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News Section Icon Published 10/07/2009

A new report and set of scientific opinions on dairy farming by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conclude that cows in the European Union suffer from a range of health problems including lameness and infertility as a result of being bred to produce large amounts of milk.

EFSA's report on dairy farming shows that cows are suffering throughout Europe as a result of breeding for high milk yields. Dairy cows are bred to produce more milk than it is healthy for them to produce and are increasingly kept solely indoors (zero-grazing), causing serious welfare problems.

High-yielding cow breeds such as the Holstein are designed to turn feed almost exclusively into milk which makes them hungry and emaciated as a result. The EFSA reports state that the risk of this negative energy balance is particularly severe in high-producing genetic strains. This leads to infertility and infertile cows are often sent prematurely for slaughter.

Phil Brooke, Welfare Development Manager at Compassion in World Farming said: "This is a long overdue report. For far too long, we have been milking cows beyond endurance. We need to breed a robust cow which can produce sustainable amounts of milk on pasture without mining her own body - a cow with a work-life balance."

Compassion in World Farming calls on governments and retailers to insist that cows should be bred for health and welfare rather than excessive yields and encourages all consumers to choose organic or RSPCA Freedom Food dairy products only.

Read more

  • Go to our Your Food pages for more information about which dairy products to choose
  • Learn more about dairy cows here

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