Many commercial dairies make use of a special hormone called “Recombinant bovine somatotropin” which is often abbreviated to rBST or BST. This hormone is known to increase the amount of milk production.
The use of rBST is controversial and has elicited a lot of reactions from both animal rights activities as well as health advocates who feel that more research should be done on the long-term effects of the hormone on humans.
Other commercial dairy farmers are afraid that the hormone may hurt the cows, a fear that has been somewhat substantiated by studies that show that animals treated with rBST develop a disease that weakens the bones. Many of these cows even due after just one or two milking cycles while they are under the rBST regimen, which is why some heartless farmers apply rBST when the cows are nearing death. These poor animals spend their last days in pain, some experiencing malnourishment (nearly all nutrients go to making milk) and broken limbs triggered by calcium deficiencies. As a whole, then, rBST goes against ethical and humane practices.
Due to principle, or a fear of backlash from the public, dairy farmers who do not use this practice have begun labeling their products as “rBST Free.” In some ways they hope that the labeling will act as some kind of information campaign, which can make the people more aware about rBST and gain support for farmers who are against it. Others feel that it least it allows consumers to make an informed choice about whether or not to be exposed to rBST-contaminated products. Both the European Union and Canada have banned farmers from using rBST.