Hundreds of thousands of baby calves as young as two days old are being ripped away from their mothers and forced on terrifying, highly stressful journeys of 1,000 miles or more, according to a new investigative study by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI).

Rather than allowing baby female calves to grow up under their mother’s care on the Midwest and Northern farms where they were born, many dairy farms ship the female babies to calf-rearing farms in the Southwest until they’re old enough to produce milk or breed – if they survive the journey.

Most male calves and the remaining females are either immediately slaughtered as veal or sold to cattle ranches to eventually be slaughtered as beef.

As part of their investigation, AWI teamed with Animals’ Angels to follow a shipment of 200 calves sent on a 1,100+ mile trip from Minnesota to New Mexico, highlights of which can be seen online. The babies wore ear tags that indicted they were around a week old, and many still had their umbilical cords – putting them at higher risk of infection.

The witnesses observed as wide-eyed calves stood and bellowed – a  heartbreaking sign of distress – as they travelled 19 hours with no milk or water, with outside temperatures reaching 100+ degrees. Baby cows should be free to nurse every two to four hours at that age. They should also be bonding with their mother and experiencing fresh air, sunshine, and grass under their hooves.

These baby calves were forced to stand for hours in loud, scary, overcrowded, moving trucks in extreme temperatures with no food, water, or rest.

Those who survived the journey were placed in individual feeding stalls, called hutches, where their movement is restricted. The video documenting the calves’ journey appears to show thousands of calves in rows and rows of inhumane hutches being fed before their eventual slaughter.

Not only is transporting days-old calves inhumane, it puts the public at larger and increased risk through the potential spread of disease. Surviving calves are still at increased risk for infection due to their immature immune systems, which are weakened even more by the added stress – something the USDA recognized in a 2010 fact sheet.

LFT encourages everyone to turn to a cruelty-free, plant-based diet to help end the mistreatment and slaughter of innocent baby cows and all farmed animals. By decreasing demand for products that cause animals to suffer and be killed, we can contribute to a kinder future.

To learn more about the cruel practices of the animal transport industry, read how a study reveals that live animal transport regulations fail to protect animals.