A campaign group has claimed a farm supplying milk to brands including Costa Coffee and Iceland is mistreating cows, with animals being “kicked and slapped” and living in faeces.
An investigation by animal rights campaign group Viva! claimed there have been “multiple incidents of animal cruelty” at a dairy farm in Kent that supplies cow’s milk to Freshways, a milk supplier to Caffe Nero, Nisa, Budgens, Londis and British Airways.
Undercover footage showed workers slapping and kicking cows at Home Farm in Kent, which has a herd of over 500 cows. The campaign group claimed the farm was “faeces-soaked”, and cows had to have their legs shackled to prevent them sliding in the sordid conditions.
Home Farm has denied the allegations, while standards body Red Tractor gave the farm a clean bill of health following an investigation.
Lex Rigby, head of investigations at Viva!, told Supply Management current law and regulation was “failing to protect” animals in supply chains.
Rigby said: “As a supplier to major food and drink retailers, Home Farm is approved by Red Tractor, a so-called world-leading food chain assurance scheme. A Red Tractor seal of approval suggests animals are cared for to a higher standard than basic government regulations. However, they saw the footage from Home Farm and denied any wrongdoing.
“These images of severely emaciated cows, bleeding wounds and improperly disposed of carcasses clearly speak for themselves and prove otherwise.”
She added: “Home Farm is a typical UK dairy farm, it’s not an anomaly. Dairy cows are treated this exact way day in, day out, all over the nation.”
Many of the animals were found to be malnourished, struggling to walk and lame, which can be a sign of extensive standing on hard floors and poor nutrition. They were also found to be suffering from mastitis – an infection caused by dirty living conditions and frequent milking.
Dead calves were found discarded in wheelie bins. Not properly disposing of animal caucuses can cause “the transmission of diseases” among animals and humans. One adult cow was found “shot in the head and dumped outdoors”.
“This is a blatant violation not only of the cow herself but also of UK regulations that dictate that farmers cannot leave the dead bodies of their animals out where scavengers can find them,” Viva! said.
Cows were further found to have “colossal udders” which was found to be causing cows “immense pain and distress”. Up to 25 litres of milk can accumulate in a cow’s udder, which is the equivalent of five bags of potatoes.
Viva! continued: “This is modern dairy farming. It’s unacceptable that animals are treated like this in 21st century Britain.”
Red Tractor said it had found the farm was complicit with standards following an investigation and it had “consistently demonstrated best practice in British dairy farming”.
A Freshways spokesperson said: “Our response mirrors the response made by Red Tractor and we are confident of their investigation.”
A British Airways spokesperson said: “We do not have a direct relationship with Freshways.”
A Costa Coffee spokesperson said: “Animal welfare is a key priority for us and our consumers, and we only work with suppliers that share our commitment to best practice in animal welfare management.”
The farm’s owner refuted the allegations to The Independent, saying it was “unlikely” farm conditions were filthy and denying cows were emaciated.
The other companies named by Viva! have been approached for comment.
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