Cooperatives Working Together to Kill Cows

I know I've been blogging a lot about the dairy industry these past few days. I promise I'll be blogging about other farmed animal and Animal Place related issues soon, but this article was brought to my attention. I had to post about it, it's just so creepy and Halloween is right around the corner, so it seemed appropriate.

Living in California, the largest dairy state, it's hard not to hear about the "plight" of dairy farmers. Feed prices are up. Milk prices for producers are down significantly. Farmers are left with decisions to make and who do they turn to when times are tough? Apparently, Cooperatives Working Together - a collection of dairy co-ops that get to benefit any time a down-and-out-of-luck dairy farm participates in their herd retirement program.

You heard that right, herd retirement. If you are a cynic when it comes to the language industry uses, you probably laughed darkly at that nice little term. If you are unfamiliar with the way agri-business spins and twists and confuses with language, then you might think herd retirement was synonymous with green pastures and nice, new cow sanctuary digs. Or maybe you do realize that herd retirement = slaughter. I mean, I know people generally like to consider a permanent retirement from the work place, but this is a bit of an extreme interpretation of the word.

If you're like this farmer, this is how hard the decision to retire your herd might be:
"He said it was the hardest thing he ever had to do," she said. "Luckily, my boys could do it."
Yes, it must have been downright tough-as-nails hard carting off 1,500 cows to slaughter. Lucky!! Someone else did it for this guy. Left out of the equation are the cows. You know the herd about to be retired? How do you suppose they felt being crowded into metal containers, transported miles to the nearest abattoir, unloaded, poked and prodded, shoved and pushed, forward motion to the man or woman who would punch a hole in their heads, cut their throats, butcher their bodies?

I am a compassionate person. But let's face facts, here: This family (and in all honesty, I wish them economic success w/o animals) has profited off of the exploitation and use of another species without their consent. These cows have had thousands of gallons of milk taken from them for people to drink, they have given birth to calves they've never nursed. This is their send-off gift of retirement? Well, it is just sooner than normal - all dairy cows are slaughtered, of course, even when they could live another decade.

Back to the Cooperatives Working Together (CWT). They even have a program where you can include all of the bred heifers in the herd. Bred heifers = pregnant. It does not matter if the cow is 45 days pregnant or full-term, nine-months pregnant - CWT will buy them for a flat fee of $700/cow. What happens to these pregnant cows? Their babies? Generally the cow is stunned and her throat cut. Inside her, the calf - if he is full-term - will struggle with her as she dies (for as she dies, so does he). The cow may then be cut open and her fully-conscious or, by then, dead calf removed from her womb. The calf may be used for research, his blood pumped from a still-beating heart to make use of their fetal blood serum. This is done without anesthesia. The calf might just have her throat cut as well (without a stunning blow to the head) and be processed alongside her mother. Mostly, the calves will be cut from their mother's body and their skin turned into soft leather. That last link has a video. It's graphic, you have been warned.

This year alone, CWT has paid for the slaughter of 225,000 cows. That's almost as many cows they've paid to kill since they formed in 2003. Around 55,000 cows are being killed per week - that's 7,850 cows a day or 327 cows every hour being slaughtered. Generally, around 2 million dairy cows are slaughtered annually, but at the current pace, another million - 3 million total - will be killed. 

So who benefits from the CWT? Certainly not the cows and calves - they're killed. The farmers who "retire" their herds? The money they get per hundredweight of their cows is hardly worth calling home about. It certainly won't help the farmer retire. They have to sell their entire herd to benefit from the CWT program and they can't use that money to buy more cows. Member groups certainly benefit. They're buying into a system that winnows down a diverse group of farmers to a small, more homogeneous group of farmers (those big co-ops, primarily). They certainly benefit from less competition. That does not seem like a good thing for anyone.

Help give cows a real retirement by supporting sanctuaries and vegan outreach groups. Reduce the amount of money you spend on animal products, choose alternatives, try veganism. These are meaningful ways to help animals.


tylynn said...

CWT is a program that is designed to strengthen and stabilize milk prices by balancing supply with demand.
If supply and demand in the agricultural industry was not balanced, agriculture would fail. If dairies throughout the United States produce more milk than they can sell, they lose money and are not able to pay for feed and commodities for their herd. If dairymen cannot buy feed, farmers go out of business because dairy farms are a farmers main source of income. If the farmers fail, the Beef Industry fails. Then what is the world left with? NOTHING.
Agriculutre is the world's supplier of FOOD, FIBER, AND SHELTER. If agriculutral producers discontinue production, it also causes people such as agriculutral attorneys and bankers to lose their jobs.
The clothes you are wearing right now come from agriculture.
The food you eat, that's from agriculture too.
The roof over your head...AGRICULTURE.
If one doesn't learn to appreciate what agriculture provides, they aren't appreciating life. Agriculture provides all of our bare necessities.

Back to the Herd Retirement Program.
When a herd is retired, it IS sent to slaughter but the process that the cattle go through is COMPLETELY HUMANE.
They don't cut the cow's throat or poke holes in its head. That is a waste of parts that could be manufactured and made into our everyday needs like clothes and toiletries.
Mankind has used animals as the providers of food and clothes since the beginning. God put these animals on the earth for our use. We are not in any way "exploiting" our animals.

In the sixth paragraph you state, "these cows have had thousands of gallons of milk taken from them for people to drink, they have given birth to calves they've never nursed." Milk is one of the largest sources of calcium and is important for strong and healthy bones, teeth, nails, and hair. All heifers nurse their calves on dairies when they are first born. It is a necessity. There is no need to say that any of the cows give birth to calves that they never nurse.

The video in the link you provided was not accurate whatsoever. In USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) approved packing plants, they stun the cattle, making them unconcious, so that they cannot feel anything up to their death. When a herd is retired through the CWT program, it is always sent to a USDA approved packing plant. The video in the link was not an example of what happens to cattle of a herd retired by CWT.
Check out USDA's regulations for such packing plants at

I come from a small, rural town that is centered around dairy production, farms, and ranches (beef production). I understand what it takes for these producers to keep their productions in business and supply the world with its necessities.

From this blog, it seems obvious that you do not understand the benefits of dairy production and any other part of agriculutre. Take a few animal science classes and find out how packing plants REALLY work. This blog is extremely misleading and almost everything, besides the statistics on retired herds, is untrue.

I am a sophomore in high school and from a couple classes on animal science and agricultural production, I understand more than the writer of this blog.
If one would just take the time to learn how the agricultural production really works, they would not feel such harsh feeling towards programs such as the CWT Program.

Marji said...

Dear tylynn,

Thanks for your opinion. :)

I'll let it stand as is, since I think it's fair for readers to read the opposition.

That said, I will point out that I did earn a degree in Animal Science from UC Davis and have worked on a dairy farm. I am familiar with cattle behavior and physiology. I'm also familiar with the dairy industry as well as animal agriculture as a whole. It's sort of important for my job. :) As hominem attacks are not necessary in order for you to convey your opinion.

Anne said...

tylynn,you sound like you are writing a term paper, wait until you at least graduate from college before reciting anymore statistics.You DO NOT understand more than Marji and you lack compassion.We can survive without using animals but people would rather indulge themselves then look for another way to feed and clothe themselves.