Close

Cows

Cows are amazing

Cows are wonderfully curious and sensitive beings who would naturally live in small herds, form close friendships with others and develop a social hierarchy. Relationships are important to cows, and each one can recognise more than 100 members of their herd. Cows also form strong bonds with humans and can be as affectionate as dogs. Sadly, these sweet, peaceful beings are exploited in many ways, right here in Aotearoa.

The issues cows face

Cows in New Zealand face many welfare issues. Dairy cows are repeatedly impregnated so that humans can consume their milk, only to have their babies taken away from them to be killed. Cattle raised for beef may be kept in cramped and unnatural feedlots to be fattened for slaughter.

Steers and bulls are wrestled, ridden and tormented in rodeo events, with some even losing their lives for the entertainment of a small minority.

Cows selected for live export are usually taken from green pastures in New Zealand. They are sometimes shipped while pregnant, confined to small pens. They travel across the Pacific Ocean, where they can be thrown about in rough seas. Once the journey is over, they may be taken to concrete intensive farms to give birth, where they may be kept for years to be milked.

The dairy industry

Every year in New Zealand, over four million calves are separated from their mothers at birth. The milk which would nourish and sustain these calves is instead taken and consumed by humans. As many as two million calves are killed every year, considered ‘waste products’ of the dairy industry.

Many people don’t realise that a dairy cow needs to give birth to produce milk. One of the dairy industry’s darkest secrets is what happens to those newborn calves. Investigations in New Zealand in 2015 and 2016 exposed many of these issues, leaving many caring Kiwis shocked and wanting to take action.

 

Dairy and the economy

The adverse economic effects on the New Zealand economy of a ban on dairying is often given as a reason to continue with the dairy industry and its expansion. However, many academics and economists are starting to question our dependence on dairying.

Some Kiwi farmers are already ahead of the game and are converting from dairy farming to crop growing. Read about the remarkable story of two Kiwi dairy farmers turned hemp growers, who are paving the way for a cleaner, greener, kinder Aotearoa!

Dairy and your health

Despite what the dairy industry says, scientific studies show that we can get all the nutrients we need from plants. In fact, green leafy vegetables and legumes are some of the healthiest sources of calcium available.

More and more Kiwis are making the switch to plant-based versions of dairy products, and the options are endless!

Craving cheese and ice cream? Check out our dairy alternatives page for inspiration.

Inadequate enforcement

Despite the disturbing level of animal welfare problems and documented animal abuse within the dairy industry, prosecution for neglect or abuse on dairy farms is rare. The Ministry for Primary Industries considers prosecution to be a last resort, with ‘getting a farm back on track’ the usual approach. This is why New Zealand desperately needs an independent agency for animals.

Environmental impacts

Cows are not the only casualty of dairy farming. Our environment has been severely impacted through the modification of natural ecosystems, the compaction of land, pollution of waterways and greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental effects of dairying will only get worse if further dairy expansion is permitted. For the health of our environment, as well as the sustainability of our economy, we need to decrease our reliance on the dairy sector and animal agriculture in general.

Considering that animal farming is responsible for most of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases, there has never been a better time to embrace a plant-based diet. We have all of the tips and advice you need to get you started. Sign up for the plant-based challenge today!

Love cows!

Pledge to go dairy-free

Like other mammals, a mother cow must give birth in order to produce milk. Calves are taken from their grieving mothers.

Uncover the Facts

Natural Cow Lives

Cows would naturally live in small herds with a hierarchy, and have complex social interactions, including friendships. Each cow can recognise more than 100 members of their own herd, and relationships can be very important to them.

Industry Overview

By mid 2016 New Zealand had 3.5 million beef cattle, 2.5 million of whom were located in the North island [1]. The average beef cattle herd size on a beef and sheep farm has been estimated as 60–80 cattle.

Intensifying Production

As with the farming of several other species, dairy farming in particular has intensified over time. Improved genetics and nutrition have resulted in a 2–3% annual increase in milk production per cow in Western countries.

Housing and Management

Whether cows are housed indoors, grazed outdoors or organically, serious welfare concerns are common.

Physical Problems

Numerous physical problems cause pain and suffering for farmed cattle. In some cases, pain can be severe. These problems may also lead to premature death, when farmers choose to kill affected animals rather than spend money treating them, or because their productivity is reduced.

Husbandry Procedures

Several husbandry procedures routinely applied to cattle cause serious welfare concerns, because they are frequently painful, but are often performed without painkillers or anaesthetics, mainly to minimise costs.

Calf Welfare

In order to produce milk, cows must give birth to a calf each year. In the year ending 30 June 2016, 4.4 million dairy calves were born [1]. Dairy calves are either slaughtered as ‘bobby calves’, raised for beef, or raised as dairy herd replacements.

Inadequate Enforcement

Despite the disturbing level of animal welfare problems and documented animal abuse within the dairy industry, prosecution for neglect or abuse on farms is rare. The Ministry for Primary Industries considers prosecution to be a last resort, with ‘getting a farm back on track' being the normal priority.

Dairy and your Health

Despite what the dairy industry says, the healthiest source of calcium is green leafy vegetables and legumes. Kiwis consume substantial amounts of dairy products, despite scientific evidence that questions their health benefits and points to potential health risks.

Environmental Impacts

Cows and calves are not the only casualties of dairy farming. Our environment is severely impacted through compaction of land, pollution of waterways, and greenhouse gas emissions. This is only going to get worse as the national dairy herd increases in size. For the health of our environment, as well as the stability of our economy, we need to decrease our reliance on the dairy sector.

Dairy and the Economy

The effect on the New Zealand economy is often cited as a reason to continue with the dairy industry and its expansion. However, many academics and economists are starting to question our dependence on the dairy industry.

Eat with kindness

Try the Plant-Based Challenge

Eating a plant-based diet is the most important thing you can do to help animals. It's a simple switch, but it makes a big difference. You'll feel great knowing that you are putting your values into action. Challenge yourself to give it a try. We bet you’ll find it tastier and easier than you ever imagined!

Donate today

Help us continue helping animals in need.

As a charity, SAFE is reliant on the support of caring people like you to carry out our valuable work. Every dollar goes towards providing education, undertaking research and campaigning for the benefit of all animals.