Cows - 'meat' | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

Cows - 'meat'

Cows raised for meat still suffer

Beef cows are bred simply to eat, get big and die. They gain weight quickly and are ready for slaughter at only 11 to 12 months old.


There are many different systems for raising cattle for meat, the least intensive being the suckler herd. The calf is kept with his mother or another lactating cow until weaned and is then put on grass until he is heavy enough to be killed at about two years old. At the other end of the spectrum, the most intensive method is where calves are taken from their mothers at birth and reared in pens on milk replacer and pellets.

Mutilated without anaesthetic

During the first week of their lives they are usually castrated and have their horn buds chemically burnt out without anaesthetic. In the case of older cows a hot iron might be used and, theoretically at any rate, an anaesthetic. To put weight on before slaughter they are taken to fattening sheds and fed on high quality cereals. There may be straw bedding but it is becoming common to use slatted concrete floors on which cattle find it difficult to stand, often resulting in lameness. Some farms keep up to 8,000 animals this way, cramming them into sheds to stop them from moving around and ‘wasting’ energy in keeping warm. They gain weight quickly and are ready for slaughter at only 11 to 12 months old.

Dairy and Beef: cruelty entwined

Dairy cows are often impregnated with beef bull semen and these ‘weightier’ calves – male and female – are sold to be grown on for beef and often finish up in intensive units. After suffering their whole lives these worn-out cows then endure a gruelling journey to market, where they’re sent to fattening (finishing) farms before ending up in ‘low quality’ beef products such as pies, burgers, soups and baby food.

What can I do?

The best way to end the suffering of animals is to go vegan - or at least start in that direction. We can help you do just that. Please also share this page with your friends and family so that they know how animals suffer and how they can help end that suffering. Find out more about the truth behind dairy farming's hollow assurances at

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