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Complaint Over Misleading Cow Comfort

11 November 2009

US - In a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is alleging that the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) is deliberately misleading consumers by advertising in its sales-promotion campaigns that cows on California dairy farms live in "comfort," are "very well cared for," and are "happy." PETA asserts that these statements do not stand up to even passing scrutiny.

"If the CMAB is to be believed, cows in the dairy industry are free to kick up their heels in rolling green fields with a handful of their peers," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "The truth is that conditions commonly found on California's factory dairy farms have been scientifically proven to cause cows extreme physical pain and mental distress. It's a far cry from the idyllic existence promoted by the CMAB, which must be forced to stop lying to consumers."

Some of the points listed in the complaint include:

  • The CMAB advertisements show cows living peacefully in wide-open green pastures, but in reality, most cows on dairy farms live in barren, manure-filled dirt lots.
  • Calves are taken away from their mothers soon after birth.
  • Approximately one-third of the cows on dairy farms suffer from painful udder infections because the cows lack basic veterinary care and are forced to produce more milk than their bodies naturally would.
  • Typically, cows on California dairy farms are so weakened by their inhumane treatment that dairy producers send them to slaughter when they are only 5 years old--but with proper veterinary care, the natural lifespan of a cow is 15 to 20 years.

The CMAB have not officially responded, however on their website the article, 'Today's California Dairies' discusses best practice management, which suggests most cows are housed in freestall barns, with individual beds, which the cow is free to enter and exit. Bedding ranges from sand, rubber matting or a mixture of dried manure and almond hulls to provide a comfortable resting area for cows. Most dairy producers receive consultations from a nutritionist who advises on feeding plans for the herd.

The article says that animals who require special veterinary care are segregated from the milking herd into Hospital Pens to provide personal care to animals with an illness, and to ensure health of the overall herd. The majority of herds will have a close relationship with a local veterinarian who works with the producer to improve overall herd health.

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