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Dairy producers kill cows earlier to charge more for milk

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For those who still cling to the utopian imagery of a dairy cow aging gracefully in a pasture, a recent class-action lawsuit against dairy cooperatives in the U.S. might help illuminate how disposable cows are to the industry that exploits them.

Bloomberg shares the story of dairy cooperatives that have paid farmers to send their cows to slaughter prematurely in an attempt to drive the price of dairy up. The inner workings of U.S. agriculture economics are slowly being exposed, and the “herd retirement program,” led by Cooperatives Working Together, is at the forefront of it’s corruption.

Between 2003 and 2010, farmers could get higher prices for their cows if they killed them off before the were “finished” producing milk (by the industries standard). The idea was to be able to charge more for milk supplies when there’s less available for sale. But the crux of the cost issue comes from the chain dairy follows: farmers sell milk to cooperatives, cooperatives provide dairy to processors who use it to make products, and products are sold to retailers. Apparently it’s the processors making yogurt and other dairy products that are asking for far more than they can sell, creating the lowered prices that have affected farmers profits. It’s not a reflection of consumers eating or drinking less milk products.

So what happens when the market doesn’t demand more milk, but the farmers keep overproducing? Hundreds of thousands of dairy cows are sent to slaughter to help dig some people out of debt, and line the wallets of others. There are laws in place to protect consumers and farmers from profiteering like this, but even the $52 million dollar settlement this suit claimed is nothing for them.

Companies ask you to support your local farmers, when in truth, farmers are just one small piece of a long chain of exploitation that milks the worth of cows. It’s not the sale of non-dairy milk and vegan alternatives that’s to blame for the changing tides in this agribusiness, it’s producers who hail the all might dollar over the lives of cows, farmers, and consumers at large. The illegal dealings of the industry reduce violence to dollars and cents, and all of these lawsuits continue to perpetuate that cows are nothing more property.

Whether or not a cow lives out it’s short life giving milk to then be slaughtered, or it faces an early grave, doesn’t change the fact that all involved from milks creation to consumption see cows as nothing more than a source of income. They are commodified based on what suits human beings. Fighting for the end of their use, and not that how and when they’re used is changed, is the only reasonable position.

Don’t participate in the illusions of the dairy industry, go vegan.

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