Italian’s Adopt A Cow Program: It’s Not What You Think

By Published On: 25 March 2015Last Updated: 23 January 2017

What do you think of when you hear the phrase Adopt A Cow? I hate to be the one to tell you, but there's a much different use for the Adopt A Cow idea, and it's all thanks to dairy-based cheese.

cows in a field

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By Daria Zeoli, Guest Contributor

When you live as an ethical vegan, your frame of reference is a bit different than the status quo. Let me give you an example. What do you think of when you hear the phrase Adopt A Cow? If you’re like me, you probably think of one of the many farm sanctuaries who rescue and advocate for animals destined for the food supply. Perhaps you even send a monthly contribution to one of these sanctuaries, having adopted a particular cow.

I hate to be the one to tell you, but there’s a much different use for the Adopt A Cow idea, and it’s all thanks to dairy-based cheese.

Recently, NPR’s The Salt ran a story entitled “Italian Cheese Lovers Find Their Bovine Match Through ‘Adopt A Cow’.” Small farmers in the Italian Alps, who make their cheeses by hand, can’t afford to export their product. And so, for an “adoption” fee, dairy-based cheese aficionados can come meet their very own cow and purchase their very own cheese.

Here’s how it works: With my adoption fee of 60 euros, I get an assortment of aged and soft cheeses made from Mery’s milk. She produces some four gallons a day.

How wonderful for everyone involved! Except, you know, Mery’s calf, who is not mentioned in NPR’s piece (to no one’s surprise). When are baby cows ever mentioned when discussing dairy products? How old were you when you drew the conclusion that without baby cows, there would be no milk? Did that conclusion lead you to the next question: What happens to the baby cows?

RELATED READING: Lifespan of Flies Is Longer Than Veal Calves

I’ll admit: in my three decades of drinking milk and eating cheese, it didn’t occur to me to question how we came by it. Isn’t that the crux of our issue as humans: a sense of entitlement, nurtured from childhood?

Skimming some of the reader comments, I see someone mention Mery’s calf and how Mery’s milk is for that calf. And then, an unsurprising opinion – Mery’s calf does not need four whole gallons of milk each day. Well, then, of course we should take the surplus! Of course. Let’s not forget: Mery – and her calf – are human property, and therefore, anything they produce is also human property. Let’s ignore the fact that a mother’s milk is nutritionally comprised of everything needed to turn a baby into a healthy adult – whatever species is involved. But hey – if a human being believes that a bovine calf does not need four gallons of milk to grown into a large cow, well then, sorry, Mery’s calf – you’re on a diet. We want cheese, dammit!

RELATED READING: Ditching Dairy: Might as Well Face It, You’re Addicted to Cheese

Something else that struck me about this story was said by the woman who came up with this concept: “Our traditions were dying, so I came up with Adopt a Cow.”

It really does go back to that one idea, doesn’t it? Tradition is a powerful concept in our society. Our holidays are wrapped up in rituals. Our family gatherings are often around the dinner table, with recipes passed down generations. There is comfort in tradition, in answering, “Why?” with, “Because we’ve always done in this way.”

But that’s not really a good answer, is it? There should be reason behind the ritual, and we should then critically think about whether said ritual is still valid. Humans have traditionally oppressed and enslaved others for centuries; that’s certainly not a good reason to continue doing so. And, no – I’m not saying that all of our traditions are that extreme. I’m not even saying all of our traditions are unwarranted. What I am saying is that we need to ask ourselves why we do what we do, and whether others are negatively affected because of it. If a human or non-human animal is exploited, hurt, or killed in the process of our fulfilling our traditions, then we need to seriously reconsider those traditions.

RELATED READING: Tradition is Not a Good Reason to Exploit Animals

So, back to this Adopt A Cow program. Is there potential for someone to visit their “perfect match” cow, look into her eyes, and realize that her milk is not ours for the taking? I hope so. I hope that something wonderful can come from it. But I am a pessimist – I don’t think the chance of someone visiting a cow for the purpose of securing cheese and coming out of it swearing off dairy is very likely.

This is why we must keep talking about the news we read, the comments we overhear, the traditions we carry and the advertising we are asked to take in and abide by. We have to keep talking about it all – because when we do, someone is listening. And that someone might just help us change the world – for Mery, the Italian dairy cow, and for millions of animals like her.

What do you think of the new “Adopt-a-Cow” program? Let me know in the comments.

Photo: Infomastern


  1. Carol Hirschi April 25, 2020 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    If there were no dairy farms, cheese makers etc.
    There would be no cows. They are domesticated and dependent on humans. There not wild animals. Cows would become extinct. Perhaps focus on making the industry kinder and gentler and more appreciative of these sweet souls. Give them a better life. Otherwise they will have no life. We all live lives that could end cruelty but few wish they were never born

  2. denis January 29, 2017 at 4:36 am - Reply

    Totally agree that it is important to underline the fact that calves are born (and therefore killed) so the dairy industry can produce milk. Dairy calves are often of little or no value and end up being considered a waste product.
    But saying the calf needs all the milk is’nt true. Dairy cows produce enough milk to rear several calves.

  3. Trish November 29, 2016 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    Are there any real “adopt a cow” programs? My daughter and I are vegan, and I’d love to give her a “cow” as a present for Christmas. But we don’t live in a rural area and aren’t suited to have a real cow. Are there any rescue places that sincerely allow the cows to live a good life (without breeding and whisking away their calves) but need someone to sponsor that cow for its food and other needs?

  4. KeepCalm LoveCats September 3, 2015 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Very interesting article. A month ago I decided to live the rest of my life as a vegetarian, who will become a vegan, for sure, in a very little time.
    To answer the question about “How old were you when you drew the conclusion that without baby cows, there would be no milk?”… it happened to me to be more than 30 years old. It is so terrifying to realize that such a logic process is somehow hidden to us as consumers…
    Anyway, while reading your article I thought that it would be a nice idea to pay that adoption for the cow only with one condition: to say to the farmers ” I give you the money, but you give that quantity of milk to the calf. You won’t produce any cheese for me or any one else. Just give the milk you were going to use to the one that belongs it and needs it, the calf”.

    • Daria Zeoli September 4, 2015 at 5:32 am - Reply

      Congratulations on your decision to live a more compassionate life! I hope the content here at YDV will help you in your journey!

      I really love your idea to turn this adoption premise on its head. I think it’s a powerful message! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Carla Johnston March 25, 2015 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Love the article.. I recently made the vow to be Vegan. It was the next step in a rather fast waking up and realizing I was perpetuating violence and suffering in this world. While watching the documentary Earthlings, I have never more gutturally cried from acknowledging the first moment as a little girl my Dad took me fishing and I watched the fish gasp for air and was “programmed” that fish don’t feel pain, which I knew then (and re-membered now) was a bleeping perpetuated lie. I created, in service, a Vegan product called NutBurgers (Carnivores are ordering cases of them) as a result of a life changing “download” that forever changed my understanding of reality and why we’ve chosen to be here at this unprecedented moment in time. I never fully comprehended what an impact this would have and as crazy as this may sound (even to me as I write), I had a family of cows in NC come over to me and I heard them literally thank me for bringing NutBurgers into the world. That download epiphany in 2006 showed me how the enslavement “power-over” separation programs are held into this false matrix and what is seeded into our DNA and coming through: the new “power-with” unity based model for enterprise, and life, that has the power when we choose love (vs. our programmed fear) to see ourselves as irreducibly interconnected. Anywhere or anytime we partake or intake violence, and expect peace, connecting to our natural state of peace and to be that compassion in the world is but an empty wish. It is my wish Daria that one day and my commitment of service to the Law of ONE that we will live in a world where no animal will EVER fear their fate will come at the hands of man and that we recognize our gift as stewards to a most treasured Earth…

    • Daria Zeoli March 25, 2015 at 8:23 pm - Reply

      I hope you get your wish, Carla. Thank you for reading and for sharing your story. I agree with the statement that partaking in violence and expecting peace is impossible. Peace begins on your plate.

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HELLO! I'm KD Angle-Traegner.

Writer, activist, and founder of Four Urban Paws Sanctuary. I’m on a mission to help people live a vegan life. Read more about KD…