Strange noises coming from Sunshine Dairy Farm in Newbury, Mass., during the night last week prompted concerned residents to contact police, who in turn told everyone it was nothing to worry about. The noise was just from cows who were grieving the loss of their newborns.
According to Newburyport News, Newbury police Sgt. Patty Fisher said the department received calls over “inhuman” noises coming from the farm, which prompted her to post a message on the police station’s Facebook page:
Residents in the area of Sunshine Dairy Farm may notice loud noises coming from the dairy cows at all hours of the day and night. We’ve been informed that the cows are not in distress and that the noises are a normal part of farming practices.
Fisher stated that the separation of mother cows from their calves is a yearly occurrence and is a normal part of dairy farming. She’s right about it being a standard practice, but saying they were not in distress is dead wrong. For mother cows, having their calves ripped away from them shortly after they’re born is distressing, and it’s exactly why they were crying out.
Something that seems to get overlooked is that in order to produce milk dairy cows have to give birth, but because we steal their milk from them, calves have to be removed.
These little ones are torn from their mothers shortly after being born and are fed milk replacer and calf starter, instead of being allowed to drink their mother’s milk, which is intended solely for them. They won’t otherwise get to enjoy the comforts of being raised and nurtured by their mothers. Instead they’ll spend their first few weeks of life isolated in calf hutches or pens.
The females will likely follow in their mother’s footsteps and will be raised to replace them, while the males are left to face a sadder fate. They’ll likely be sold for veal because they have no other value. Selling calves for veal is nothing more than a way for the dairy industry to make a profit off of what it would otherwise have to deal with as waste. We can boycott veal all we want, but it won’t do any good if dairy products are still being consumed.
For mother cows, after about a year of producing milk, they’ll be impregnated again, and the whole process will start over and be repeated until their bodies are spent. This usually happens when they’re around five — about two decades shy of their normal lifespan – at which point they’ll be sold for slaughter. This is the continuous heartbreak that an estimated 9 million dairy cows in the U.S. face again and again, and it has nothing to do with the size or type of dairy operation they’re kept at, whether it’s a small family farm or a large factory farm.
The only difference here is that the sounds that were so disturbing to residents were heard. Our typical ignorance, or apathy, about the processes involved in milk production is something the dairy industry banks on. It may seem to cause less harm to cows because it’s just a byproduct, but as Gary Francione said, “There’s probably more suffering in a glass of milk than a pound of steak.”
Photo credit: Compassion in World Farming