Suffering in the dairy industry

A cycle of cruelty exists in every glass of milk. Our goal is to help expose it.

Dairy's Dark Secret

Cows in the dairy industry suffer their entire lives. From the moment they enter this world they are treated like commodities. Special bonds are routinely broken and cows often develop painful medical conditions.

Just like humans, cows only produce milk for their offspring. Therefore, they are forcefully impregnated every year. A female and her offspring are forced through a cycle of cruelty that ends with their slaughter.

Broken Families

Much like humans, cows have strong maternal instincts but a mother’s bond with her calf has no place on factory dairy farms. Shortly after birth, calves are dragged away from their mother never to be seen again. A cow will have to go through this painful process every year of her life. The milk she produces for her calf is instead taken from her and sold to consumers.


After being torn away from their mothers, calves will spend much of their lives in extreme confinement. In fact, most will spend the first 2 to 3 months of life confined in lonely barren hutches, fed a diet of milk replacer while humans drink the milk intended for them.

Over 90% of U.S. dairy cows are confined in primarily indoor operations, with more than 60% tethered by the neck inside barren stalls, unable to perform even the most basic behaviors essential to their well-being.

Photo: Gabriela Penela

Painful Mutilations

As cows get older they undergo a series of painful mutilations:

Branding: Workers heat iron bars in open fires and burn the flesh of young cows. These untreated wounds are ripe for infection.

Dehorning: To remove an animal’s horns, workers cut them out or burn off delicate tissue. A cow’s horns are full of blood and hypersensitive nerve endings but this is done without any anesthesia.

Tail docking: Another common practice is for cows to have their tails removed. They will either be cut off with shears or, in some instances, workers will wrap wire or rubber bands around the tail.

Brutally killed

Cows in the dairy industry face the same fate as those in the meat industry. They are killed when their milk production declines. No cow is allowed to live out their natural lifespan of up to 25 years. In fact, 20% of the beef sold in stores comes from cows who were exploited by the dairy industry.

After being transported long distances cows are forced into stun boxes. Inside these chambers, they are shot in the head, a process meant to render them unconscious. However, many are still conscious when they have their throats slit.

By the numbers


time before a calf is
taken away from mother


bits of different cows
in one burger


calves killed for
veal in the US


cows exploited
for their milk in the US


of US dairy cows are tethered
by their necks indoors

Beyond the cruelty

Cruel dairy has devastating effects on the environment and can be damaging to our health.

Dairy and the environment

Raising cows for their milk contributes methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide – all of which are toxic greenhouse gasses – to the atmosphere. In fact, nitrous oxide and methane are 296 and 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide respectively.

In some places, the dairy industry contributes to the conversion of natural habitat to agricultural land – a leading cause of deforestation. Local water resources are under threat due to the poor handling of manure and fertilizers.

Dairy and your health

Consuming dairy products puts you at an increased risk of several serious health conditions. Dairy has been linked to higher risks of various cancers, especially to cancers of the breast and prostate. This is due to milk’s high levels of insulin-like growth factor.

Though it’s true we need calcium to keep our bones strong to prevent osteoporosis, milk is not the only nor best source of this mineral. Green leafy vegetables and fortified plant-based drinks are excellent cruelty-free sources of these necessary nutrients.

Photo: Syda Productions /

Relevant campaigns

Cruelty is standard practice on dairy farms. The public deserves to know the reality inside this secretive industry. Animal Equality conducts investigations and education campaigns that help reduce animal suffering.


Animal Equality conducted an investigation covering small, medium and large dairies across the different states of India. A total of 107 dairy farms, 2 semen collection centers, 11 live animal markets, 8 slaughterhouses, 7 meat markets and 5 tanneries were investigated.

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The dairy industry is a cruel and secretive industry. But with your support, Animal Equality is exposing the truth and making progress for cows and their calves.

Farm Worker Convicted of Animal Cruelty

An Animal Equality investigation led to the conviction of a worker caught on camera abusing cows and their calves on a U.K. dairy farm that supplied Muller Milk, one of the main processors used by leading supermarket chains.

India Enacts Ban on Buffalo Markets

In a monumental decision, India announced new rules formed by an Animal Equality investigation stating that cows and buffaloes raised for milk could no longer be sold for slaughter at markets.

What can I do to help?


Join forces with Animal Equality as a volunteer in your area. Whether online or at events, you can help spread awareness of the issues animals face in the deadly dairy industry. Distribute leaflets, or participate in an event in your area today!



Helping cows is now easier than it has ever been. Today, a trip to the supermarket reveals there are more plant-based options than ever before. Reducing your consumption of dairy products is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce their suffering, help the planet, and improve your health.

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