Buyers have been warned of the need to monitor suppliers despite coronavirus © Tim Graham/Getty Images
Buyers have been warned of the need to monitor suppliers despite coronavirus © Tim Graham/Getty Images

Tesco suspends goat's milk supplier over animal abuse

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
28 July 2020

Tesco has suspended a supplier and launched an investigation after footage emerged of animals being maltreated at a farm producing goat’s milk.

Animal rights group Surge claimed it obtained footage of goats at St Helen’s Farm in east Yorkshire being hit by workers, having their tails twisted and being pulled by their ears and legs.

The abuse took place as the animals were placed on a conveyor belt to have their hooves trimmed, a process necessary because they are kept inside their whole lives and their hooves do not wear down naturally, said Surge.

Surge said many goats were lame and struggled to walk or stand, while dead and dying animals were seen lying around the farm.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We require high animal welfare standards from all brands sold at Tesco, so these claims are deeply concerning. We have immediately suspended supply whilst we investigate the matter further.”

Buyers have been warned of the need to closely monitor suppliers, including getting them to sign up-front statements on ethical behaviour and in-person monitoring, despite the challenges caused by Covid-19.

Surge said St Helen’s products, including goat’s milk, yoghurt, butter and cheese, were sold in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Morrisons, Coop and Marks and Spencer.

St Helen’s Farm said in a statement to The Independent: “Today we have been made aware of allegations that one farm has infringed animal welfare standards, which we would find totally unacceptable if true.

“We have immediately ceased all milk supply from this farm and launched a full investigation to determine the facts of this matter.”

Danny Thompson, SVP, market & product strategy at auditing firm apexanalytix, told SM the coronavirus pandemic had disrupted audits but companies had to adapt and find ways to monitor suppliers.

“To protect the quality of their products and support their reputations as ethical providers, companies must closely monitor their suppliers,” he said.

“The most effective ethical treatment assurance programmes require suppliers to sign up-front attestations which help drive ethical behaviour, on-site inspections to ensure compliance, and continuous monitoring of global news to identify emerging issues.

“In-person monitoring is especially important for suppliers in industries that have a history of unethical behavior – like the mistreatment of animals, conflict minerals and forced labour.

“These types of audits have been disrupted by the pandemic, due to travel restrictions and concerns for personal safety. As the crisis continues, companies must find new, safe ways to resume robust continuous monitoring programs in order to address unethical behavior before it is too late – and before their reputations suffer permanent damage.”

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