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Intensive dairies

Cows Belong in Fields. That is the simple premise behind Compassion in World Farming’s dairy campaign. And we are working to ensure that all cows have access to fields and pasture rather than being permanently housed with thousands of other cows, confined in giant sheds and milked three times a day - as they would potentially be in mega-dairies.

Our work on dairy cows is two-fold: within the European Union (EU) we seek to secure policy changes that will improve the welfare of all the EU’s dairy cows. In the UK we are working to ensure that all UK cows have pasture access and we peacefully oppose mega dairy applications.

What we are doing

Dairy truth: EU dairy investigation

Compassion in World Farming has long called for Europe’s cows to be given the same species specific protection that is afforded other EU farm animals, such as pigs and hens. In the Summer of 2012, Compassion in World Farming’s investigation team went undercover in over 50 farms in Germany, Denmark and Spain to highlight the welfare problems faced by Europe’s cows. Some of the footage is shocking, and it is not limited to just those three countries but a problem across many European nations.

The need for European legislation

As part of this work to improve dairy cow welfare, Compassion formed a coalition with ice cream producers Ben and Jerry’s (a winner of Compassion’s Good Dairy Award) and The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) in 2012 to work, under the banner of Supporting Better Dairy.

Our ask: that the European Commission introduce an EU Dairy Cow Welfare Directive that will aim to protect the welfare of over 23m dairy cows. By ensuring:

  • Good Housing
  • Good Feeding
  • Good Health
  • Cows being able to express their natural behaviours

In October 2013, a petition containing almost 300,000 names was handed to the European Commission to demand the urgent introduction of legislation to protect the welfare of dairy cows. You can read more about this event.

The campaign for pasture access and against mega-dairies

‘Cows belong in Fields’ was the name of our campaign against Nocton Dairies – the UK’s first proposed mega-dairy. The simple premise of the campaign was so successful that we have now adopted the ‘Cows Belong in Fields’ name for our entire UK dairy campaign. Wherever possible we oppose mega-dairy applications and we continue to work to ensure that all cows have access to pasture.

Compassion in World Farming believes that all cows should have access to pasture, at least during the grass growing season and during the rest of the year if the weather remains sufficiently dry.


June 2014


Following a long running legal battle that culminated in a Judicial Review, a mega dairy in Wales was granted approval for expansion.

October 2013


Supporting Better Dairy Coalition delivers 293,000 signature petition to the European Commission. Read more about the petition.

Summer 2012


Compassion in World Farming’s investigation team went undercover in Germany, Denmark and Spain. Read more about the investigation.

April 2012


Compassion joined forces with Ben & and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), under the campaign banner of ‘Supporting Better Dairy’

16 February 2011


Compassion campaigns against Nocton mega dairy, winning a historic victory. Read more about the campaign.

Read more


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If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).