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EU dairy farming investigations 2012

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.

Investigator

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.

Overgrown hooves

Many cows were in bad condition. They were underweight, and had some had severe foot problems.

Overgrown hooves

Milk production

Bred to produce vast quantities of milk, this dairy cow’s genetics favour milk production over maintaining body condition.

Milk production

Shackled pregnant cow

Tethered to the spot, the only grass these cows see is that which is brought in to them from outdoors.

Shackled pregnant cow

Tethered tail

Immobilised by a tether attached to her tail, she cannot swat away the flies that gather in these filthy conditions.

Tethered tail

Huge udders and shackles

For their own good? Extreme breeding results in such huge udders that cows are shackled to keep their legs in place.

Huge udders and shackles

Barren stalls in Denmark

In barren barns, cows ‘beds’ are sometimes so poor they cannot even fit on them properly.

Barren stalls in Denmark

Overcrowded sheds

Sheds can be overcrowded resulting in more timid cows being forced to rest in the slatted corridors.

Overcrowded sheds

With thanks to the Marchig Animal Welfare Trust for funding towards dairy investigations.