Photo courtesy of Animals Australia.
It will be known that a cow produces milk by giving birth to a calf. But as male calves do not lactate, nearly all are sent to slaughter in the first week of life. Similarly, female calves not kept to maintain the dairy herd may be sent to slaughter. In Australia, these animals are known as ‘bobby calves’.
Bobby calves are generally separated from their mothers on the first day of life. Not surprisingly, like other mammals, cows form immediate maternal bonds with their offspring. The process of separation is stressful for cow and calf.
For milk production to be maintained at commercially viable levels, cows are impregnated and give birth each year. The separation process is thus an annual occurrence.
In Australia some 700,000 bobby calves are slaughtered annually.
It is permissible to transport Bobby calves for slaughter on the fifth day of their life. Their welfare stands to be compromised at different stages of the journey. For example, unaccustomed to walking into and out of transport vehicles, calves may require assistance from the stockperson/driver. Yet there have been instances where calves were instead thrown into the transport vehicle. Further, trucks are employed which are not designed for these animals . Calves’ immature feet can and do slip between the slatted flooring.
Calves may go without adequate nourishment during transportation and whilst awaiting slaughter. Remarkably, calves can be off feed for up to 30 hours. You can read more about this here.
Uncertain of what is happening, these days old calves may be roughly or unsympathetically handled during unloading and herding at the slaughterhouse .For example, one recent undercover investigation exposed routine and illegal abuse of calves. They were shoved, pushed with electric prods, beaten, and dragged to the point of slaughter. You can read more about this investigation here.
Finally, welfare issues can arise on-farm. These include: calving induction; mastitis; lameness; dehorning and disbudding.
Please consult these links for further information:
- ‘The downside of dairy (warning: it could put you off your latte)‘, The Age, 29 September 2014.
- ‘Call for better life for dairy’s rejects’, The Age, 13 October 2013.
- ‘Victorian abbatoir accused of cruel treatment of unwanted dairy calves‘, Lateline, 1 February 2013.