White,Mammal,Dairy cow,Snout,farmed animal,Dairy White,Dairy cow,Snout,Goats,farmed animal,Fence,Dairy

5 Ways The Dairy Industry Hurts Cows

From forced impregnation to tearing apart families, abuse is inherent to the dairy industry. Learn how the industry profits from cruelty and what you can do to help.

Through countless undercover investigations, Animal Equality has exposed shocking cruelty in the global dairy industry. From India, where farm workers stuff dead calves with hay, to the United States, where dead, frozen calves are stacked in piles, cruelty within this industry is a worldwide issue.

Some of these practices clearly violate animal welfare laws. But even under the best possible circumstances – when no laws have been broken – cruelty and suffering are widespread. 

Here’s why dairy and cruelty go hand-in-hand: 

1. Calf-Cow Separation

Just like humans, a cow only produces milk once she’s given birth. To keep the milk flowing, farmers will artificially inseminate her about once per year.

A strong bond forms between the mother and her baby immediately after birth. However, they won’t have much time together. Within a day or two, the mother cow will be separated from her calf. She will cry for her missing baby for days. 

In many cases, a mother cow will run after her calf as he’s dragged away. Once separated, this calf will be fed milk replacers while the dairy industry takes his mother’s milk for a profit. 

Calf trapped in a wood crate for veal

2. Repeated & Forced Impregnation

Once separated from her mother, a female calf will be trapped in the same cycle of repeated insemination. Each time she gives birth, she will be separated from her baby. Just as her mother once cried out for her, she will mourn the loss of each calf.

After separation, the mother cow will be hooked up to a milking machine several times per day. Many cows suffer from injuries and infections from these unnatural milking methods.

3. Male Calves Killed for Veal

Meanwhile, a male calf is considered useless to the dairy industry because he cannot produce milk. If he isn’t raised and sold for beef, this baby will likely be sold to the veal industry. 

There, he’ll be confined inside a cramped crate. Farmers will purposefully limit his movement to keep his meat tender, feeding him a diet lacking in iron to keep his flesh white. After a life of mental anguish, weakness, and solitude, he will be slaughtered. 

Cow with horn cut, bleeding and with a hot iron cauterizing the wound

4. Dehorning & Tail Docking

Cows who aren’t bred to be hornless are typically “dehorned.” To do this, farmworkers often cut the horns—which are full of sensitive nerve endings and blood—out of the animals’ heads. Or, workers burn off the delicate horn tissue. Cows are also burned with searing hot irons (“branded”), and their tails are painfully removed (“docked”). They will endure all of this without anesthesia.

5. Cows Used for Dairy Killed for Their Meat

A cow in the dairy industry suffers for her entire life. Eventually, her body will give out from the stress of constant milking. The dairy industry might even use heavy machinery to lift her exhausted body from the ground. 

Once considered “spent” at about five years old, a cow will face the same fate as animals in the meat industry. She will be packed into a truck and shipped off to slaughter so her meat can be sold at the grocery store.

How You Can Help Cows Exploited for Dairy:

The good news is that sparing cows from this cruel cycle is simpler than ever. Whether you enjoy creamy oat milk or granola with cashew yogurt, finding delicious, dairy-free alternatives is easier than ever. 

Simply head over to Love Veg, where we’re throwing open the doors to a whole new world of diverse and healthy options. Whether you’re creating your grocery shopping list or navigating restaurant foods, we’re here to help.

Millions of people have already replaced dairy, meat, and eggs with cruelty-free favorites. Are you ready to join them today?

Rescued hen held by Animal Equality volunteer


With rich emotional lives and unbreakable family bonds, farmed animals deserve to be protected.

You can build a kinder world by replacing animal food products with plant‑based ones.

Most Popular
August 20, 2023

Whether through commercial fishing or aquafarming, this notoriously secretive industry has been in hot water for its environmental impact.
August 20, 2023

Foie Gras is a “delicacy” that inflicts such suffering on animals that it's illegal to make it in several countries. Take action to help us end the cruel force-feeding of birds!
August 20, 2023

While its biggest competitors have made meaningful changes for animals, McDonald’s lags behind. Here’s what makes Ronald McDonald a threat to animal welfare.