A group of animal-rights activists staged a demonstration in downtown Vancouver to highlight complaints about how cows are treated by the dairy industry.
Several demonstrators gathered at the bustling corner of West Georgia and Granville streets for the noon-hour protest today (May 9).
They handed out leaflets to passersby, and one protester who was dressed in a cow costume held a sign.
With Mother’s Day coming up, protest organizer Sophie Middleton said the goal was to raise awareness about cruelty toward dairy cows and their offspring.
“People don’t always realize, they think milk naturally comes from cows at all times,” said Middleton, who is with the Vancouver-based group Liberation B.C.
“They’re kept in a constant state of pregnancy, and their babies are taken at birth and they grieve them. They cry and moan,” she told the Straight at the protest.
“They are milked constantly during their adult lives, and then after a few years when their milk production goes down they’re sent to slaughter.”
A spokesperson for the Dairy Farmers of Canada, a national organization that represents producers, defended industry practices.
Thérèse Beaulieu said there is a national code of practice in place for the handling and care of dairy cows with guidelines for milk producers.
“Farmers are the primary caregivers of cows. They care for their cows very deeply,” Beaulieu told the Straight by phone from Ottawa today.
“They work with the animals every day. They certainly do everything to make the cows comfortable and healthy and happy,” she said.
Beaulieu said dairy farmers are open with the public about their practices and in some cases have set up webcams in barns.
In Canada, the dairy industry is worth billions of dollars annually, according to the federal government’s Canadian Dairy Information Centre website.
There are around 1.4 million dairy cows in Canada, and around 80 percent of the farms are located in Ontario and Quebec.
Middleton argued that the dairy industry has no place in a green economy.
“To raise cows costs a huge amount of energy in terms of grains and water, and so it doesn’t make sense. Despite the fact that it’s a huge industry, times change, you know?” she said.
“It’s clearly bad for our health, and it’s bad for the environment. I think it’s time to look at greener alternatives.”
Middleton encouraged people to buy alternative products like soymilk or almond milk instead of dairy.
“Choose compassion over cruelty and look at alternatives,” she said. “You can substitute something so that cow mothers aren’t losing their babies at birth and aren’t suffering and grieving for those babies so that we can enjoy somebody else’s milk.”