Animal Equality investigation reveals M&S milk supplier confining large calves in small, solitary pens

United Kingdom
Animal Equality has released footage from a UK dairy farm flouting animal welfare laws which ban solitary housing for calves beyond eight weeks old. The Dorset farm supplies milk to Marks & Spencer, a supermarket that promotes itself as a leader in animal welfare standards.

The footage from this Dorset farm and M&S supplier 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.

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 our investigators found female calves as old as six months cramped and suffering in individual pens.

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 fulfill their strong need for social interaction. Our footage clearly shows calves desperately trying to groom each other through the metal divides of their individual pens.

We alerted Dorset Trading Standards which checked the registration dates of the ear tag numbers on calves photographed by our investigators 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. 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.

Labels and awards don’t help animals suffering in the dairy industry, but you can! Sign our pledge to receive dairy-free recipes and shopping tips: www.ianimal.uk/pledge