The latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA] shows an increase of around four percent in the number of dairy cows sent to slaughter between January to November in 2016 and 2017.
According to reports, farmers send the animals to be killed when it is no longer profitable to keep milking them.
Joe Loria from animal rights charity Mercy for Animals says the data shows the industry’s view of these animals as mere commodities.
He added: “In its ongoing quest to produce the ultimate milk machine, the dairy industry genetically manipulates cows for greater and greater milk output.
“Over generations, this selective breeding along with techniques for pumping out the most possible calves means ‘replacement’ heifers are both easier to come by and more profitable.
“For this reason, farmers are swapping cows at an even younger age.”
According to Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, although farmers are killing cows at a younger age, this does not mean herds are necessarily smaller.
He said: “If we see cow slaughter numbers being up a little bit, I don’t think you can necessarily read anything into that because we’ve got plenty of animals to replace them.”
Stephenson claims ‘advances in breeding technology’ means it is easier for farmers to kill ‘less-productive cows’ and replace them with more profitable ones.
Loria says this view of animals as commodities leads to them leading horrific lives.
He added: “Forced to live in filthy, overcrowded sheds or lots, cows at dairy farms are repeatedly impregnated to continually produce milk, once a mother cow gives birth, the baby is stolen from her so farmers can sell the mother’s milk.
“The cycle of impregnation and birth takes a physical and emotional toll.
“A cow’s natural lifespan is up to 25 years, but because of neglect and constant breeding, cows at dairy farms live only about four years.
“Once considered ‘spent’, they are sent to slaughter, typically becoming ground beef. Horrific.”