UK supermarket chain Morrisons announced it will stop slaughtering dairy calves at birth by the end of 2020 and allow offsprings to live for at least eight weeks old.
The retailer will soon be required to rear the calves to a certain weight until 15–40 days of age, at which point they will be sold to beef-rearing companies.
The announcement follows an investigation by the Guardian, which revealed an estimated 95,000 male dairy calves were being slaughtered on-farm due to farmers being financially unable to keep them.
Speaking about the new policy, Morrisons' Agricultural Manager, Sophie Throup, said: "We also want to show that dairy beef is not a waste product."
"By working together and bring[ing] dairy and beef farmers together, we can help suggest breeds which benefit the beef market and are good for dairy farming systems."
'Another smokescreen tactic'
But the announcement has received backlash from activists, who branded the scheme as a 'tactic' to try and ethically justify drinking dairy.
"Just like many welfarist gestures, this is another smoke screen tactic into tricking people into thinking it can ever be ethical to produce or consume dairy," said Robbie Lockie, Co-founder of Plant Based News and Founder of the initiative World Plant Milk Day.
"Whether they're four hours or four years old, these animals are sentient creatures that deserve to live a life free from exploitation and premature death. The reality is, the dairy industry is inherently cruel and perpetuates the myth we need to drink the breast-milk of another species to survive.
"'Progress' such as Morrison's new scheme is simply an attempt to disguise that. What the supermarket needs to do is push the production of dairy-free alternatives.
"Because luckily, we have a plethora of plant-based milk to try - from soy to almond to hemp - all of which are kinder to the environment, better for our health, and completely cruelty-free.
"If you genuinely care about animals ditch dairy. It's as simple as that."