This MooFree May, we’re exploring how cows are treated in the dairy industry. All too often, society forgets that cows have complex emotions, relationships and personalities just like our beloved companion animals who we care for and love.
The Secret Life of Cows explores the dynamic lives these beautiful animals live, as we shed light on the cruelty of the dairy industry and the trauma this causes the millions of intelligent and loving cows enslaved by dairy.
Here are five things you probably didn’t know about cows!
They know how to hold a grudge!
In her book, The Secret Lives of Cows, Rosamond Young talks about having to repeatedly remove and return a calf from her mother for health reasons, which made the mother furious. The mother took three years to forgive her, often winding Young when she came to feed her.
In the dairy industry, all calves are taken from their mothers up to 48 hours after birth so humans can drink their milk. If Young’s cow held a grudge for three years, there must be lots of distraught cows missing their babies in the world.
They can recognise different people and will pretend they haven’t been fed in order to score second helpings!
Working on a farm, Young had one young calf who learnt to tell the difference between the different people working there. When he saw a new person for the first time that day, he would pretend he was hungry knowing he had a better chance of getting second helpings.
If you have a companion animal in your home you’ve likely seen this behaviour before, as you get those big pleading eyes when you return home – turns out cows are no different!
They like to play hide and seek and can be very mischievous.
It’s not often cows are thought of as playful and mischievous, but Young found they were often getting up to silly tricks and playing games.
She said one cow would often play hide-and-seek, gleefully galloping behind the nearest tree, waiting until Young had ‘found her’ (although she was obviously far too big to be hiding behind trees!) before galloping behind the next one.
This shows cows enjoy having fun and expressing themselves when given the space to roam.
They like to problem-solve and get excited when they find solutions.
According to Psychology Today “A 2004 Cambridge University experiment showed that young heifers exhibit behavioral expressions of excitement when they solve a problem. At critical points in their learning curve in a task that required pressing their nose against a panel to open a gate for access to food, the heifers showed behavioral signs of excitement (jumping, bucking, or kicking), and the animals' heart rates rose”.
This shows that cows are much more than commodities we can exploit for our benefit – but instead thinking, feeling creatures who have desires and emotions just like ours.
They are emotionally complex, have strong familial bonds and grieve for those they lose.
Young says of grief “For many years we have observed the depth of emotional and physical attachment that cows and calves feel for each other,” noting that mothers often grieve for their calf if lost.
PETA further asserts "A herd of cows… (has) complex social dynamics. Each animal can recognize 50 or more members of the herd, and relationships are very important to cows. They consistently choose leaders who have good social skills and are intelligent, inquisitive, self-confident, and experienced—while pushiness, selfishness, a large size, and brawniness are not recognized as suitable leadership qualities".
One can only imagine the intensity of suffering dairy cows must go through, having their babies taken from them time and time again only hours after birth and losing members of their herd due to being overworked and exhausted. While dairy cows are dealing with this trauma, they are still forcibly milked while grieving the baby that should be drinking it.
But it doesn't have to be this way...
If these facts about cows have encouraged you to try dairy-free, you don't have to say goodbye to all your favourite products. Viva! has compiled a comprehensive list of dairy-free alternatives readily available in supermarkets, including everything from plant milk and vegan cheese, to ice-cream and vegan custards. Our Scary Dairy website has everything you need to make the switch this MooFree May, helping you to live a more compassionate life.