Calf lying down in a dairy farm Madox Farms has been accused of abusing its dairy cows and calves. - Media Credit: Animal Equality

BBC Airs ‘Disturbing’ Footage Of Dairy Farm Abusing Mother Cows And Calves

The dairy farm supplies cow's milk to Freshways, which supplies to Costa Coffee, Morrisons, and British Airways

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8 Minutes Read

Undercover footage taken at Madox Farm in the UK has unearthed animal cruelty concerns within major dairy supply chains. BBC Panorama aired the footage yesterday in a 30-minute segment called A Cow’s Life: The True Cost Of Milk?

An investigator from Animal Equality, an animal protection charity, went undercover at the dairy facility in late 2021. The farm – based in Carmarthenshire in the south-west of Wales – houses more than 650 cows and their calves.

The footage shows dairy workers kicking and punching cows, and striking them in the face with shovels. 

Further, staff are shown using heavy machinery to hoist animals who had fallen over up by their hips. Some cows were left suspended in the air by their hips, while others were dragged along the floor, their faces scraping against the concrete. Many cows were unable to walk or stand up at all.

BBC Panorama, the world’s longest running investigative TV program, called the footage “disturbing” and “shocking.”

‘Alarming animal abuse’

According to a press release from Animal Equality, managers at Madox Farm knowingly let cows suffer to cut back on costs. One pregnant cow was “left in excruciating pain” after her unborn calf died inside her, the charity said. 

The on-site manager reportedly ignored a veterinarian’s advice to euthanize the animal; “this is one place where they’d rather just save the money,” the vet was recorded saying. The cow died in the night. 

Veterinary surgeon Marc Abraham OBE labeled the footage an example of “alarming animal abuse and neglect.” 

“There are a number of concerning incidents where appropriate medical care was not provided to sick, lame and injured cows, as well as several occasions where cows were struck violently and repeatedly,” Abraham said in a statement. “There is no doubt in my mind that these cows would have suffered significantly and that their prolonged pain was entirely avoidable.”

Cow-calf separation

The segment also shone a light on the routine removal of newborn calves from their mothers. In the BBC Panorama program, workers are shown separating new mother cows from their babies just hours after birth. 

This is “typical” at thousands of dairy farms across the country, Animal Equality notes, including at small-holdings and organic farms

In the dairy industry, cows are forcibly impregnated, usually via artificial insemination, so that they begin lactating. Like humans, cow pregnancies last for around nine months. Shortly after the cows give birth, workers remove their calves so that their milk can be collected for human consumption. 

The separation is considered heavily distressing for both mother and baby, with some mother cows bellowing after their lost children for days.

Warning: this image gallery contains graphic content relating to animal abuse.

Industry ties

Madox Farm supplies milk to Freshways, the UK’s largest independent dairy processor and wholesaler. Freshways distributes cow’s milk to a wealth of major companies, including Costa Coffee, British Airways, Budgens, Londis, and P&O Cruises. 

It also holds a deal with Morrisons, supplying milk to restaurants and cafes within the chain’s wholesale operation, as well as Amazon Fresh.

Speaking about the recently published covert footage, Freshways stated that the “famer involved has been suspended for all collections until such time as a reaudit and full investigation has been carried out.”

Backlash

Following the short documentary’s release, a “social media storm” took over Twitter, Animal Equality said. There, tens of thousands of commenters voiced their concerns about the industry’s treatment of animals. 

Lord Zac Goldsmith, environment minister for the UK, wrote: “What is wrong with these people? Absolute f*ckers.”

British actor Peter Egan appeared equally disturbed. “Anyone who wants to understand why the dairy industry is disgusting, inhumane, and careless should watch it,” Egan Tweeted about the program. “The consumer decides how cruel the industry is. My decision is to support a compassionate lifestyle and be vegan.”

Egan wasn’t alone in his view. #GoVegan began trending on Twitter – alongside #Panorama and #ACowsLife – just hours after the program debuted, Animal Equality said.

‘Consumers are being conned’

In response to the findings, Advocates for Animals, a legal firm dedicated to animal law, submitted a complaint to Carmarthenshire County Council. The complaint was made on behalf of Animal Equality, which has since launched a petition calling for stricter animal protections.

“Animal Equality has investigated over 40 farms and slaughterhouses in the UK since 2011 and we have found a shocking lack of regard for their welfare in every single facility,” the petition reads.

 “The UK is failing animals and it’s time for the government to act. The public puts its faith in accreditation schemes, awards and authorities, but consumers are being conned. 

“The truth is animal suffering takes place across all farms by this industry that consistently prioritizes profits, and whether it’s a small-scale organic farm or an intensive one, animal suffering can never truly be avoided.”

Those interested can view the petition here.

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The Author

Jemima Webber

Jemima is the Head of Editorial of Plant Based News. Aside from writing about climate and animal rights issues, she studies psychology in Newcastle, Australia (where she was born).

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Holger Lundstrom
Holger Lundstrom
7 months ago

We need more small and local animal husbandry, the way it used to be for most of our history. In large-scale farming operations, animals are just numbers. Small farmers know their animals by name.

rodentx2
rodentx2
7 months ago

If you wonder where large-scale animal farming comes from – the mentality, its methods, its goals, and its brutality — think “traditional” or “small-scale” farming. Animal farming, whether in the form of traditional methods or modern methods, is merciless and violent. Contemporary live animal markets are living proof of how “food” animals have been treated for centuries by traditional cultures. Modern large-scale animal farming is not a departure from but an extension of raising and killing animals for food. Stop being delusional. Large-scale farming is the traditional “family farm” of old on super-steroids.

What’s to stop the “small-scale” mixed animal farming from exploding back into large-scale animal farming as the unchecked growth in the human population continues along with increased demand? This business of “small-scale” is a half-measure, a band aid, not an effective solution.

With the global human overpopulation expected to reach 8 BILLION, how do you “humanely” produce all the animals needed to feed all these ravenous mouths via “small-scale” farming? Every day we add about 227,000 people to the planet — and that comes with a steep cost. Human population growth and overconsumption are at the root of our most pressing environmental problems, including the wildlife extinction crisis, zoonotic pandemics, habitat loss and climate change–and, of course, animal-based agriculture (all kinds).

Although large-scale farming is overwhelmingly bad for a number of reasons, the idea that small farms are the “solution” to animal suffering in meat, dairy, and egg production is also very much misguided and untrue. The parallels of suffering in both environments are similar, the fate of these animals is the same, and whatever small improvements there may be from one setting to the next is overshadowed by the fact that what we do to the animals we want to consume is not only inherently unkind, but it is unnecessary. We are not suffering from hunger or famine. We have an abundance of plant-based protein crops, foods, and menus to choose from.

The fate of the cow and her calf must diminish us. We are too proud, too arrogant, and too cruel…. We indulge our cleverness and convenience ignobly….
–Alan Long, Ph.D., from a radio interview, 1985

Holger Lundstrom
Holger Lundstrom
7 months ago
Reply to  rodentx2

I appreciate your TED-talk, and I enjoy being called “delusional” as much as the next guy. Also thank you for the insight that small-scale farming comes before large-scale farming, I always thought it was the other way around.

If you really believe that small-scale farming isn’t better for the environment or for the animals than industrial scale animal husbandry, I must conclude that I’m not the only one who is delusional. You should go visit an animal factory, and then a local farmer, and then tell me again that it makes no difference.

There are, by the way, areas where crops cannot be grown, yet cattle can be kept. So in terms of feeding as many people as possible, you would practically have to have animals.

If it’s against your moral compass, fine, don’t eat it. I agree that life without meat is possible in wealthy nations, and it’s sure to be healthier than the standard diet. Which is a good argument for veganism. Your arguments, in contrast, are pretty worthless, and I’ll eat a fedora if they ever convinced even just one person.

Charly bubbles
Charly bubbles
7 months ago

Absolutely horrific thank goodness I am vegan never liked cows milk anyway people should go vegan or take their drinks black and cereal with other plant based milk

rodentx2
rodentx2
7 months ago

Consumers are not being “conned,” they should know by now as there have been, over and over and over, numerous witness accounts and video exposure of all kinds of animal-farming systems–including “small-scale,” “humane,” “organic,” etc–as well as factory farming.

It’s the consumers which do not care about animals, which support all kinds of animal farming. It’s the consumers which keep these systems in business. They are not being conned. They know.

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There is definately a lot to find out about this subject. I like all the points you made

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[…] February, BBC Panorama confirmed an Animal Equality investigation into Madox Farm, a big dairy farm in Wales. It discovered that cows had been being punched, kicked, and hit with […]

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