Dairy is crueler than meat

This isn’t going to sit well with a lot of readers but I’ve got something I want to get off my chest.

I believe the dairy and egg industries are responsible for much more harm and suffering than raising and killing animals solely for meat.

I think a meat eater who doesn’t eat dairy or eggs is far less complicit in animal suffering than a vegetarian who consumes dairy and eggs every day.

To understand my point, we need to compare the lives of animals raised as meat with the lives of animals used for dairy and eggs.

Chickens

The life of a broiler or meat chicken is horrendous to be sure, but the cruel conditions it is kept in last for a relatively-short six weeks compared to the drawn out suffering of an egg-producing bird.

The vast majority of egg-producing birds spend their torturous lives in tiny cages or mammoth windowless sheds crammed with tens of thousands of others. They are denied natural light, they suffer from broken bones, their bodies are depleted of essential nutrients due to over-laying and they are subjected to cruel procedures such as live debeaking.

If an egg producer is unfortunate enough to live the approximate two years she is able to meet the demands of the company, her frail and ill body is then sent for slaughter.

To recap, meat chickens suffer for six weeks before being killed but egg birds live in agony for approximately two years in some of the worst conditions of any animal industry.

Eating eggs supports this mass suffering. Vegetarians as well as omnivores are equally responsible for this suffering. If your vegetarianism is driven by compassion, I suggest you take a moment to consider the part you play in perpetuating harm. If you do not want birds to suffer for up to two years, stop eating eggs.

Cows

The life of a meat cow is not something you would wish on any creature. Overfed and often pumped with hormones, the growth of these animals is accelerated in order for them to be sent to slaughter within a year of being born.

However, the sad short life of a meat cow might seem like a desirable outcome when held up against the existence of a dairy cow.

Consider this if you feel unable to stop consuming cow milk.

A dairy-producing cow only lactates following the birth of a newborn. To ensure each cow is giving the most milk possible, newborn calves are taken from their mothers within hours of entering the world. You don’t have to be an animal expert to imagine the immense trauma this causes for both mother and child.

With the baby cow out of the way (either to become a milk cow itself or killed for meat/raised as veal in a crate if it is male), the milk the cow’s body produces to feed her young is pumped out of her body using machines in order for omnivorous and vegetarian humans to drink it.

Once her cycle of giving milk for that pregnancy has slowed, the dairy cow is impregnated and the cycle happens all over again. The impregnation takes place approximately 60 days after the previous baby was taken away. Baby taken away, cycle starts again.

The dairy cow exists within this cycle for up to four or five years, before her frail body is killed to be used for low-grade meat.

To recap, meat cows are killed at about one year old but dairy cows are impregnated repeatedly and separated from their offspring over the course of five years. 

Drinking milk supports this outrageous system and ultimately supports the traumatic lives and terrifying deaths of hundreds of millions of cows currently being controlled on the planet.

As a vegetarian, you believe you are on a compassionate path and that is a great place to be. The more we think about where our food comes from, the more we can make informed choices to reduce suffering.

This post presents meat as less cruel than dairy and eggs, which seems a bit of a flippant concept. All death and suffering is tragic. However, vegetarian diets are often portrayed as a kind option when actually they clearly and irrefutably contribute to the prolonged suffering and ultimate deaths of billions of animals.

There is no getting around this fact. Consuming eggs and dairy financially supports industries that prolong horrendous animal suffering over years, not months.

If you are vegetarian for the animals, drop the eggs and milk for real peace of mind.

Please note: this is not intended as an attack on vegetarians. Every person is on their own journey of compassion. This post is my attempt to get people to think about the possibility of transitioning away from eating eggs and dairy. It is not intended to shame anyone personally for food choices. As with everything I do on the blog, my intention is to improve outcomes for non-human animals.

Consider veganism.

References

Life as a meat chicken

The egg industry

The lives of beef and dairy cows


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Written by fatgayvegan

12 Comments
  1. Excellent points FGV. Don’t forget all of the male chicks who are killed to support the egg industry. They are either gassed, suffocated our ground up alive. That’s what the egg industry supports. People who eat eggs should be aware of the toll in animal lives that their choice entails

  2. Unfortunately, the egg and dairy industries do their best to mislead consumers with pictures of green farms and happy animals. So your post focusing on the suffering and not just death is providing a valuable service for those striving for greater compassion. I became a vegetarian as a young teen because it was obvious that animals are killed for their meat. But I didn’t learn of the suffering involved in egg and dairy ‘production’ until nearly a decade ago. How many times do vegans hear, “But chickens and cows aren’t killed to produce eggs and milk”? I’ve also heard surprise regarding the fact that cows must give birth before lactating, which, I admit, I didn’t really think about during my decades as a vegetarian.

  3. Vegetarianism as a stepping stone to going vegan – well, many of us went through that stage. Not everyone is able to make the change to veganism overnight.

    But vegetarianism as a target in itself is harmful. It only serves to distract those who gave up meat for ethical reasons, misleading them into believing they’ve taken a big step forward when in fact they are still stood on the same spot, just facing a different direction.

    The (ethical) reasons for going vegetarian are in fact reasons for going vegan. Vegetarianism is well meaning, but it’s also self-defeating.

    Sticking with vegetarianism is a big win for the animal-killing industries, and a spectacular own-goal for ethical vegetarians.

  4. Totally agree with this. A difficult subject to approach but a message that needs to be heard.

  5. It’s a touchy subject, because attacking people who are (at least in their heads, which is still a kind of progress) on the right track, usually only serves to alienate people who otherwise may have progressed onwards to become fullly fledged vegans. This article articulates the real issues with vegetarianism both kindly and sensitively. Good job sah.

  6. The raised as veal in a crate thing isn’t quite true, in the UK at least there’s rose veal, with no crates involved, it looks like this: http://www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk/2011/09/mason2.jpg

    Not that I’m for a second saying that I think that’s acceptable either, but it’s important to have the details correct.

    Something else that’s probably worth mentioning is mastitis in cows, often due to damage caused by the milking machinery:

    http://dairy.ahdb.org.uk/technical-information/animal-health-welfare/mastitis#.VYBsQ_lVikp

  7. All you say is true – though you gloss over the choices to be made on free range and organic NOT to say they stop the suffering.

    I keep coming back to a conversation I had many years ago with Peter Singer re “the web of evil”. You can’t escape the web. Accept that. You have an elastic rope round your ankle trying to pull you back to the evil centre. All you can do is inform yourself and climb, one rung at a time, towards a less evil position which is sustainable for you.

    Critically, don’t try to go too far, too soon. Don’t take a step which is unsustainable for you, because you WILL get dragged back. There is a temptation to say “if I can’t be perfect I may as well do nothing”.

    Never criticise anyone else for the choices that are sustainable for them, at this stage in their lives. Encourage them to make informed choices, yes. But the meat eater who only buys free range, the vegetarian who occasionally has fish, the vegan who eats pizza when out with friends, are all finding their own sustainable place on the web.

    Challenge yourself to do more, whilst learning to live with your compromises. My shoes are veggie, but the glue in lots of things I own may not be. The beer I drink in the pub is questionable. My wool jumper may, or may not, contain australian wool, which has horror stories of its own.

    Mike

    • Good reply.

      Currently I’m a vegetarian but that does not mean I am not aware of the horrors of the dairy and egg industry. I don’t buy milk or eggs in their whole form but I do eat quorn if I go to a shop and there is no other alternative for what I want to cook. Or I will get a veggie (but not vegan) ready meals in for the times I have no motivation to cook. I rarely buy cheese too and trying to cut it out altogether. I have an addiction to soup and baguettes with brie on – I’d love a vegan alternative! And that’s the only time I buy cheese. Overall I eat a lot less dairy then meat eaters, so to get some people say I should just go back to eating meat is ridiculous.

      Right now there isn’t really a word for what I am. I support the vegan lifestyle as much as I believe I can right now and gradually going towards it more. But there are some people that identify as vegetarian that eat the same amount or more cheese/milk/eggs than omnivores. So I don’t like identifying as a vegetarian for that reason. I guess there’s the word che-gan, but I don’t like that either.

      One thing I will also say is this: If everyone did what I currently did (minus buying cheese) – so they only ate dairy and eggs in products that contained it and didn’t specifically buy it whole – would the farming industry even exist? Think about it – if nobody ate a cow and nobody bought cartons of milk, would it be profitable enough to breed a cow just for the milk to put in products? Milk would have to be more expensive surely for it to be profitable?

      Right now, part of the reason a ton of products have milk and cheese and cream in them is because it’s a cheap ingredient… if it was no longer cheap, would industries not start finding vegan/dairy free alternatives for their products? Lots of products with milk or cheese or eggs in don’t NEED them. It’s un-necessary. However when you buy a carton of milk, a box of eggs or cheese – or if you buy a cut of meat. All of these have death and cruelty directly involved with no way of getting around that fact.

      • You can only do what you can, it’s next to impossible to be fully vegan. For example if you buy clothes that have been washed in lanolin before the reach the shop. Or food that contains sugar that originated in the USA, where it may have been refined using bone char.

        It doesn’t matter wether or not you have a label that describes yourself. What matters is that you’re taking steps to reduce the suffering that goes into your diet, are work to reduce that whenever possible.

        The problem is with misguided vegetarians thinking that they’ve made the ethical choice. They haven’t, having an end goal of vegetarian on the basis of animal welfare is the worst kind of hypocrisy.

  8. I struggle with saying hyposcisy. Maybe they have found a sustainabe point for them which they can stick to. Never be complacent that you are doing all you can. Never tell someone else the deliberate steps they are making to reduce suffering is not enough or somehow hypocritical.

    • Someone making steps to reduce suffering is not hypocritical. Someone who thinks that being vegetarian is a suitable end goal if you care about animal welfare is 100% hypocritical. Generally through lack of awareness, which hopefully this FGV article will help to alleviate.

  9. Obviously you live in a Town and buy your stuff in a “Supermarket”. What about the people in the country side who have few chicken and a Goat or a Cow for Milk (aka “Hippies”) Can they it Dairies? What about the people who work in poor condition to provide our vegetables? should we think about them

    People have to stop making blank statements just condoning they life style. Having a Mac Computer promote sweat shop in China, Cheap clothes come from kids working, you should ask kids in Tulse Hill estate if they have the luxury of eating good food or if they just buying what they can (I have done youth work and I think I know). We all do what we can, let not finger pointing, please.

    I have been “vegetarian” (I do it Fish)* for 33 years, Sometime I have some nice vegetables, Sometime it meant eating pasta and cheese, but Should I really decide what is cruel or crueler.

    PS: What gift do you give to a Vegetarian who eat Fish? A Dictionary…

    Peace

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