommends increasing physical activity, reducing intakes of animal protein and increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables to promote healthy bones. Studies show that calcium obtained from plant food tends to be better absorbed in the human body than from dairy (2).
Common dairy products:
- ice cream
Alternative sources of calcium
- Alternatives to cow’s milk include soy milk, almond milk, rice milk and oat milk, which are often fortified with calcium
- Plant foods such as beans, grains and many vegetables are also a rich source of calcium
- (1) Dairy Farming, RSPCA website, accessed 27 April 2013: http://www.rspca.org.au/how-you-can-help/campaigns/dairy-cows/
- (2) Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation. Human vitamin and mineral requirements. September 1998, Bangkok, Thailand. Available from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/es/esn/nutrition/Vitrni/vitrni.html (cited 24 October 2008).
Image sourced from www.unleashed.org.au