In yet another example of fitting an animal into a system, rather than the system around the animal's needs, workers cut the tails off – often just to stop the tail hitting them when they milked the cow.
In the summer of 2012, Compassion in World Farming initiated a series of undercover investigations into dairy farming within the European Union. Investigators visited over 50 farms in Germany, Denmark and Spain. What they found was shocking.
Far from being a wholesome sector, as many would believe, the footage we uncovered shows that nothing could be further from the truth.
Investigation into the farming of dairy cows in Europe
When cows should have been grazing in fields, our investigation found the animals were often kept in cramped and squalid conditions. Many cows were tethered inside all year round never feeling the sun on their backs. Many more were suffering from painful lameness, sores and wounds on their legs, overgrown hooves and docked tails.
Cows are tethered with a chain around their neck. Apart from standing up or lying down, they cannot move.
In many of the farms visited cows were kept indoors throughout the year and were never allowed out to graze on pasture. Often they are kept in barren, overcrowded, unhygienic conditions with no straw or other bedding.
In Germany many cows were tethered by chains, sometimes 24 hours a day all year round. All they can do is stand up, lie down and move a few steps backwards, forwards or sideways.
Apart from her milk yield, nothing else seems to matter
Whilst the footage we obtained comes from three countries, the conditions in which cows live is unlikely to be limited to just those countries.
The issue of dairy cow welfare is an extremely serious one, both in terms of the numbers involved and the length of time that they suffer for.
With thanks to the Marchig Animal Welfare Trust for funding towards dairy investigations.