Inside The Dairy Industry
In the UK 2.6 million cows are exploited for their milk. They are born just to be repeatedly impregnated so that we can take the milk intended for their calves.
Throughout their lives, they suffer greatly from multiple pregnancies, unnatural milk production, confinement and lameness. All things that are perfectly legal under current law.
Late last year, across several months, I started working undercover inside Madox Farm – one of the UK’s intensive dairy farms, which holds 650 cows – to document the reality of cows bred for their milk.
As an investigator, it is my job to document the daily lives of the millions of animals who are confined inside factory farms. The footage I capture is then used by Animal Equality to raise awareness of the suffering that the animal agriculture industry causes these animals.
Every time I venture inside a factory farm or slaughterhouse, I never know exactly what I will be confronted with.
There are certain practices that, although shocking, I expect to see because they are legal, but all too often I witness terrible abuses and violence that make the lives of these animals even more miserable.
Madox Farm was no exception. This is what I witnessed.
At Madox Farm cows are milked three times a day: at 5am, 12:30pm and again in the evening.
Cows are moved to the milking parlour across a concrete walkway. Once they arrive, their udders are sprayed with disinfectant before the milking machine is attached.
It is heartbreaking to watch an animal being treated like a machine, with little regard for her feelings or pain.
The hard concrete floor and the rough handling causes cows to develop lameness and injuries on their hooves.
At one point a cow collapsed in a milking stall. She was trapped in that tiny space and the worker started violently kicking her in the stomach to get her to stand up.
She was clearly in pain and unable to stand, so another worker came to ‘assist’ and started kicking her in the back while the other dragged her by the tail.
One day the acting manager instructed me to take the newborn calves and bring them to separate pens.
I felt heartbroken having to separate a mother and her baby, but that’s the norm on dairy farms and I could not risk being caught.
I gently lifted the calf in my arms and put her inside the wheelbarrow. She was so tiny and innocent.
As I walked away, the mother followed me and kept on calling for her baby. She did not want her to be taken away. She couldn’t understand why. All she knew at that moment was pain.
I will never forget the look in her eyes.
Because cows only produce milk for their babies, they are repeatedly impregnated.
Pregnant cows who are due to give birth are kept separate from the others. Once a cow gives birth, her calf is taken away from her within a few hours.
The new mothers are then moved back into the barn and put into the milking rotation.
The workers at Madox Farm were usually not as gentle as me when separating the calves from their mothers.
They often loaded these innocent beings onto tractor ‘scoopers’ and dropped them roughly inside the calf pens.
The first and only thing they will know in life is pain.
Female newborn calves, once separated from their mothers, are kept in separate pens where they are fed a milk replacement until they are old enough to take their mother’s place and be impregnated for the first time.
At Madox Farm I witnessed many cows dying, on their own or after being shot by the workers.
On one occasion, I witnessed a cow being dragged across the concrete floor by her hips with a lift. She was then dropped violently and shot in the head.
While I looked into her suffering eyes, I remembered how a worker joked about a cow being shot, laughing and calling her “dinner”.
Once a cow is not able to give birth anymore, or once her milk yield drops to make her ‘unproductive’, she is sent to slaughter or shot on-farm. All of this is legal.
Adult cows are not the only ones dying.
At Madox Farm I witnessed several calves dying prematurely.
Some died in their mothers’ wombs. Some died shortly after birth.
I have seen mothers licking the dead bodies of their babies, grieving for their loss.
Cows at Madox Farm were routinely abused and tormented by workers, who kicked them, punched them, twisted their tails, hoisted them with lifts and dragged them around.
One day I witnessed the acting farm manager forcefully pound his knee into a collapsed lame cow.
Another day I witnessed the acting farm manager tormenting a sick, restrained cow, hitting her face with a feeding tube while repeatedly trying to insert it into her mouth.
The cow ended up in such an agitated state that she suffered internal injuries causing significant bleeding from her mouth.
During my interview with Panorama, I had the chance to talk more in detail about some of the things I witnessed.
WATCH THE EXTRACTS OF THE INTERVIEW
When you witness so much pain, it is hard to choose what to speak about.
Each and every one of these animals is an individual who suffers in their own way. And so each and every one of their stories deserve to be told.
But there is one I have not yet told you about. One that I carry deep inside of me. One that I will tell you about in my email tomorrow.
Animal Equality’s team is now campaigning for stronger legal protections for farmed animals as well as ensuring that the laws currently in place are being properly enforced.
You can help them in their mission by signing and sharing the petition.