On January 21, 2017 in response to the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, over 5 million women globally joined together and marched in solidarity of women and women’s rights. Since the nomination and election of Trump, as the chosen candidate for the Republican party, the country and the world have watched horrified as a blatant misogynist and sexual predator rose to arguably the highest rank and most influential position possible in the United States. We have seen both the defunding of Planned Parenthood (specifically in Texas) and a slew of bills aiming to limit women’s reproductive rights. Men and women all over the country and world are speaking out against Trump’s misogynistic remarks and actions.
So my question in light of all this feminism and solidarity is: why are so many people, women in particular, silent and complicit in the rape and violation of rights from another species? I’m talking of course about cows – and if you aren’t a vegan you’re probably rolling your eyes right now. Chances are however, if you aren’t vegan, you also probably don’t know a lot about the actual process of where the milk and cheese you consume comes from. Television and media has done a great job of making the dairy industry seem like a picturesque farm scene - even whimsical at times. Cartoons shows almost all inevitably have a farm episode where men and women are sitting around in overalls, on tiny stools with wooden buckets, relieving cows that are in pain from the massive amount of milk in their udders. In a small farm, with one or two cows, sure this might be how things work. Realistically, unless you are buying milk directly from local farmer Joe down the lane, this isn’t where your milk is coming from.
Here's what you should know about where your milk actually comes from. Cows like every other mammal on the planet make milk for their offspring. This means two things: milk from cows is for baby cows not baby humans and (certainly not adult humans) and that in order to produce milk a cow must have a baby. As awful as the idea of forced breeding is it isn’t even as bad as what is actually going on in commercial dairy farms.
Assuming you aren’t living under a rock, you know where babies come from. For pregnancy, you need sperm. Here’s a great article from wikihow on how semen from cows is collected. This particular example is labeled for sperm tests for viability but it’s the same practice that allows for one method of sperm collection for artificial insemination as well. The highlights are basically a bull is placed in a narrow shoot to limit his mobility. His scrotum is bound and the person performing this task then dons gloves and reaches their arm into the cow’s anus to find his prostate and seminal glands to check for defects. The arm is removed and a lubricated electrical anal probe on standby replaces the arm in the bull’s anus. The anal probe is then turned on and when the bull is involuntarily erect and a sheath is placed over his penis, after a momentary rest the electrical current is turned up until the cow ejaculates.[i] Alternatively, some male cows have sperm collected through the use of a plastic cow vagina. However if the cows aren’t able to properly mount said plastic cow or have other difficulties ejaculating, the above stated method of sperm collection is used. This is the first rape that occurs in the dairy industry.
After the sperm is collected from the bull the female cows must then be “impregnated”. In order to produce the maximum amount of milk cows are repeatedly forcibly impregnated and artificial insemination is the most common method. Like the bull, female cow is pinned and an arm is shoved in her anus she is checked for defects and cleanliness. A rod is then shoved into her vulva as a guide for the artificial insemination gun. The person performing this task feels through the walls of the anus to find the cervix and make sure the rod/sperm gun is properly placed and then semen is injected into the uterus. The arm and sperm gun are then removed and the process is started on another cow.[ii] This is the second rape that occurs so people all over the world an enjoy cheese. This is done to female dairy cows on average once every 13 months which includes a 9-month long pregnancy. So roughly four months after giving birth the cow is raped and impregnated again.[iii]
To make matters worse almost immediately after birth the calves resulting from these rapes are taken away from their mothers. “97% of newborn dairy calves are forcibly removed from their mothers within the first 12 hours. The rest are removed in a matter of days. On so-called humane dairy farms, cows are often taken within the first hour of birth as separation of mother and calf is considered less stressful when they have not been allowed to bond.[iv]” Yeah you read that right, in “humane” farms, calves are taken within the first hour to help prevent the mothers from bonding because despite what you’ve been led to believe cows are thinking, feeling, emotional beings. Last year almost 450,000 calves were slaughtered in the United States alone[v] as a result of this insatiable need for cheese. Globally over 20 million calves are slaughtered for veal or beef. [vi]At around 5 years old, when the milk yields drop, these rape victims are slaughtered for meat. The cows, if allowed to live a natural life, often would live 15 -20 more years. iii
As vegans all of these facts are damning knowledge we struggle with daily; this even more true of the vegans who are also victims of sexual assault. Every single time you tell a vegan, “But I couldn’t live without cheese!” or “But it tastes so good!” you’re literally saying you’re okay with the rape and infanticide of another species of animal for your own benefit. Imagine if we changed ‘cow’ to ‘dog’ or even ‘people’. Imagine someone telling you you’re okay with the rape and killing of puppies because there is some benefit to you that outweighs their right to live. Imagine if we were talking about people. Imagine Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffery Dahmer: some of the most horrible serial killers of our recent history who raped and tortured their victims before murdering them, and in Dahmer’s case even consumed them. This is literally what we as a culture are doing to cows.
There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance that occurs for people to live their lives without acknowledgment of these facts. We pretend like animals are stupid and don’t know any better, we pretend we need these things to survive, we pretend that our pleasure is a greater need, or that a woman in pig tails is milking her cow named Bessie in a hay filled barn. We pretend we don’t know. At some point we have to be able to see in the intersectionality of animals and people. You hear the phrase people are “treated like animals” but should we really be treating animals so much more poorly than we treat each other for a phrase like that to mean a person was treated unspeakably bad? Should we really be acting that as a society, women should have equal rights to their minds and bodies but animals don’t or some animals do if they are cute and fuzzy and can sleep in our laps? And most certainly if you at all consider yourself a feminist and you aren’t you should evaluate what makes animals less entitled to what happens to their bodies than any other person. You should ask yourself why if you’d be horrified at the idea of a person having intercourse with an animal for sexual gratification why sexually penetrating an animal for food or profit is acceptable just because they can’t verbally tell you to stop.
[i] (http://www.wikihow.com/Collect-Semen-from-a-Bull-for-a-Breeding-Soundness-Exam, n.d.)
[ii]Capps, A. (n.d.). Annie, Get Your Gun: Sexual Violation of Dairy Cows in 14 Steps. Retrieved from http://freefromharm.org/animal-cruelty-investigation/the-sexual-violation-of-dairy-cows-14-step-process-of-artificial-insemination/
[iii] An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Cows in the Dairy Industry . http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/hsus-the-welfare-of-cows-in-the-dairy-industry.pdf
[iv] Capps, A. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://freefromharm.org/dairyfacts/