EU dairy farming investigations 2012

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.

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.

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.


What you can do

The European Commission must be made aware of the conditions in which some of Europe’s dairy cows exist. To take action, please visit and call for much needed legislation to guarantee minimum welfare standards for Europe’s dairy cows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Overcrowded sheds

Help fight for a better life for dairy cows

Your donation today could help us change the way dairy cows are farmed. If you’re sick and tired of seeing animals suffering, please support the fight for better dairy cow welfare by making a donation. Dairy cows urgently need your compassion. Thank you.

Donate today

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

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