Violent behaviour towards cows: farmers on trial after our investigation

© Essere Animali


Violent behaviour towards cows: farmers on trial after our investigation

Simone Montuschi

Monday 19 July saw the start of a trial against a farmer in the province of Venice and one of his employees, who were filmed by our investigator while abusing various animals and – in one case – killing a sick cow without stunning it first.

We would like to point out that this case is not related to the investigation into the farming of dairy cows for the production of Grana Padano, which we carried out and released a few days ago. This case is linked to an investigation into other dairy farms, published exclusively on Tg1 in 2018.

Back then, as always, we also denounced the documented abuse and illegal acts. Following the inspection by the Carabinieri Forestali of Venice, the deputy prosecutor in charge of the investigation decided that there were grounds to open the trial against the two farmers. The crime is the alleged mistreatment of animals (art. 81 paragraphs 2 and 544 ter of the Italian Criminal Code), contested in relation to the violation of Legislative Decree 146/01 concerning the minimum measures to be observed on farms for the protection of farm animals.

As in other trials already opened thanks to our investigative activities, we will use our energy and economic resources for the legal expenses. At this first hearing, we filed a civil action against the two defendants in order to obtain a conviction for the crimes with which they are charged. Any such conviction would form an important legislative precedent and a deterrent to other farmers, encouraging them to refrain from such violent behaviour towards animals.

Let’s go back to the beginning

In December 2018, we released an extensive investigation carried out on two dairy farms located in the provinces of Venice and Ravenna. This investigation documents the entire farming cycle for milk production: from reproduction, which takes place by means of artificial insemination, to milking up to the treatment of calves. A major investigation into animal welfare issues on farms.

“The defendants are remanded to trial ‘for having unnecessarily inflicted injuries on the animals in their care, subjecting them to cruelty that caused them unnecessary suffering”

On both farms, however, our investigators also filmed various acts of animal abuse and irregularities.

Alleged offences

With regard to the dairy farm in the province of Venice, the incidents that we documented and with which the two farmers (the owner of the farm and a worker in charge of the farm) are charged are as follows:

1. The killing of a cow by cutting its throat, without having stunned it first

This animal died in atrocious suffering after having been abandoned for two days, with no water or food, in an external fenced area together with a donkey that was constantly biting her back. This was a ‘downed cow’, a well-known phenomenon on farms in which the cows, exhausted by the intensive production of milk, collapse on the ground and are unable to get up again. However, their lifting is prohibited by EC Regulation n.1/2005 regarding the protection of animals during transport; they should be stunned and euthanised on the farm by a vet to limit their suffering as much as possible.

This scene was filmed by our investigator during the investigation.

© Essere Animali

2. Beating cows that were slow to move with sticks

Unnecessarily violent behaviour that, as you will read later, we unfortunately encounter frequently on farms.

3. The use of a thermocautery device without veterinary supervision for the dehorning of six 55-day-old calves

This is in violation of the provisions of the law referred to in point 19 of the annex to Legislative Decree 146/01.  In fact, the legislation permits the cauterisation of the horn buds, a practice that consists of disbudding the animals to limit the risk of injuries to farm workers, but only if carried out under three weeks of age, under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon and with the use of anaesthetics and pain relief.

bruciatura corna mucche essere animali
Despite being legal, this practice causes the animals a great deal of pain.
© Essere Animali

These are not isolated cases

Factory farms are cruel places for animals, where they are unable to satisfy their most basic ethological requirements and are imprisoned for life in cages or enclosures.

The law consents to the mutilation, imprisonment and exploitation to the point of exhaustion of the animals enclosed in these cruel places, but let us not forget that those who work on farms and in slaughterhouses are forced to respond to a production system that runs at an ever faster rate, which leads workers to become stressed and insensitive to animal suffering. Working in this way can seriously deteriorate the psychological and physical health of people and lead them to regard animals no longer as living beings, but as objects. A system that grinds everything down without mercy, including the workers.

We fear that these incidents of abuse are not isolated cases. By means of our investigations we have already documented various incidents, also in the case mentioned above, namely the dairy farm in the province of Ravenna, the images of which gave rise to this investigation, and the trial has confirmed episodes of violence against the animals.

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