Our investigations on two farms producing Grana Padano cheese are back online

Simone Montuschi

This is an important victory for us, because we have managed to ensure that the investigations in question are once again visible and shareable. Our job is precisely to shed light on what happens in the farms and today we can go back to doing it.

As you will recall from our article published on 10 January, after the Court of Brescia upheld the appeal of the Grana Padano Protection Consortium, we were forced to remove our videos that showed the footage filmed during two investigations on two different dairy farms, the milk of which was also used for the production of the most consumed PDO cheese in the world.

The investigations had been published in July and September 2021 to lend strength and visibility to the No Animal Left Behind campaign, coordinated by Eurogroup For Animals and launched to ask the European institutions to revise animal protection laws, including those protecting calves.

Despite this heavy blow, we did not give up and lodged a complaint against the decision. Among other arguments, our lawyers objected to the territorial incompetence of the Court of Brescia, which had been charged with the matter, as in this case the competent judge should have been that of the place where the videos were uploaded, i.e. the Court of Bologna, where our registered office is located.

A few days ago, we received good news: the Court has fully accepted our complaint, revoking the order by which we were ordered to remove the footage of the two investigations released last year. This means that today we can once again make the footage and images of these two investigations available online.

An important victory for us, because we have managed to make the investigations in question visible and shared once again. Our job is to shed light on what happens on farms and today we can carry on doing precisely this.

We would like to thank the lawyers Chiara Bianchi and Massimo Donna of the Studio Paradigma Law & Strategy in Milan for their legal assistance.

What did we document?

The first investigation, released on 13 July 2021, documented the living conditions of cows on a factory farm in the province of Bergamo, showing some violent behaviour by workers towards the animals but focusing mainly on the conditions of the calves, separated from their mothers at birth and then imprisoned in small individual pens.

On 29 September, we released a new video investigation carried out on a dairy farm located in the province of Brescia, part of the Grana Padano Protection Consortium. In addition to the separation of the newly born calves and their isolation in individual pens, the images also reveal a general situation of extreme neglect and the presence of many dead calves who died on the farm. The video was also released by The Guardian in the UK and by El Diario in Spain.

Officials from the NAS anti-adulteration and health unit and the veterinarians of the ATS health protection agency in Brescia, who intervened following our report, found several animals in very bad condition and the farm – on which irregularities had already been found in the past – was given a fine of almost 10,000 euros as well as numerous stipulations to comply with in order to remedy the deficiencies that had become apparent.

On both farms we filmed violence towards the animals, critical health conditions or other legal irregularities, episodes for which we also filed a complaint with the competent authorities. We cannot say that these violations take place on most Italian farms, but we certainly document these kinds of situations and activities with alarming frequency.

Legal practices, such as the separation of newly born calves from their mothers and their subsequent confinement in individual pens for up to eight weeks, occur on all intensive dairy farms. Although these practices are permitted by law, various studies indicate that they cause stress and suffering to the animals and are associated with behavioural issues. It is our right to criticise them and to commit ourselves to ensuring that these practices are abandoned.

Let us not forget that the Grana Padano Protection Consortium also filed a complaint for defamation and other crimes against some leaders of our association in relation to our investigations. We will therefore also defend ourselves in criminal proceedings if necessary, trying to turn this into an opportunity to talk once again about the shameful and unacceptable conditions in which animals are kept on dairy farms.

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