I visited a dairy farm located on Route 2 about 20 miles north of Burlington, VT. The dairy owns about 150 cows and supplies all its milk to Ben and Jerry for ice cream. Ben and Jerry Company is considered to be an ethical company in the dairy industry. I do not know whether they owned the dairy or not. Here is the summary of what I saw and learnt:
It was milking time (5:00 p.m.) and the machine was milking the cow at 3.5 minutes per cow, without regard to how hard it was on the cow. It was extremely difficult for me to watch the cows' sufferings during the milking. To extract the last drop of milk, sometimes traces of blood got mixed with the milk. Every morning hormones are injected into the cows to increase their milk yields. Since cows produce the most milk during and after pregnancy, they are kept pregnant for their entire fertile life through artificial insemination. The pregnant cow delivers a baby after nine months (same as human does). If a male calf, of no use to the dairy industry, is born, he is shipped to the veal industry within two or three days of birth. The evening I was there, the farm was shipping three baby calves in a truck to a veal factory. The mother cows were crying when their babies were separated from them. I cannot forget the scene and can still hear the cries of the mother cows. The veal industry is the most cruel meat industry in the world. It produces very tender meat for delicacy meal. The baby calves are raised in the darkness in a very confining crate, which allows practically no movements, and are fed an iron-deficient diet. This way the meat stays very tender and properly textured. They slaughter the baby calves after six months. There is enough literature available about the cruelty in the veal industry. Within two months of delivery, the cows are made pregnant again. I did not have the stamina to watch the process of artificial insemination that the farm was showing off to us. About four to five times a year, this farm would take the cows outside for a walk. Otherwise, the cows are tied in one place and they have no choice but to defecate where they are confined. It badly stunk when I was there; the farm would wash the confinement areas once or sometimes twice a day, and the remaining times the cows would then live in their own waste. The life expectancy of cows is about 15 years. However, after 10 years, their milk production drops significantly so these cows are sent to the slaughterhouse for meat. Last year (Nov. 1996) I visited India and also visited a dairy farm near Bombay. I observed similar things; overall, things were actually probably worse because there are few enforced regulations. In the past (before the birth of a high-tech dairy farm) in India, cows were treated like a part of the family, and after feeding the baby calf, leftover milk was consumed by humans. However, as my daughter Shilpa always says, cows' milk is for baby cows and not for humans or their babies; no other animal consumes the milk of another species. We do not have the right to consume cow's milk for our benefit, and furthermore milk and its products are not essential for our survival. As I learned about cruelty in the dairy industry, I at first found it hard to believe. On a personal level, I feared that it would be impossible for me to become vegan. How could I eliminate milk, yogurt, butter, ghee, and cheese from my diet? To become vegan means that I cannot drink tea, eat any Indian sweets, pizza, milk chocolate, ice cream, eggless but dairy-containing cake, and many other items.
Nonviolence is the highest principle of our religion. However for our survival, the religion permits certain violence only by the lay people. Our scriptures clearly indicate that:
For our survival, the survival of our ascetics, and the survival of our religion (scriptures, temples,...