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]


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dairy Cows and Their Calves: When Mother is Separated from Baby

My new book, Vegetarian to Vegan, is going through the publishing process now.  I thought I might give you all a taste of some of the information in the book by blogging excerpts from it over the next several weeks. 

I wrote Vegetarian to Vegan because while many authors have written very compelling books about the horrors of slaughterhouses, how smart cows, pigs and chickens are, and how bad meat and dairy are for both our health and our environment, no one has ever focused in-depth on the health, animal rights and environmental issues of just the dairy and egg industries – the two industries that vegetarians support, but vegans do not.  And it turns out that there is a lot you might want to know.

For example, when I began researching dairy cows, I found that they suffer from very high rates of Johne’s disease, mastitis, bovine leukemia, milk fever and other adverse effects that happen occur in dairy cows, but not usually in beef cows.  Similarly, I found statistics in medical journals about eggs, such as that the Physician’s Health Study found that there was a 23% increase in the risk of death in people who ate just one egg a day.[1]  In fact, there was a lot of information that I had never come across about the diary and egg industries when I really started diving deep into veterinarian journals, medical journals and environmental reports. 

Here is an excerpt from the section on dairy cows and their calves, and what happens when a calf is born and separated from it’s mother…

On a factory farm, cow’s milk is not intended for baby cows – it’s intended for humans.  Therefore, baby calves are not allowed to nurse.  They are taken from their mothers as soon as two hours after birth, and are either fed a commercial milk replacer that is made from dried milk powder, or they are fed milk that has been deemed unfit for human consumption.

Besides keeping the milk for humans to consume, there is another reason why baby calves are taken from their mothers so quickly:  According to the Journal of Dairy Science, “Calves left with cows for more than 2 hours [of birth] had a higher risk for infection, possibly due to exposure to large amounts of infectious agents in the maternity pen.”[2]  Letting the calf stay with its mother for any significant period of time increases risk for Cryptosporidium infection[3] and respiratory disease, which increases calves’ risk of death by six times.[4]  Basically, these authors are saying that the “maternity wards” at the dairy factories are so filthy that the calves’ lives are at risk if they hang around for more than a couple of hours.

Sadly, just like human mothers bond tightly with their newborn babies, so do cows bond with their calves.  Mother cows have been reported to bellow for many hours or even days after her calf is taken from her.  Author Oliver Sacks, MD discusses a visit that he and Temple Grandin made to a dairy farm: When they arrived, they heard many cows bellowing, causing a very loud and unnerving sound.  Temple commented, “They must have separated the calves from the cows this morning,” and indeed, that was exactly the case.[5]  Similarly, John Avizienius, a senior scientific officer at the Farm Animal Department at the RSPCA in Britain, discusses one particular cow that suffered great emotional distress over the separation from her calf:  She bellowed for hours, and even after six weeks would hover at the pen door where she had last seen her calf.[6] 

In a cruel twist of fate, it’s been shown in mammals that multiparous females (those giving birth for the second time or more) have higher levels of oxytocin than primiparous females (those giving birth for the first time.)[7]  This means that with each subsequent birth, a mother cow presumably grows more and more bonded to her calves, and it likely becomes more and more emotionally traumatizing for the cow each time a baby calf is taken from her. 

Just as the mother forms an immediate bond with her calf, the newborn calf also has an immediate attachment to his or her mother, and is healthier the longer it gets to bond with its mother. Calves allowed to remain with their mothers for up to 14 days showed weight gains at three times the rate of calves taken within 1-2 days, and they also showed signs of better searching behaviors and better social relationships with other calves.[8]  But as we’ve seen, baby calves are taken away within hours due to both the risk of infection from their filthy conditions, as well as the desire for the farmers to keep the mother’s milk for humans – not calves – so they can make a profit.

It has been shown that baby calves experience emotional distress when they are separated from their mothers.  Unbelievably, they have been known to try to bond with the factory farm workers, even trying to suckle the fingers of the worker who is sending them off to slaughter. 

Female calves will be raised to become dairy cows like their mothers, and the male calves will go to veal farms where they will be slaughtered for their tender meat.

[1] Djousse L, Gaziano JM. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians' Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:964-969.
[2] Gulliksen, S.M., et al.  (2009)  Calf mortality in Norwegian dairy herds.  J Dairy Sci, 92, 2782-2795.
[3] Faubert, G.M. & Litvinsky, Y.  (2000)  Ntaural transmission of Cryptosporidium parvum between dams and calves on a dairy farm.  J Parasitol, 86, 495-500
[4] Gulliksen, S.M., et al.  (2009)  Calf mortality in Norwegian dairy herds.  J Dairy Sci, 92, 2782-2795.
[5] Dasa, S.  Cows are Cool.  Soul Science University Press, 2009. Pg 38.
[6] Dasa, S.  Cows are Cool.  Soul Science University Press, 2009. Pg 39.
[7] Levy, F., K. M. Kendrick, J. A. Goode, R. Guevara-Guzman and E. B. Keverne. 1995. Oxytocin and vasopressin release in the olfactory bulb of parturient ewes: Changes with maternal experience and effects on acetylcholine, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glutamate and noradrenaline release. Brain Res. 669(2):197-206.
[8] Flower FC, Weary DM - Institute of Ecology and Resource Management, School of Agriculture, Edinburgh, UK. "Effects of early separation on the dairy cow and calf: 2. Separation at 1 day and 2 weeks after birth.". Retrieved 2009-05-29.