Friday, June 21, 2013

Mastitis - Another Reason to Give Up Dairy ... For Good

I announced in my last post that I am going to be posting excerpts from my new book, Vegetarian to Vegan, here on the blog.  I have received feedback from publishers who want to represent me that people do not want to see disturbing photos from factory farms, and they recommend I take the animal section out, or dramatically reduce it and make it less horrifying – certainly no disturbing photos!

However, I have turned down these offers, because I strongly disagree.  Many vegetarians are truly looking for the motivation to finally give up dairy and eggs, and most people I know who went vegan rather effortlessly did so because of some disturbing statistic, story, quote, photo or video. 

I did an incredible amount of research for this book (most of the animal section information came from veterinarian journals) to uncover details that are specific to dairy cows and egg-laying hens that I have never seen discussed in any other vegan book before (Perhaps the other authors’ publishers convinced them to take it all out?)  I really believe that it this new and detailed information that will finally convince many vegetarians to finally give up dairy and eggs.

Therefore, while I agree that no one wants to be confronted with disturbing information, I believe that it’s necessary for people to see the reality if they really want to be motivated, and thus, it’s very important to keep this section in the book and not soften it up or take out photos.

Vegetarian to Vegan will cover many topics you may not have heard that dairy cows and laying hens suffer from – everything from bovine leukemia virus to cage layer osteoporosis.  Here is an excerpt about mastitis, a very common condition that dairy cows suffer from greatly.  I had heard about mastitis before, but didn’t understand how it occurred or how prevalent it was.  See if you learn something new too… and let me know if you think I should leave it in the manuscript or take it out!

Dairy cows on a factory farm are not milked by hand, as in years past.  Instead, they are hooked up to automated milking machines several times a day, and the machines squeeze milk out of the cows’ teats.  This mechanized process can cause many problems, including cuts, injuries, electric shock and infection.  The most common condition that arises from mechanized milking machines is an infection of the udders called mastitis.  Mastitis is a potentially fatal infection of the mammary glands that can be incredibly painful, and is a major cause of early slaughter.

Cows have two natural defense mechanisms to help them avoid mastitis:  The first way that cows ward off mastitis is through sphincter muscles in the teat that close when the cow is not being milked.  These muscles close off the teat so that bacteria cannot make their way up into the mammary glands.  The second way that cows naturally ward off mastitis is through the lining of the teat canal, which helps to protect the teat canal and keep bacteria from moving up it. 

However, today’s mass-milking procedures degrade a cow’s teats by applying excess vacuum pressure to them, which results in calloused and distended teats.  Scar tissue forms in the teat canal, which can make it difficult for milk to pass through the teat, causing milk to flow very slowly or not at all.  These machines also degrade the sphincter muscles in the teats and damage the protective lining, making it easier for bacteria to move up the teats into the mammary glands. When bacteria infect mammary glands, this is the painful condition called mastitis.

Mastitis is a persistent, recurring problem that causes pus to appear in the cow’s milk.  While cows can be given antibiotics to treat the condition, their milk is not sellable until nearly all traces of the antibiotic are gone.  Therefore, because high levels of both pus and drug residues are not acceptable in the final milk product, mastitis is a common reason that cows are sent to the slaughterhouse.  The USDA estimates that approximately 43% of all factory farm dairy cows suffer from mastitis.[1]


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