April 12, 2017
UK farming sector up in arms after controversial news report
A late-March article by The Guardian, alleging systematic ill-treatment of dairy cattle in British farms, had sparked an uproar from UK farming bodies.
Titled "Dairy is scary. The public are waking up to the darkest part of farming", the article painted a sinister portrait of a modern dairy farm in which farmers "brutally impregnate" a female cow with bull semen, and male calves are taken from their mothers only to be "shot and tossed into a bin".
Farming bodies, including the NFU, Dairy UK and NFU Scotland, AHDB Dairy, NFU Cymru, the Ulster Farming Union, RABDF, CLA and Ruma, slammed the article as "misleading" and distorted".
"Processors and manufacturers adhere to stringent rules to ensure consumers can pick up a wholesome bottle of fresh milk from the shop every day," the organisations said in a joint statement. They highlighted that cows are in good hands as veterinarians would go to farms "in the middle of the night" when urgent care is needed.
"Sadly, we know all too well that it is a lot easier for our detractors to use strong and empty words than to stick to the facts," the statement continued. "Our goals as an industry are quite simple. We want well-nourished and healthy people, healthy animals and a healthy planet. Calf and cow welfare is at the heart of every good dairy farm in the UK. Dairy farmers want to provide the best standard of care for both the cow and the calf throughout their life, making effort to ensure the animals are healthy and prospering."
The group also justified the use of solitary pens or "hutches" for housing calves, a practice being questioned by the article's writer.
"Hutches are seen by experts as one of the best systems of rearing young calves before they are moved into groups," the statement explained. "They comply with all welfare requirements for animal well-being and general health and allow the all-essential social contact calves need without risk of bullying. This leads to better health and biosecurity, and less antibiotics use."
When implemented correctly, the hutch method is "recognised worldwide as offering the best start for calves through a warm, safe and social environment with individual care," the statement claimed.
The group furthermore assured that hormones and antibiotic are under stringent control, with treatments requiring prescription by farm vets and "only in the interests of the animal's health and welfare".
"Strict withdrawal rules for meat and milk during the period of treatment mean no traces of that medicine are able to reach the food chain," the statement said. "Last but not least, what really matters is good management practice on farm, not the scale of the farm. All consumers have a right to choose what they eat and should be able to do so based on correctly presented facts."
The group also stated that it is open to engage consumers who wants to understand more about the actual reality of dairy farming.
"Don't rely on the misinformation of someone who is intent on attacking the UK's dairy industry," the statement concluded. "As food producers, we have a duty to give the tools to make educated choices and we do so honestly and honourably."
- Image: Animal Equality