Marketing Versus Reality: The Myth of the Organic Happy Cow
An Animal Rights Article from


Free From Harm
July 2012

No matter how “humane” the marketers want to spin the truth, the modern dairy industry’s business model is built upon the exploitation of pregnant females, birthing lots of unwanted babies in the process.

Everybody says they want to know where their food comes from these days. But we won’t get it from product marketing. What we see here on this Whole Foods 365 Organic milk carton is a happy, healthy looking cow, beautiful blue sky and puffy white clouds, an idyllic Old McDonald farm scene. But the gulf between this facade and the reality could not be greater in this case.

cow organic dairy humane slaughter
Whole Foods Market 365 brand organic milk depicts the image of a healthy, happy calf on its cover but the gulf between this facade and the reality behind it could not be greater.

Below is a photo from an organization in England called Animal Aid that does undercover investigations, this one at a typical, small scale slaughterhouse in England.

cow organic dairy humane slaughter
Photo courtesy of Animal Aid, captured from video of an undercover investigation at a slaughterhouse in England

What you’re looking at is a “spent” dairy cow who has been stunned with a stun gun to allegedly render her unconscious (though her eyes are still wide open) in preparation for slaughter. Stunning is not a perfect science and some animals are still fully or semi conscious when slaughtered.(1)

Here are 10 important points to consider:

  1. ALL dairy cows — those that produce organic milk, are pasture raised and/or most all raised on small, independent farms or large factory farms, those that get belly rubs or not — end up in slaughterhouses like this one.
  2. These spent cows are sent to slaughter for three main reasons: A. They become ill (with one of the numerous diseases that afflict the dairy herd (mastitis being very common, bovine leukemia another), B. they just become too weak, C. they start showing declines in milk production (which means that they are no longer economically viable to keep alive) or D. any combination of the above circumstances.
  3. Downer cows are an industry term for spent dairy cows who become too weak or sick to stand on their feet. Some investigations of downer cows have documented cows being dragged by chains onto transport trucks to get them to slaughterhouses. This practice is legal in ALL states, quite literally dragging a sick animal to slaughter. (and entering our food supply). California was only state that attempted to ban this practice. It was hailed as a huge victory by the animal welfare movement only to later be defeated by the Supreme Court of the United States.
  4. Her slaughtered flesh will be mixed with thousands of others to become the cheap meat for hamburger, pet food, etc. Her hide, bones and cartilage will be used for leather clothing, accessories and upholstery, and used in such innocuous things like gelatin, chewy candies, marshmallows, asphalt, and adhesives.
  5. Note the extremely distended abdomen, the result of a short but intense life of excessive milk production, up to 10 times more than her body was designed by nature to produce (and her calves, for whom the milk was perfectly formulated, got none of it)
  6. No doubt she is here in the photo anywhere between 4 to 7 years old, a mere adolescent in a lifespan of 20 to 30 years.
  7. No doubt she was artificially inseminated at least once a year using a very invasive procedure that involves a constraining device known by the industry as a “rape rack” and the insertion of semen through her rectum and into her uterus, with no pain killer.

    rape rack
  8. No doubt her newborns were taken away from her on day one causing extreme separation anxiety for both newborn and mother who carries her baby for 9 months like human mothers do. Mother cows have been known to wail and mourn the loss of their calves up to weeks on end.
  9. No doubt she experienced this cycle of losing her baby at least 4 and up to 7 times in her short life as a milk producer. It is worth noting here that in many studies animals choose physical pain over psychological pain when given a choice.
  10. There is no veal industry without the dairy industry. Veal farmers need their babies.

cow organic dairy humane slaughter

So you’re back in the market and you see the fancy Chobani Greek yogurt here or the aged French cheese over there and then the gourmet gelato in the freezer section. In all of these cases you can rest assured that they all resulted from the same circumstances I’ve just outlined.

No matter how “humane” the marketers want to spin the truth, the modern dairy industry’s business model is built upon the exploitation of pregnant females, birthing lots of unwanted babies in the process. Fortunately there are so many great alternatives today and new products coming out all the time that can be equally satisfying as well as cruelty free. Look for them and ask for them. And from nutritional standpoint, we don’t need to go through an animal for the nutrients we get from dairy either.

So I’d like to leave you with a positive image. This happy mother dairy cow was spared a violent slaughterhouse end and is now reunited with one of her calves that she was separated from at a sanctuary in California. At sanctuaries like these, motherhood is honored and respected across the animal kingdom. As informed consumers, it becomes clear to us that she is really the happy cow, not the one promoted to us on the organic milk carton. She is a happy cow because she is free to live according to her own interests, free to create a family and free to raise and nurture her young as she so deeply desires and as mother nature herself so clearly intends.

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