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"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians" - Linda McCartney


The saleyards "Beef" is a euphemism - one of those bland words people use when they're uncomfortable with the reality of what is being portrayed. And in this case the reality is very uncomfortable indeed. Around 9-10 million cows are killed every year in Australia alone, so that their dead bodies can become "beef" for human consumption. Despite what most of us would like to believe, their short lives are not filled with lazy days of grass and sunshine down on the family farm, and their deaths are not easy, quick or "humane".

Cows may naturally live for 20-25 years, however the average lifespan of a beef cow is 15-20 months. At a standard beef slaughterhouse, 250 cows are killed every hour. Victims are prodded into the killing stall with a high-voltage electric prod. According to a visitor to a slaughterhouse; "the cows are fully aware of what lies ahead. The physical symptoms of terror were painfully evident on the faces of every animal. During the 40 seconds to a minute that each animal had to wait in the killing stall before losing consciousness, the terror became visibly more intense. The animal could smell the blood, and see his or her former companions in various stages of dismemberment". Cows too sick or injured to stand are known as downers. They may be dragged with chains to the killing floor, or left to die without food or water.


Two cows in a pasture Humans typically underestimate the intelligence of cows and the complexity of their inner lives. Far from being slow and rather stupid as often portrayed, cows learn quickly and efficiently and retain what they learn for a long time. They are highly social animals who can recognise more than 100 different individuals, and form strong, often lifelong bonds with their families and other herd members. Apart from the characteristic "moo", they communicate through a wide variety of body positions and facial expressions. The beef industry recognises none of this. To them, cows are meat machines existing to be fattened and slaughtered in the shortest time for the greatest profit. As befits machines, their deaths are referred to as "turnoff".


The Australian Beef Cattle industry ranges from intensive highly stocked feedlots, to extensive unfenced cow stations, where the cows rarely see humans before being rounded up for sale or slaughter. Feedlots are defined as 'a confined yard with watering and feeding facilities where cows are completely hand or mechanically fed for the purpose of production'. In 2002, Australia had 629 beef cattle feedlots, containing a total of 895,000 cows. These large animals are crowded into bare pens, frequently without shade, where they must stand in mud and manure, and breathe air that is thick with dust, ammonia and harmful bacteria. The smell from such facilities has been called "indescribable", and the animals are at constant risk of respiratory disease. To fatten them quickly, feedlot cows are fed rich grain which can cause severe digestive disorders in a metabolism suited to a grass-based, high fibre diet. In all states except Queensland, cows may also be fed chicken litter, which is cleaned out of sheds along with 6-7 weeks worth of accumulated chicken excrement.


"Free-range" cows often fare little better. Vast herds are kept in the dry Australian outback where temperatures can be extreme, drought common, and there is little shelter from inclement weather. Ill or injured cows may suffer and die without ever seeing a vet. The death rate in these harsh conditions is estimated by one study to be 14-18% per year, and is particularly high amongst cows with calves at foot. The researchers comment that "even today many pastoralists do not know the exact number or location of their cattle", and fail to provide them with adequate care and protection.

The cow's relative freedom ends abruptly when rough, loud-voiced humans come to round them up, causing terror, confusion and a high injury rate as they are herded into tightly packed trucks. The journey to saleyard or slaughterhouse is usually long and traumatic, without food or water.


Cows are routinely castrated, spayed, dehorned and hot-iron branded without any pain relief. Males are desexed by removing the testicles with a knife, while females may have a cut made in their sides and their ovaries pulled out. No anaesthetic is used. One study advises that "mortality can exceed 5% amongst cows spayed by this method, even with good operators" and that "the trauma experienced by the animal results in a physical setback and 2-3 months growth can be lost".   
Castration    Cows may also be "waddled" - an procedure which involves cutting chunks of hide from under their necks for identification purposes. These operations performed on an unanaesthetised cat or dog, would rightly be called torture and most people would be shocked and revolted. Why is it so easy to look the other way when equally sensitive beings are tortured to put beef on our plates?


Slaughtered cow By law, cows must be stunned before slaughter by having their skulls smashed with a metal bolt. But the procedure is imprecise and workers are under constant pressure to keep up the speed of the production line. As a result, many cows are still conscious when they are hoisted by a hind leg, breaking bones and tearing ligaments in the process, and their throats are cut and dismemberment begins. In the words of a former slaughterhouse worker; "On bad days, dozens of animals reached my station clearly alive and conscious. Some would survive as far as the tail cutter, the belly ripper, the hide puller. "They die piece by piece."

There is no humane way to raise and kill cows to supply today's enormous demand for beef. These gentle animals will always pay with their suffering for the sake of our tastebuds. But there are gentler ways to feed ourselves. Animal remains are not a necessary part of anyone's diet. Contact ALV to find out how to cut them out of your diet and say no to cruelty.




Wednesday 2 February 2011

Animal Health Australia recently called for submissions on a proposed "Standard for Time Off Feed" for bobby calves in the Australian Dairy Industry. As if these young babies didn't suffer enough already they want to make it a 'standard' to withhold liquid food from dairy calves for up to 30 hours before they are slaughtered.  While it is good this cruel proposal is getting widespread public coverage, we can do much better than merely asking our lawmakers to make sure these calves get a quick bite to eat before their throats are slit. We can and must FREE them from this killing line. All of the pain, suffering and death inflicted on bobby calves (and their parents) can be stopped by simply choosing not to consume dairy.

Dairy causes ongoing grief and pain to the mother cows who suffer the loss of their new born babies - year after year - only to become lame, exhausted and suffering from mastitis. The dairy industry routinely kills their sons (when only a few days old) and forces their daughters to become the slaves of dairy consumers. 

While many of us are well aware of how bad dairy is for your health, the dairy industry tries to hide the fact that these animal 'products' increase the chance of developing Cardiovascular Disease as well as prostate and breast cancers.

There is a better, kinder way, and you're just in time to give it a go!  ALV is launching the latest 30 Day Vegan Easy Challenge (to be held March 1 - 30) and we warmly welcome you to sign up now.  Save the lives of these little calves and enjoy your improved health!

Please let the Government know that you are not only disgusted with their proposal to withhold feed for 30 hours, but that you are also disgusted with their endorsement of the dairy industry in general. All cows on dairy farms are abused and exploited by the dairy industry - babies and parents alike. Tell the Government that you refuse to consume dairy and that you are choosing to Save Lives instead!

Send an email to: 

Animal Health Australia

Joe Ludwig - Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

“But milking doesn’t hurt the cow!”

Watch the following videos documenting the pain and suffering that the calves of dairy cows experience and see what happens to them when they reach the abattoir.

This is exactly what the dairy industry does not want you to see:

Bobby Calves Journey (Part 1)
Bobby Calves Journey: The Abattoir (Part 2)
Bobby Calf Searches for Mum (Part 3)

Click here to read about an ex-dairy farm worker who contacted ALV with her shocking story of the abuse she witnessed at a Victorian dairy farm.

Many people find it difficult to understand why the dairy industry is cruel. After all, cows produce milk naturally and milking seems a relatively benign procedure. In truth however, dairy is a for-profit business which inflict great suffering upon cows.

The dairy industry would like us to believe that cows are miraculously suited by nature to produce large quantities of milk for human consumption. In fact, cows lactate for the same reason as all mammals, including humans – to feed their babies. To produce milk in profitable quantities a dairy cow must be made pregnant every twelve months. Left to her own devices she would produce just enough milk to feed her calf who would suckle for up to a year. But instead her calf is taken away just a few days after birth, still small, bewildered and totally dependent on its mother, so that her milk can be stolen and drunk by humans. Cows and their calves form strong bonds and the separation causes intense distress to both.

Professor John Webster of the British Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council described the removal of the calf as the "most potentially distressing incident in the life of the dairy cow. The cow will submit herself to considerable personal discomfort or risk to nourish and protect her calf". Observers have described cows mooing frantically for days following separation from their calves, and sometimes breaking down fences and walking for several kilometres to be reunited with their babies.

Female calves may later join the dairy herd to face the same cycle of constant pregnancies and separation from their babies. Male calves and surplus females may be reared for veal or may be slaughtered when just a few days old, to end up in pet food, fertilizer and cheap cuts of meat. Not being primarily bred for meat, their flesh is considered substandard by the beef industry. Everyone who eats dairy products is complicit in the grisly deaths of these innocent young animals, without whom milk could not be produced, and to whom it rightfully belongs. Over a million dairy calves are slaughtered every year in Australia.

To obtain maximum milk yield, dairy cows are pushed to their physiological limits through a combination of selective breeding, high-protein supplementary feeds, and the latest technology. Over the past 10 years the milk yield per cow has risen by around 25%, and is more than 10 times the amount a calf would naturally drink. The strain of ever increasing yields and the restriction to 2 milkings per day, rather than 5-7 sucklings by a calf, can cause serious health problems. The second leading cause of death for dairy cows is chronic mastitis, a painful bacterial infection of the teats and udder. A survey of Victorian farms also found that 88% of herds were affected to some degree by lameness. High yielding cows are prone to ketosis, where the cow’s metabolism cannot keep up with the demand for milk, causing her to metabolise her own body fat and resulting in severe liver damage. The escalating trend towards supplementary feeding with concentrated high protein foods which the cow would not naturally eat, also results in a high number of painful digestive disorders. Many diary cows are “culled” each year as a result of health problems.

“A cow's a piece of machinery. If it's broke, we try to fix it, and if we can't, it gets replaced” (Dairy farmer quoted in Scientific Farm Animal Production).

Dairy cows undergo routine mutilations such as tail docking and dehorning without anaesthetic, although a study by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries has concluded that there is no evidence that these provide any health benefits or improvement in milk quality. Horns are extensions of the skull and contain blood vessels and nerve endings, so their removal is agonising. Tail docking may result in the formation of neuromas, abnormal masses of nerve endings which produce chronic distress. Docked cows also suffer greater fly irritation. Routine tail docking of dogs has now been banned in Australia in recognition of the fact that it causes pain and distress. Cows suffer no less.

WARNING: The below video shows dairy cows being forced to have their horns burnt off (dehorned) which causes them extreme pain. This footage is graphic and shocking.

Under natural conditions, a cow can live 15 – 20 years. The average life of a dairy cow is 3-5 years. Her milking life has steadily decreased as the demands on her body increase. Once she stops producing milk in profitable quantities, she is sent to slaughter. There are no peaceful paddocks where retired dairy cows relax after their years of service. The fate of these young animals, in what should be the prime of their lives, is the same as that of their counterparts raised for beef. Their skulls are smashed by a steel bolt, their throats are cut, and their bodies dismembered to be made into sausages, pie fillings and pet food. The myth that animals do not suffer and die so humans can eat dairy foods is a comforting fantasy which bears no relation to reality. Dairy is a slaughter industry the same as meat production, only the violence and bloodshed are one step further removed from the consumer’s plate.

Despite industry propaganda, cows’ milk is no more necessary to human health than is elephants’ milk or dogs’ milk. Did you know that humans are the only animals who drink the milk of another species, and the only animals who drink milk after weaning? Or that the relationship between calcium intake and bone disease is considerably more complex than the dairy peddlers would like us to believe, and that it is only one of many factors responsible for building healthy bones? Osteoporosis is now reaching epidemic proportions in countries such as Australia and America where dairy consumption is amongst the highest in the world. In Japan and many other non-Caucasian countries, dairy consumption has traditionally been minimal and overall calcium intake low – yet these people also have a much lower rate of bone fracture. The website of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine is an excellent resource for those seeking unbiased, scientific information about the health aspects of dairy consumption.


  • Read about ALV's Milk Sucks campaign.
  • Contact ALV to learn how to cut dairy out of your diet, and cut out the cruelty with it.
  • Take a stand against cruelty to animals by going vegan.
  • Join ALV or send a donation to help us save animals lives

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