No Antibiotic Use Means More Pain and Suffering for Organic Dairy Cows

mastitis dairy cows

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Mastitis is a contagious infection of a milk-bearing animal’s udders. Dairy farmers consider it a huge problem, not because it is extremely painful to the cow, but because it can reduce or halt the flow of milk, turning the milk “producer” from a financial asset into a liability. In conventional dairy farming, antibiotics are used to treat mastitis. But in organic dairy farming, antibiotics are prohibited, so those farmers use a syringe-like instrument called a canula to unclog mastitis-infected udders.(1) Though this procedure compounds the cow’s pain, painkillers are not customarily used; they would be an additional expense. If the canula procedure doesn’t work, the “useless” cow is typically sold at auction for slaughter — no matter how young she is and how fragile her condition. All this contributes to the premium price consumers are paying for organic milk.

According to the USDA’s own records, the mastitis pathogen is found in over half of tested cows in the US herd of 9 million. It is only one of the many diseases routinely found in today’s dairy cows, who are forced to produce up to six times more milk than their bodies are designed to produce naturally.

The dairy industry invests millions of dollars in research every year to find more “efficient” ways of managing mastitis in commercially-milked cows, goats and sheep. A testament to the power of the dairy industry and the prevalence of this disease in the dairy herd is found in reports such as this one, which are regularly produced in The Journal of Dairy Science.

For a look at some facts behind the dairy industry’s “Got Milk?” marketing pitch, see Marketing Versus Reality: The Myth of the Organic Happy Cow.

Learn more about the hidden cruelties of so-called humane dairy at our Dairy Factsheet.

(1) Harold Brown, former beef rancher and dairy farmer, vegan activist and founder of FarmKind

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About Robert Grillo

Robert Grillo is the director of Free from Harm which he founded in 2009 to expose the food industry’s exploitation of animals and foster greater empathy for farmed animals. As an activist, author and speaker, Grillo focuses awareness on the animal’s experience and point of view, drawing on insights from sociology, psychology, popular culture, ethics and social justice to bridge the gap between humans and other animals. As a marketing communications professional for over 20 years, Grillo has worked on large food industry accounts where he acquired a behind-the-scenes perspective on food branding and marketing. His new book, Farm to Fable: The Fictions of Our Animal Consuming Culture, reveals how popular culture uses a variety of fictions that condition us to consume animal products and perpetuate fasle perceptions of animals that make us feel better about exploiting them

1 comment

  1. Oh my God. What else can we possibly do to these innocent creatures to make their lives a living hell while on this earth. My head is spinning that they actually have a way to get to this milk (that belongs to their babies) and make the poor cow live in pain. This is nothing short of evil!

    When I heard that the price of milk was going up, I jumped up and down, thank goodness something good has happened. But then I read this. One can only hope that one day these people will get as good as they gave! Maybe not here on this disgusting earth, but when they stand before God. “These creatures belong to me!” that is what God has said about who owns them. He does, and think he isn’t upset!

    This is truly just another evil and inhumane act against these sweet and caring creatures that some see as nothing but profits!

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