The Tao of Cow
A Meat and Dairy Industries Article from


Robert Cohen,
May 2011

[Ed. Note: For other investigations about the treatment of the calves, "byproducts" of the diary industry, see Dairy's Dark Side and watch Calf Slaughter Cruelty.]

Compassion is the basis of morality.
- Arthur Schopenhauer

This week, I received a request from a college student who is majoring in nutrition. She is currently taking a class called "Animal Morality."

The college student wrote:


My name is Jessica [last name withheld]. I am currently a junior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa on a year exchange from Oregon State University majoring in Nutrition.

I am currently enrolled in an upper division class called Food, and Animals: Ethics, Issues, and Controversies and was writing today to possibly get your input on some questions I have on my chosen topic for our end of the year project.

I have decided to investigate the question "Is it ethical to separate newborn calves from their mother days after birth in order to simplify management of milking cows?"

I was thinking it would be interesting to get a qualified organization's input on why such practices may be labeled as unethical (or the ethical depending on your view). If it is possible, I would love to ask someone at your organization, some questions regarding the health, management and overall process applied to new born calves.

I can email you questions I and appreciate your response!

Dear Jessica,

Who suggested that separating calves from their mothers after a few days on dairy farms is the standard operating procedure? It is not.

Calves are actually separated from their mothers almost immediately after birth.

Let me respond simply to your question about ethics.

In 1878 in her book Molly Bawn, author Margaret Wolfe Hungerford wrote: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

The eighth of twelve cranial nerve is the auditory vestibular. My comment would be: "Ugliness is in the auditory vestivial of the beholder."

If ever you were to witness the live birth of a calf, the following ten hours would haunt you forever. During the weeks following a separation of mother and calf, both creatures cry the saddest song that you might ever hear. Imagine the pain of separation. Often times, this is when dairy farmers are hurt or killed by furious mother cows.

How do you imagine that you would react? Jessica? Cows have feelings too. Even baby cows. Cows are not unfeeling agricultural units as dairy and meat producers would have you believe. Cows have emotions. Cows have feelings. Cows show love and form bonds. This is the Tao of cow.

One could write volumes about the morals and ethics of separating a newborn who has spent nine months growing inside of a loving mother. What would you expect the reaction of mother and child to be?

The only ethic concerning the dairyman is the almighty dollar. Each year, four million male calves born in America end their lives in a similar manner. Read Got Milk? A Disturbing Look at the Dairy Industry.

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