Saturday, May 10, 2008

Downer Cows: Whose Fault?

What is a downer cow?

A downer cow is a cow that falls down and cannot get up. A cow that has walked in the evening, and cannot walk again the next morning.

A downer cow is an animal in pain. She lays down for one of two reasons. Either her bones no longer support her weight, or her brain is unable to send the proper signals to coordinate her movements.

When a cow goes down at her dairy farm, the dairyman can no longer send her to auction or to commercial slaughter. His choices are to slaughter her, euthanize and bury her, or call the renderer.

Each year, more than 200,000 dairy cows become downer cows, according to the New York Times (May 1, 2008). Many people are familiar with downer cows as a result of recent publicity surrounding the 143 million pound meat recall resulting from video footage filmed by Humane Society employees working undercover.

See: http://youtube. com/watch? v=SWmAJlwLnQI (53 seconds)

Some (not all) cows that become downer cows do so because their brains are infected with an encephalopathy called bovine spongiform encephalalitis, or BSE. BSE is also known as Mad Cow Disease.

USDA should ban downer cows from being used for meat and for pet food, but they refuse to do so, despite petitions from the cattle and dairy industry. Bills have been introduced in Congress to accomplish that ban, but those bills are now in committee, and may or may not ever be enacted.

Whose fault is it that cows become downer cows? Many people would blame the slaughterhouse, but that would not be fair.

Downer cows result from inhumane treatment of cows at dairy farms. There are no California Happy Cows, despite the lies told in cute television ads.

Slaughterhouse workers can easily identify an animal that has been treated long term with the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. How? He can rip apart her porous pelvic bone with his hands.

In 1760, the average American cow yielded just one quart of milk per day. By 1960, the average American cow produced 8 quarts of milk each day. In 2008, the average cow will produce 25 quarts of milk per day. That's a lot of milk, and these are severely stressed animals.

Milk is rich in calcium. Where does that calcium come from? From her feed, of course. From the grass turned to hay and from mineral supplements added to her daily rations. Where else? From her own bones.

Drink cow's milk and you drink her life. You deplete her bone density. Let the truth be known. Downer cows are cows whose bones dissolve from within until they become too weak to stand.

Dairy farmers see the warning signs. It is a race against time to milk the cow until she can be milked no more. To stress the animal until her milk production wanes. To get her to stand and walk onto the truck to be taken to auction. To get her from the auction ring back onto a truck and to the slaughterhouse. Many animals just do not make it. Sometimes the dairyman waits a day too long.

The bones rot from within. The cows go down and become downer cows. They are sometimes unloaded from trucks with machines, unable to stand and walk the final ramp to her own death. Are they downer because of Mad Cow Disease or because of stressed bones? Do they have leukemia or tuberculosis or Johne's Disease, or are they just tired?

Slaughterhouse workers do not create the situation, but they must deal with it. They carry stun guns and cattle prods to urge the animals to first stand up and then be put down.

There ought to be a law. Yes. There ought to be a law. But what is a law? A law is a legal principle which must be enforced by the threat of punishment because men have sacrificed their moral principles.

So who is really at fault for the downer cows? It is not the slaughterhouse worker who is there to do the cleanup. It is not the dairy farmer whose agricultural practices lead to downer cows. It is the consumer, who eats the pain and digests the abuse and must take responsibility for the wretched life and horrific death of each animal to satisfy a lust for flesh and body fluids. Robert Cohen

1 comment:

Bea Elliott said...

Well said - the dirty secrets of the dairy industry is precisely why I became vegan. I was the biggest cheese lover around - now, knowing the cruelty and being aware of all the negative ills of consuming milk products - I know I will never succumb to "the power of cheese" again.

More suffering in a glass of milk than in a steak.... For health & heart - Go Vegan!