The suffering
of calves

on a farm producing
Grana Padano

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136.253 signed this petition
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This undercover investigation by Essere Animali documents the conditions of the calves on a factory farm producing Grana Padano, the most widely consumed cheese in the world. Despite being a product of so-called “Italian excellence”, what happens to calves on dairy farms is shocking: they are separated from their mothers at birth and imprisoned in small pens.

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It is incredible that the current legislation still permits the isolation and confinement of new-born animals, as these are cruel and avoidable practices. For this reason, together with 77 NGOs around the world, we are calling upon the European Commission to undertake a complete revision of the legislation on the protection of farm animals.

Join us to ensure that no animal is left behind.

Cruel practices documented

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 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.

"Bloody male"

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.

Graphic images Click to watch

Violent behaviour by the workers

During feeding, an operator kicks and hits the calves repeatedly. He also provides the calves with a limited number of buckets, preventing them from feeding at the same time and instigating rivalries between them.
In another sequence of images, a worker claims to carry out the disbudding of calves between the age of 2-3 months. This is in clear violation of the legislation that prohibits the operation because it causes great pain.
Although our investigator was unable to film the illegal behaviour, we still reported the farm to the authorities, stating the possibility of illegal and violent behaviour by workers towards animals.

No animal left behind

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136.253 signed this petition


Sources: Consorzio tutela Grana Padano 2021

The veterinarians' opinion

Prematurely separating calves from their mother is an abrupt interruption of the parental relationship, an important ethological behavior. This causes strong emotional pain for the mother and the calf, and this is demonstrated by their cries. The calves living in single boxes are deprived of the communicative relationship with the mother, which they seek as a basis for their ethological development, and this equally generates suffering. Feeding the calf with formula milk causes a lack of nutritional principles contained in breast milk and deprives them from their natural ethological behavior, since the liquid is quickly taken from the bucket and the need for sucking remains unsatisfied.
Enrico Moriconi - Veterinarian consultant in ethology, public representative for animal rights of the Piedmont Region
All the factors documented in this investigation cause stress and lower immunity, increasing the risk of disease and seriously compromising animal welfare with no opportunity for positive experiences or ‘a life worth living’ whatsoever for the animals involved.
Anja Dijkstra - Caring Vets, Association of Dutch Veterinarians taking a stand to improve Animal Welfare, based on the Veterinary Code of Conduct

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 77 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.


Thanks to our team of investigators, millions of people are discovering the reality of abuse and cruelty in farms and slaughterhouses. Our work saves animals and needs your support.

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