An animal behavior expert has blasted dairy industry claims that calves are taken away from their mothers within 24 hours for their own good.
The statement was made by Irish Dairy The Complete Natural on its Facebook page.
The post by the dairy giant, which courted controversy last week after revealing a poster that described cow's milk as 'plant-based', has been described as 'fundamentally ignorant' by Dr. Toni Shephard.
The post, which is titled Calves Are Taken Away From Their Mothers After 24 Hours?, has drawn multiple comments from vegans disputing the claims.
'Best practice guidelines'
According to the post on Irish Dairy's Facebook page: "Separation is actually an animal health measure and it is within a farmer’s interest to care for his animals appropriately and within best practice guidelines.
"Once a calf is born, it is at immediate risk of picking up infections from the calving environment, the cow or any other animals in the same space.
"Therefore, it is best practice for disease prevention to remove the calf from the cow immediately after birth. Calves are moved to a clean, freshly bedded area in the company of other calves.
"Separation at a later time would increase infection risk and would be more difficult for the animals given that they would have had more time to bond - that's a fact!"
But Dr. Shephard says separating cows from their offspring can actually cause a number of health issues.
She told PBN: "Claiming that calves are removed from their mother immediately after birth to protect them from infection shows a fundamental ignorance of mammalian biology.
"Like all nursing mothers, cows produce antibodies to the pathogens in their environment and pass these on to their calves through their breast milk.
"Removing a newborn calf from his or her mother not only deprives them of this natural immune-boosting food, but also causes them extreme stress which further weakens their immune system.
"Cows will also regularly and meticulously clean their calves, removing any dirt and bacteria as well as reassuring and calming the calf, thus improving their natural defences."
An industry facing anger
Social media users responded to the post with outrage. At the time of going to press, the post had 204 comments - only a handful of which were positive.
Facebook user Corbin James McMahan wrote: "Or maybe you could stop pretending you care about the wellbeing of your animals beyond their potential to keep your (dying) business afloat?"
Laura Jones added: "Absolute lies.
"What baby is best off away from their mother? None. Stop lying to the public and admit to why you do it - to take the mother’s milk."
Laura Charlotte Tyler wrote: "The only reason calves are at risk of infection is left with their mothers is the squalid conditions farmers keep cows in!
"No wonder your farms are full of disease outbreak if you can’t even keep it clean enough for a new born calf to survive!
"We all know you don’t give a toss about the animals survival as your only interest is the profit you can make from their bodies and secretions."