Animal Studies Journal


In this paper, I examine the dairy cow, her body and disposition, with a specific focus on the way we humans have designed her for our purposes, through the use of selective breeding and reproductive technology. I will also examine the consequences of this design for the health and welfare of the dairy cow and her calf. I will conduct this examination through the concept of ‘naturalistic mystification’, which I will use to challenge the dominant, hegemonic message, which presents the cow as natural, and milk as a nonharm product. Rather, I will demonstrate that the cow and her milk are the creation of human intention, effort and the application of technology with a view to using the animal for gain, and that while these technologies have greatly increased the milk yields of dairy herds, it has come at a high cost to the dairy cow and her calf. This design project is now embedded in a variety of social, legal, political and economic institutions, which work to mystify the materiality of human interference and the exploitation of the animal. Its scope and impact will be demonstrated through an examination of the historical changes wrought on the body of the dairy cow over many centuries.