This undercover investigation by Essere Animali documents the conditions of the calves on a factory farm part of the Grana Padano Protectioin Consortium, the most widely consumed cheese in the world. What happens to calves on dairy farms is shocking: they are separated from their mothers at birth and imprisoned in small pens.
Watch the investigation
It is incredible that the current legislation still permits the isolation and confinement of new-born animals, as these are cruel and avoidable practices.
This is why we want to persuade the Italian Government and the European Commission to undertake a complete review of ALL legislation that affects farmed animals in Europe.
Calves torn away from their mothers
At birth, calves are separated from their mothers and imprisoned in individual pens. They are dumped carelessly into a wheelbarrow and immobilised in an unnatural position, with one leg crossed around their neck.
The separation of mother and calf serves to facilitate the daily milking operations of thousands of cows, whose milk is thus destined entirely for the market or in this case also for the production of Grana Padano.
There is evidence that calves separated from their mothers at birth show behavioural and developmental damage, whereas calves that are raised in a group setting benefit in terms of both sociability and well-being.
Calves imprisoned in small pens
The calves are raised in pens as wide as their bodies and, in the absence of free cages, some are housed in pairs: as a result, they have even less space at their disposal.
There are hundreds of cages with calves located next to the shed that holds their mothers, with whom they will never have direct contact again. Some boxes have critical hygiene conditions, as many of the calves get sick and have episodes of diarrhoea.
Due to the infection pressure on factory farms, antibiotics are administered frequently. There is nothing natural about the way these animals are fed: they are mainly given a mixture of milk powder and water, surrogates of their mothers’ milk.
A new-born calf is insulted by one of the workers. On dairy farms, male calves are considered a by-product: unlike female animals, they cannot be reintegrated into the dairy supply chain and generate less profit.
GRANA PADANO SALES DATA
Sources: Consorzio tutela Grana Padano 2021
The veterinarians' opinion
This investigation raises the alarm about the conditions of calves on dairy farms. Unfortunately, the legislation allows for practices that cause significant stress and suffering to the animals. However, we will not lose heart; on the contrary, we have a great opportunity. In fact, the European Commission is now committed to the Farm to Fork strategy, an initiative that aims to make the European food system fairer, healthier and more environmentally friendly.
We want to persuade the European Commission to undertake a complete revision of the legislation on the protection of farm animals, which is currently seriously insufficient to guarantee them a life free of avoidable suffering. There are many of us! This is the No Animal Left Behind campaign, coordinated by Eurogroup For Animals – an organisation representing 82 animal protection NGOs in 27 Member States, the UK, Switzerland, Serbia, Norway, Australia and the United States.
The requests to the Commission include farming conditions that allow all farmed species to express natural behaviours, so that no animal is left behind.
For calves, we are calling for an end to the practices of isolation and confinement of newborn animals, specifically:
• Allowing contact between the calf and his or her mother for at least the first eight weeks, during which the animals must be kept in a contact system for at least half a day with suckling permitted.
• The provision of housing conditions that meet the behavioural needs of calves, which should be raised in groups and given access to outdoor areas.
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