Stephen Larson, a lawyer for the Dick Van Dam dairy, described the images as being staged or taken out of context. Earlier this month, a judge dismissed a lawsuit against the farm filed by another animal rights organization, saying it lacked quality. “The accusation that they mistreated their cows is something that deeply touches the Van Dam family, because the truth is that they have always, for generations, taken care of all of their cows,” said Larson.
Dairy industry experts and farmers who viewed the footage expressed disgust and said the abuse described was not the norm. “These videos make every dairy farmer and veterinarian sick to their stomachs because we know the vast majority of farmers would never do such things to their cows,” said Dr. Carie Telgen, president of the American Association of Practitioners. cattle.
The effort to turn Americans against dairy is gaining momentum at a time when many farms across the country are struggling to make a profit. Milk consumption has fallen 40 percent since 1975, a trend that is accelerating as more people embrace oat and almond milk. Over the past decade, 20,000 dairy farms have gone out of business, a 30 percent drop, according to the agriculture ministry. And the coronavirus pandemic has forced some producers to throw unsold milk down the drain as demand for school lunch programs and restaurants dried up.
During his Oscar speech last February for Best Actor, Joaquin Phoenix drew loud applause when he urged viewers to reject dairy products.
“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are undeniable,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “And then we take its milk which is intended for the calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereals.”
The National Federation of Milk Producers, which represents most of the country’s 35,000 dairy farmers, has tried to dispel the public’s bitter sentiment by promoting better animal welfare among its members. This means encouraging more frequent visits to veterinary farms, requiring low-wage workers to receive regular training in humane handling of cows, and phasing out tail trimming – the once ubiquitous practice of pulling the tail off a cow.
“I don’t think you will find any farmers who don’t do their best to improve the care and welfare of their animals,” said Emily Yeiser Stepp, who leads the 12-year-old animal welfare initiative. the Federation. “Having said that, we cannot be deaf to consumer values. We need to do better and give them a reason to stay in the dairy aisle.