Animal Equality UK footage released recently shows calves up to six months old caged in solitary pens, many so big they can barely take a step forward or back. It also shows them struggling to get into plastic hutches, designed to shelter them in poor weather, resulting in large open sores on their backs.
Dr Toni Shephard, Executive Director of Animal Equality UK, said: “Seeing row after row of baby calves alone in tiny pens —when they should naturally still be with their mothers —is truly heartbreaking. But realising that many of these are actually older female calves who, contrary to UK animal welfare law, have been confined like this for many months is shocking.”
She added: “UK animal welfare law recognises how vitally important exercise and social interaction is for calves and restricts solitary housing to just eight weeks, yet on this farm Animal Equality found female calves as old as six months cramped and suffering in individual pens.
“We are calling on M&S to break ties with this supplier immediately. We urge all supermarkets to implement a zero-tolerance policy when farms break animal welfare laws.”
Separating day-old calves from their mothers and confining them in solitary pens is standard practice on dairy farms around the world. However, under UK law calves must be moved to group housing at eight-weeks old to fulfil their strong need for social interaction. The footage captured by Animal Equality also shows large calves desperately trying to groom each other through the metal divides of their individual pens.
Animal Equality alerted Dorset Trading Standards which checked the registration dates of the ear tag numbers on calves in our photographs and confirmed that many were older than eight-weeks old. M&S also sent in auditors.
Around 1,000 calves are housed at Grange Dairy in East Chaldon, Dorset, which is owned by J.F. Cobb & Sons. This large farm rears female calves born on other local dairy units belonging to the company — a constant supply of calves being an unavoidable by-product of milk production.***
According to its website, J.F. Cobb & Sons supply milk to M&S on a premium contract that rewards higher animal welfare.
The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 requirement on calf housing is detailed on page 28 of the Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Cattle.
J.F. Cobb & Sons website www.jfcobbandsons.co.uk
***Cows, like all mammals, only produce milk to feed their young. The commercial milk industry impregnates cows every year to ensure a consistently high milk yield. Read more here.
Animal Equality is a voice for farmed animals all over the world, inspiring individuals, companies and policymakers to adopt compassionate changes for animals. The organisation has offices in the UK, the United States, Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and India.