The True Cost Of Dairy

Starfish Bobby Calf Project is a vegan animal rights group dedicated to rescuing bobby calves from the dairy industry and raising awareness of their plight.

Starfish rescues a small number of bobby calves each year. These calves become ambassadors for those who were not so lucky and were sent to slaughter.

We rehome our calves to forever homes where they will not be home-killed and used for meat. They live out their full, natural lives in the company of other cattle. They do not need to provide a product or service to humans to be deemed worthy of existence.

We advocate for veganism and for animal rights. Animal rights is different from animal welfare. Animal welfare is the ideology that animals are ours to use but it must be ensured they live a “life free from unnecessary pain and suffering” and that they are slaughtered “humanely”. Animal rights is the idea that non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives and that their most basic interests—such as the need to avoid being killed—should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings. Veganism applies the theory of animal rights to practice. It rejects the use of animals for food, entertainment, vivisection and fashion. Veganism is compassion, justice and mercy for the millions of animals used for human purposes every year.

A “life free from unnecessary pain and suffering” is a nice sentiment, but what the industry deems as necessary is nothing short of disturbing. You can find out about the cruelty inherent in the dairy industry and how this affects the lives of cows and calves in New Zealand on this website.

In New Zealand, every year an average of two million calves are sent to slaughter between four to ten days of age as they are considered surplus to requirements.

Like humans, a cow must give birth in order to begin producing milk. A dairy cow is impregnated each year and her calf is removed shortly after birth. Bobby calves are the unwanted calves that are considered surplus to requirements. They can be both female and male. They are sent to slaughter between the ages of 4-10 days old. A farmer cannot have a milking herd without cows that birthed calves. Calves play a vital role in the dairy industry.

We believe this is an unethical practice for a number of reasons, but mostly because it is cruel.

As stated in the Animal Welfare Act Dairy Cattle Code, “In dairying systems, because milk is the product to be sold, calves are removed from their mothers at a young age.” This usually occurs when a calf is less than 24 hours old.

When a calf is separated from it’s mother, she suffers because on the main they are extremely maternal and have a strong desire to nurture their calf and protect it. Recent footage from Farmwatch demonstrates cows bellowing mournfully as their calf is removed and taken from them. What they captured was not an isolated incident.

A calving resource published by Dairy NZ recommends that farmers should

  • Be careful of cows after they have calved.
  • Cows can be very protective of their calves and become unpredictable.
  • Always keep the calf between you and its mother. Don’t turn your back on a freshly calved cow.

Bobby calves are either killed on the farm through the use of a bullet or sent on the bobby truck for processing via a slaughterhouse. In practice this can legally entail 24 hours without food; 12 hours of which may be spent on the truck. Calves, like all baby animals, are vulnerable. We believe killing millions of bobby calves a year for dairy production is an an act of institutionalised violence. It is a practice that has become normalised and socially acceptable as the necessary means to an end. Bobby calf slaughter is often referred to as “humane”, but the very definition of humane is the act of showing compassion. What is compassionate about sending millions of calves to slaughter each year?