June 25, 2019
French animal feed provider in controversy involving cows with implanted 'portholes'
Sanders, one of France's major providers of animal feed and a subsidiary of food research group, Avril, found itself in a controversy after images showing cows with plastic 'portholes' surgically implanted onto their sides were publicly released by animal rights activists on June 20.
According to AFP, the revelation brought to light a practice that has been happening for decades and is adopted by researchers and the agricultural industry. Portholes are implanted on the cow's side to allow direct access to the largest of its four stomachs in order to optimise and regulate nutrition.
These animals, known as cannulated or fistulated cows, were purportedly seen in a video footage published by the L214 activist group. Secretly recorded between February and May, the video showed these cows present at the Sourches Experimental Farm, a Sanders site in northwestern France.
"They have pierced a hole into the cows' stomach so they can regularly access its content. Employees come regularly to open the porthole to deposit food samples or take them out," said the video. "The aim is to perfect the most effective form of feeding so the cows produce as much milk as possible."
L214 said it had filed a complaint with the regional prosecutor over the "illegal experiments and the serious animal abuses" at the farm.
"For Sanders and those involved in intensive livestock production, which is the norm in France, these animals are nothing more than production machines, a basic raw material at our disposal," the video continued.
The video was shared widely in social media and drew a strong response from Avril which dismissed the leaked footage as "sensationalism." The procedure of implanting portholes on cows, the group explained, had been employed for several years "in research on animals" and was currently being used "on six cows (at the farm) in the context of a research study designed to develop alternative practices."
The aim is to "improve the digestive health of millions of animals, reduce the use of antibiotics, and lower the nitrate and methane emissions linked to livestock farming," Avril added.
As Europe's second-biggest milk producer after Germany, France has some 3.6 million dairy cows housed at more than 61,700 dairy farms.