This week, animal rights charity Viva! announced it had reported a series of animal abuses at a Red Tractor-approved dairy farm in Wales, UK.
Red Tractor is a food chain assurance scheme that underpins the highest standards of British food and drink. The company website says “the Red Tractor logo means that the food bought has been responsibly sourced, safely produced and comes from crops and animals that have been well cared for”.
During an undercover investigation, Viva! visited the Tafarn Y Bugail dairy farm on several occasions between February and June 2023, capturing more than 240 hours of footage.
At the time of filming, the 500-cow dairy farm supplied First Milk, one of the largest dairy cooperatives in the UK, which has long-standing partnerships with major F&B brands, including Nestlé and Arla Foods Ingredients.
In a statement, Viva! said the investigation revealed “multiple instances of excessive violence, with cows being hit, on average, 75 times per milking. In a particularly harrowing attack, which lasted over seven minutes, one individual cow was hit more than 55 times. Further footage shows the cows being pushed, shoved and kicked in the udder – with two also having their tails twisted.”
Viva! says that it reported all findings from the investigation to Ceredigion County Council Trading Standards in August 2023 and that Red Tractor were also notified and encouraged to take action.
A review by First Milk, as well as a spot audit by Red Tractor, found “nothing to suggest a systemic issue at the farm”.
FoodBev approached First Milk for comment. It said: “I can confirm that we’re aware of concerns about animal welfare at Tafarn Y Bugail farm. This farm supplied us with milk at the time the allegations were first highlighted, however, it is no longer a First Milk supplier – a decision made by the farm that is unrelated to this issue.”
It continued: “First Milk is committed to leading standards of animal welfare across all our member farms. We were very disappointed to see such footage and worked closely with the farm to investigate the allegations and address any welfare concerns that were highlighted.”
“A member of our team visited the farm as soon as we were made aware of the allegations and saw no evidence of immediate animal welfare concerns. In addition, we notified Red Tractor Assurance, who conducted a spot audit, with the auditor being satisfied that animals were content, with minimal stress and no signs of significant injury or disease.”
Red Tractor told FoodBev: “Our technical team have reviewed the available footage, and an assessor has since conducted a spot check on the farm – neither of which suggests a systemic issue at the farm. These checks have found evidence that animals showing signs of illness in the footage were being appropriately treated under the supervision of a vet at that time. Cattle are large animals and often require careful handling by trained farm workers to ensure good welfare outcomes for the entire herd. We will continue to monitor compliance including further assessments on the farm going forward.”
Eat Fair, a UK organisation that advocates for a plant-based food system, explained how the scenes at Tafarn Y Bugail are not isolated. In a statement given to FoodBev, Eat Fair commented: “The footage captured at Tafarn Y Bugail is shocking but sadly all too common in the British dairy industry. Practices such as cow and calf separation, repeated impregnation and disposing of males are routine and legal. What Viva has captured is not a bad apple but a typical large dairy farm.”
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