This year will see some major elections, with both the American and French people choosing a new president. But Compassion hit the streets of Amsterdam and Paris last week to ask people to vote on a different subject: dairy cow welfare.
"Where do you want our milk to come from?" A passer-by casts her vote.
To launch our campaign for an EU Dairy Directive, we asked Dutch and French people, along with tourists from across the world, to choose where they wanted their milk to come from.
In Dam Square, Amsterdam, and then the Trocadéro, Paris, passers-by cast their votes in transparent ballot boxes. Voters had the choice between a system that allows cows access to pasture for the majority of the year and one where they are housed for the majority of the year. Both were represented on large posters.
The result was an overwhelming endorsement of Compassion's view that Cows Belong in Fields. Nobody voted for the "housed cow" option in Paris and in The Netherlands the cows with access to pasture were preferred by 98% of voters.
Towards an EU Dairy Directive
There are roughly 23 million dairy cows in the EU and there is no specific legislation to promote and protect their welfare. Laying hens, calves, pigs and broiler chickens all have EU laws specific to them.
Dairy cows can face serious health problems, such as lameness, mastitis, infertility and low life expectancy, often slaughtered after just three lactations. They can also suffer discomfort and injury from cramped or poorly designed housing.
But the events in Amsterdam and Paris concentrated on something that many people think is a given in dairy farming - access to pasture. Without pasture, Compassion believes cows can suffer injury, ill health and are unable to express natural behaviours.
Public Opinion - Cows Belong in Fields!
As well as chatting to people in these two European cities about dairy cow welfare, we also commissioned a YouGov survey in both The Netherlands and France.
A total of 83% of Dutch adults said they thought cow welfare was an important consideration when buying dairy products. In France the figure was even higher, at 87%. What's more, 73% of French people said they wanted their milk to come from cows that grazed in fields for the majority of the year and were indoors for the rest.
That compared to 7% who thought cows should be indoors for most of the year and in fields the rest and 3% who said they thought their milk should come from cows that were indoors for nearly all of the year and only grazed for a short period. Dutch people showed a similar preference for milk from cows in fields, with 73% also choosing that option, 2% the second and just 1% the third.
We will be building on the momentum of these public events to take our call for an EU Dairy Directive to the European Commission. In the coming months, we will reveal some exciting initiatives, all designed to get legal protection for our hard-working dairy cows.
- Find out more about dairy cows