A new video from Animal Equality UK has exposed the “epidemic” of lameness among dairy cows in the UK.
Lameness refers to an inability to use limbs. Cows who suffer are unable to walk properly, and often cannot stand up. Many develop the condition after being forced to stand on hard surfaces for long periods of time while being milked. Lameness also occurs due to injury, ineffective hoof trimming, or infectious disease.
It is thought that around 30 percent of cows used in the dairy industry suffer from the condition. The new video, which is voiced by Plant Based News (PBN) co-founder Robbie Lockie, describes lameness as “one of the most pressing and common welfare issues that faces cows on dairy farms.”
To prevent them from falling over, cows are sometimes shackled by their legs like prisoners. The video features a number of distressing clips from undercover UK farm investigations, including instances of apparent animal abuse.
“Animal Equality’s investigators have witnessed on countless occasions cows who are unable to walk or stand,” Lockie states. “We have filmed workers forcing lame cows to walk, and hitting them with shovels when they could not. We have documented farms refusing to euthanize sick cows who are in agonizing pain, leaving them to suffer overnight.”
Illegal animal abuse
In line with the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, farmers shouldn’t cause “unnecessary suffering” to animals. They also have a duty of care under the act, and should take “reasonable steps” to ensure their animals’ welfare is met. This should mean that they seek veterinary advice for cows suffering from lameness
According to Animal Equality UK, however, many farms do not abide by this law.
Not only do many farming operations not provide adequate care, a large number actively cause suffering to their animals too, by beating them or striking them with tools. According to Animal Equality UK, this happens “across the UK.”
Speaking to PBN about the investigation, Abigail Penny, executive director of Animal Equality UK, said: “We would never leave a cat or dog to struggle in this way, yet millions of cows all around the world are suffering in silence every year. By ditching dairy, we can put a stop to this cruel cycle.”
Why aren’t farms being prosecuted?
Despite footage appearing to show illegal animal abuse, prosecutions for such law breaks are extremely rare.
Last month, it was reported that less than three percent of farms are inspected each year.
Further, research published by Animal Equality UK and The Animal Law Foundation found that just 0.33 percent of complaints led to animal cruelty prosecutions.
“The Enforcement Problem has been known by those that work in the animal field for a long time,” said Edie Bowles, solicitor and executive director of The Animal Law Foundation, at the time.
Bowles continued: “The problem exists across all areas of animal law, but what makes it particularly jarring for farmed animals is not only the extent of the problem, but the constant proclamations that the UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards on farms and slaughterhouses in the world.”
Future Animal Equality UK investigations
The recent Animal Equality UK video is part of a series – voiced by Lockie – that shines a light on the repercussions of animal agriculture.
Last month, the organization released one on “The Truth Behind Chicken Farming In The UK.” It will unveil around six more in the coming months.