When America’s dairymen poured milk down the sewer drains in mid-March of 1967 to make a point about milk prices, the media were there and American public opinion was outraged.
Now the federal government has quietly conceived and quickly implemented an even more bizarre approach to the milk price issue but hardly anyone knows about it.
The government is going to pay farmers to kill their cows. Even as you are reading this, nearly one million dairy cows, 340,000 heifers, and 250,000 calves are being branded for slaughter. Some already may have been slaughtered.
The program, authorized by Congress last year and euphemistically titled the Food Security Act of 1985, is officially called the Dairy Herd Termination Program; generally it is known as the federal whole herd buy-out plan; farmers simply refer to it as “The Kill Program.”
In brief, the plan aims to drastically reduce surplus milk and stabilize dairy prices by getting producers out of the dairy business. Farmers participating in the program will be expected to send their cows to slaughter and then promise to stay out of the business for at least five years. The program is expected to cost nearly $2 billion over the next five years with most of it paid for by taxpayers.
Not only are they going to kill Elsie the Cow, but they are going to brand her on the face in advance to make certain she does not escape the butchers.
To prevent cheating in the program, the Department of Agriculture requires that dairy cows be branded on the face with a hot iron before being shipped to slaughter. Bradley Miller of the Humane Farming Association, in San Rafael, California, said face branding is a brutal and senseless act to perform on cows. Miller said his group is not opposed to branding cows on the rump but strongly objects to branding the cow’s head because it is excruciatingly painful and unnecessarily cruel. Regulations stipulate that cows must be branded on the face with a three-inch “X” so that everyone knows they are to be killed. “There are 62 different nerve endings in the face and this would be extremely traumatic for the animal,” Miller said.
The humanness of the program aside, there is serious doubt that it will solve the milk surplus problem. John Seibert, an economist with the California Cooperative Creamery in Petaluma, warned that the program may backfire. He predicted that we “can expect surpluses of milk two years from now in spite of the buy-out.”
The proposed slaughter of more than a million of America’s dairy cows in a world where millions of children are starving surely deserves media scrutiny and public awareness.
AG ALERT, 2/26/86, “Here are ‘nuts and bolts’ of whole-herd buy-out plan,” p 18; SANTA ROSA (CA) PRESS DEMOCRAT, 3/10/86, “Furor over face brands,” p 2B, and 3/29/86, “U.S. buying 7% of area dairy herds,” p 1A, both by Tim Tesconi.