“Milk Life”: It’s No Life at All for Cows

By Gene Baur, President and Co-founder

For 20 years, the U.S. dairy industry asked consumers, “Got Milk?” Despite the industry’s highly visible marketing campaigns and huge government subsidies, today many consumers are saying, “No, thanks.” With milk consumption on the decline in the United States, the industry’s marketing branch, the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), has launched a new slogan: “Milk Life.”


The “Milk Life” campaign seeks to promote dairy as fuel for an active lifestyle. Using images of ordinary people performing athletic and energetic feats with the declaration, “What eight grams of protein looks like,” “Milk Life” is portrayed as fun, active, and family-friendly. But when we view these ads featuring, for instance, a young girl jumping into a pool, propelled by wings made of milk, let’s ask ourselves: what does “Milk Life” mean for a cow?

The confident and carefree lives of the everyday people shown in these new ads take on a dark hue when compared with the existence of the everyday dairy cow who is pushed to her biological limit, commonly producing ten times more milk than she would naturally. Dairy cows don’t get to run freely and explore outside, although they would love to. Cows are naturally playful, curious, and energetic, but in the dairy industry they are confined, frustrated and exploited.

Hooked up to milk machines

In order to maximize milk production, cows are subjected to a relentless cycle of impregnation, birth, lactation, and re-impregnation. I’ve been to dairy farms and seen babies taken from their mothers within hours of their births, which is standard practice. I’ve seen thousands of those lonely, frightened calves confined in wooden boxes, while their mothers are hooked up to milking machines. Cows are social animals who form close bonds with friends and family members, yet most mothers and calves in the dairy do not get to spend even a day together. Mothers are heartlessly separated from every baby they bear. Young female calves are raised to replace their worn-out mothers. The males are commonly sold for veal or beef.

A veal calf

A calf chained in a veal crate.

Cows can live to be more than 20 years old in a healthy setting like Farm Sanctuary, but the life of a dairy cow in production is short. At around four years old, dairy cows are considered “spent” and sent to slaughter. “Milk Life” for a cow is defined by strain, fear, and loss. It is not a life at all but a sad existence and premature death.

The dairy industry is cruel and destructive, and drinking cows’ milk is completely unnecessary for humans. Mutilations (e.g., cutting off cows’ tails), infections, the use of growth hormones, and the casting off of male calves to veal crates are all hallmarks of a system that ignores the interests of the living, feeling animals it exploits. And, we need cow’s milk no more than we need pig’s milk, or dog’s milk, or cat’s milk. Cow’s milk is for calves.

I am heartened to see that consumers are drinking less cow’s milk and that plant-based milks, including coconut milk, soy milk, and almond milk, are now widely available in mainstream grocery stores. At health food stores, there are even more options, such as hemp milk, oat milk, and flax milk. These alternatives are packed with nutrients and provide great fuel for all of the activities humans enjoy. Soy milk, for example, contains nearly as much protein as cow’s milk and even more vitamin D; almond milk contains more calcium than cow’s milk and only half the calories. All of these products can be directly substituted for cow’s milk for drinking, cooking, and baking. It has never been easier to make the switch.

As consumption declines, the dairy industry will continue spending millions to market cow’s milk to consumers in the United States and around the world. It will push to exploit export markets, just like the tobacco industry and other industries whose products came to be recognized as obsolete or otherwise undesirable. The dairy industry also realizes, however, that there is money to be made in plant-based milks, and they are beginning to invest in these types of products.

We each vote with our dollars when we make choices about what to eat and drink. By opting for plant-based alternatives to dairy, we vote to stop supporting a system where millions of cows suffer short unnatural lives in industrial settings that are rife with cruelty. We vote to stop tearing mother cows away from their babies. And we vote to support a more humane, sustainable agricultural system. In other words, we shun the “Milk Life” and simply vote for life.


Michael running free at Farm Sanctuary.



16 thoughts on ““Milk Life”: It’s No Life at All for Cows

  1. I was delighted to find that Walmart was completely sold out of the vanilla Silk we drink!! Keep up the good fight and educate!!!!! <3

  2. Wonderful perspective – I so wish everyone would see how terrible and tragic it is for these animals to be so deprived of everything natural to them for a food source that we do not need for healthy survival. It is encouraging to know that many people are seeking alternatives, however, I have also been reading that the demand for dairy products is growing in other countries and no doubt the dairy industry will do everything in its power to keep that trend going. Have to wonder sometimes if this will ever really be solved. Not giving up – just expressing concerns.

  3. Thanks! 75% of the world’s human population is lactose intolerant — 75%!!! How does the dairy industry get away with poisoning people while torturing animals? As a child I developed an allergy to penicillin thanks to drinking milk which I was forced to drink in kindergarten. It made me sick as I am lactose intolerant. At the age of 6 I told my teachers I would no longer be drinking milk forcefully at recess. They could speak to my arenas if they had a problem. Why are humans not taught to use their brains?

  4. (Where to begin)

    I’m 5th generation, borne and raised on a family dairy (Poestenkill,NY), of which I could never understand.
    I had been the thorn in their sides from the get-go.
    >Animals are my friends, not my meals.
    >Lactose intolerant, never liked the stuff anyway.
    >Question authority & peoples intelligence on daily basis.
    These 3 combined = oil + H2O in a dairy farm family business.
    4-H was a joke, exploiting animals.
    It was (at most times, still is) very difficult living here, seeing what I had seen, being put through & forced to do certain things > * BECAUSE ! * OR ELSE!* I was either mocked, made fun of, ignored or belittled. Worse of all , it being from my own family.
    Some of my best friends were moo-cows; their big squishy noses, they’re sweet, funny, playful, and their personalities are unique as yours and mine. As like many of the other animals I have known.
    To be enjoying the company of one of those silly beasts, then to not to see her … until on the dining room table.
    Made (makes) me sick to the core of my being…
    I seen my family’s priorities as being all fucked up and backwards. They haven’t changed much to this day. The only difference, no dairy operation in 8yrs.

    AT one point, I had moved on yrs ago, to another operation I-HAD-thought…better. I was wrong.
    Old Chatham Sheep-herding CO.
    I have some things to say about THAT place also!
    I HAD to turn them in, to the local Humane Society.
    I should not have been surprised, for the way they treated their employees also.

    I have too much to say, and there’s too little room.
    And most I feel, too little of an audience….

    If it were legal in this day and age,
    I wouldn’t be surprised if my family burnt me at the stake.
    My heart being broken over and over and over again….memories (nightmares) that haunt me and still give me pain in my heart and soul….
    for feeling so powerless.

    I do the best to teach my children (and those that will listen);
    explain to them
    show them
    prove to them…
    what’s right
    & what’s wrong.

    And in hoping, when funding prevails, to have a sanctuary here.
    To turn a place that exploited animals, into a safe haven for them all.
    In doing so, educating the masses on what really goes on in the food industry.
    Make them think.
    Make them question.
    Where Does my food come from???
    better yet
    WHO was my food???
    >someone’s friend.

  5. This is cruel and barbaric and must STOP – milk is for babies – ENOUGH

  6. Thank you so much for all that you do for these beautiful animals. <3 your are truly angels here on earth!

  7. je vote pour soutenir un système agricole plus humain et durable. Les animaux ne sont pas faits pour être traités de la sorte!! ils ont droits à l’ élevage naturel et non à ces prisons. En tout cas , moi , j’ ai choisi : pour ce qui concerne le lait et autres, j’ ai opté depuis longtemps pour le SOJA!!!

  8. How can I help to get this out? I am a cafeteria manager at an El. School and I say it kiddingly to the kids that milk is bad BUT I really don’t know how far I can take this without loosing my job!

  9. The milk industry is one big sham. Milk isn’t really that great for humans to consume. Way back when, Milk and the Dept. of Education decided milk was good for us and the rest is a tragedy!!!!! Having said that, organic is the only way to go.

  10. I hope all this animal abuse and cruelty can be stopped. What a sad reality we’re living and hopefully none of the plant based milk will B altered by adding unnecessary ingredients by these ambitious companies as the only payout for them is big $$.