Saying no to mega-dairies
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is campaigning for better milk from happy cows.
Herds of grazing cattle have shaped the British countryside for centuries. Unlike many other countries, cows in fields are still a regular sight for us in the UK.
But in recent years, dairy cows’ access to pasture has started to decrease as an under-resourced dairy industry looks to fix its problems by switching to industrial-scale farming, much like the systems we have seen decimate the farming infrastructure of North America.
Ten years ago there were around 30,000 dairy farms in the UK. Now, largely thanks to the ever-increasing disparity between farming costs and money paid to farmers for their milk, that number has dwindled to around 10,700 small and medium-sized farms.
Most UK dairy farmers have an average herd size of about 113 animals, and those with more than 200 cows are rare. The animals are usually able to graze and move around in small, regular groups which suit their sociable nature and help to manage livestock stress levels.
Compare this against industrial-scale indoor dairy factories that regularly house thousands of cows; it is not uncommon for 30,000 plus herds in the US and there is a farm in China with more than 250,000 cows. These factories can be a relentless treadmill, pushing everything to the extreme.
Milked around the clock with little or no access to grazing and plagued by illness, the welfare of ‘battery cows’ is a far cry from what we see in our British fields.
Worryingly, mega-dairies like these may be closer than we think. In 2010 planning applications to build mega-dairies in South Witham and Nocton, Lincolnshire were withdrawn after strong opposition. The Welsh Assembly is currently considering a proposal from a farmer in Powys to build a 1,000 cow intensive system.
Industrial farms are big business in the form of feed, machinery, drugs, vets and business advice, so it means that campaigning consumers are vital to transforming our dairy industry for the better. British people no longer tolerate eating eggs from caged hens, why should we accept milk from factory-farmed cows?
We strongly believe there could be a better alternative which places good animal welfare at its heart, but also benefits farmers and consumers.
Cows fed a diet of fresh grass produce milk with significantly higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and Omega 3, which have both been shown to be beneficial to human health.
There is also some evidence that milk from cows kept on grass contains less unsaturated fat so is likely to be better for you too.
But farmers can’t work to the welfare standards that they and the public want, unless there is a public commitment that people don’t want factory milk from ‘battery’ cows.
Help us champion cows and the countryside today. Find out more about our campaign.