As seen in the Mail Online today, pressure group Animal Justice Project filmed for SEVEN months on a ‘Supreme Champion’ organic dairy, Bath Soft Cheese.
As seen in the Mail Online today [1], pressure group Animal Justice Project filmed for SEVEN months on a ‘Supreme Champion’ [2, 3, 4] organic dairy [5] in the Southwest of England, Bath Soft Cheese [6]. The farm produces high-end organic cheese for retailers such as Abel & Cole [7] and grocery brand Planet Organic [8], as well as farmers markets. It has recently received an expansion grant from Dan Norris the newly-elected Mayor of the West of England [9].

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Video: ('clean' version also available for journalists)

Images


According to Animal Justice Project, the 273 hours of footage, taken between March and September, reveals some claims made by this organic farm do not match the reality. In a UK first, Animal Justice Project cameras captured cow-calf separation, and the emotional toll on calves and mothers. Also the verbal and physical abuse of cattle – with staff members slapping, punching, and kicking cows in the face, legs and udders; as well as hitting them with alkathene pipes. Multiple cases of lameness were filmed correlating to ‘impaired mobility’ and ‘extremely impaired mobility’ according to veterinary opinion.

In distressing scenes, three-day-old calves are dragged from birthing pens with ropes around their necks then taken to individual pens measuring just 3x6ft; significantly smaller than the bedded pens shown to visitors on the farm’s August public ‘open farm day’. On this day, staff had disassembled their usual calf pens completely and built much larger pens to show the public.

The five calves present on open day were filmed back in small pens four days later, out of sight of the public. Nobody other than staff were filmed in any areas we filmed - visitors only see what they are shown on open days. One newly-separated calf was housed in a pen for 28 days – twice as long as the farm’s two week claim. After reviewing the findings, veterinarian, Dr Molly Vasanthakumar stated that, “on this particular farm, calves are kept in individual small pens, with no contact to other animals other than through the bars. It is impossible to see how young, inquisitive animals are expected to display natural behaviours in those conditions”.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 states that an animal should be able to exhibit normal behaviour [10].

The investigation reveals the apparent anguish of both cow and calf post-separation, as evidenced by their persistent vocalisations and restlessness - indicative of distress [11, 12]. One calf cried for over 39 hours and his mother appeared to attempt to seek him out.

Cow-calf separation is an emotionally painful experience for both cow and calf. Research shows that cows form strong maternal bonds with their calves just five minutes after birth [13]. Studies suggest that this bond would be expected to be even stronger between cows and calves at Bath Soft Cheese, since calves are removed at around 3 days old [eg 14, 15, 16]. Longer than the industry standard of a day or two. Furthermore, the young calves at Bath Soft Cheese were dragged into a separate shed post-separation, but could still hear their mothers’ cries, which is thought to make the experience even more distressing [17].

The reality for cows and calves on Bath Soft Cheese appears to be a far cry from the wholesome image portrayed by the four-generation, family-run, 200-cow farm. Lameness was commonplace and may be a direct consequence of long periods spent standing on concrete – the NGO recorded such periods lasting up to five hours for some cows. Vasanthakumar states, “the footage from the investigation of Bath Soft Cheese reveals multiple cases of lameness in their cattle, the majority of which are a score 2 or 3 on the AHDB mobility scale, correlating to ‘impaired mobility’ and ‘extremely impaired mobility’. The lameness is most likely exacerbated by the long waiting times in the slurry-filled concrete collecting yards and passages prior to milking”.

Professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Marc Bekoff, who also viewed the footage, said of the abuse: “It is never acceptable to hit and kick farmed animals, particularly when they have nowhere to go, as viewed in this footage. Cows can discriminate between people who handle them roughly and who are gentle with them. Thus, any form of abuse, even verbal, is likely to be remembered.”

Vasanthakumar states: “The footage presented by Animal Justice Project reveals unacceptable methods of handling cattle. Cows are rushed through slippery, slurry filled concrete walkways, hit with gates and alkathene pipes, and shouted/sworn at.”

Mother cows are forced to give birth every year at the farm [18], and so are in calf for 9 months of the year. Female calves are filmed being disbudded with a hot iron, which is said to cause chronic pain even where an anaesthetic is used as the pain-relieving effects of the drugs are short-lived [19, 20, 21]. One calf had her leg trapped between the bars of a pen during the procedure, and the staff made no attempt to free it, callously letting the animal fall to the ground instead. Vasanthakumar states, “there is evidence to suggest that calves experience ongoing pain up to three weeks after disbudding, raising serious welfare concerns about this commonly used procedure.”

It is well-known that male dairy calves are a by-product of the dairy industry: an average of 60,000 are killed on farms each year in the UK, with a further 65,000 killed in abattoirs [22]. The slaughter of bull calves was filmed by Animal Justice Project earlier this year [23]. Contrary to claims made by Bath Soft Cheese to the public on its open day, and to stockist, Abel & Cole [24], that no calves are killed under 12 months of age as they go on to be reared for beef, Animal Justice Project filmed over a dozen Bath Soft Cheese calves (thought to be male bull calves) on their way to, or at, calf-dealer Will Pollett [25], whose real name is Nicholas Pollett, of Green Lane Farm, BS39 6ER [26].

Pollett was previously involved in the live export of calves [27], and is now an organic beef farmer [25]. However, Animal Justice Project has also revealed him to be a wholesale killer of unwanted dairy calves for their meat [28]. Pollett was filmed taking a double-decker animal transporter filled with calves to F Drury & Sons Ltd abattoir on a weekly basis. On one night, Bath Soft Cheese calves as young as ten days old were in the transporter [29]. Bath Soft Cheese calves were even left overnight on the transporter with no food or water before being taken to the slaughterhouse the following morning.

Bath Soft Cheese is in the midst of a Tb outbreak [30] Tb is not an automatic death sentence for young untested calves.

The findings, the Animal Justice Project says, should serve as a wake up call to any consumers who’ve trusted in the industry’s organic assurances.

Claire Palmer, Animal Justice Project director states: “Bath Soft Cheese really is milking its ‘high welfare’ status. Footage captured on this multi award-winning organic dairy is in stark contrast to the image portrayed by the farm. Callous kicking, slapping, punching, yelling and swearing at cows; the desperation and anguish of calves who cried for days after being separated from their mothers; and the pitiful individual housing afforded to youngsters for up to a month post-separation preventing play and other normal, social behaviours. A far cry from the spacious pens Bath Soft Cheese showed to the public. The shocking revelation that the farm sends calves as young as ten days old to slaughter is, Bath Soft Cheese claims, due to the herd’s Tb status. Tuberculosis, whilst a tragic disease, need not be an automatic death sentence for young, still-untested calves. The farm's claims that male calves go off farm for rearing and are not killed under a year-old fall flat, it seems, when these ‘unviable’ calves can be sent to the slaughterhouse. This decision is likely to be an economic one, rather than one born out of necessity. It’s time the public saw the heart-breaking reality of organic dairy, and the hard truth about Bath Soft Cheese”.

Animal Justice Project is calling on Abel & Cole and other retailers dealing with Bath Soft Cheese to conduct an immediate review of the findings and end the sale of the farm’s products.

Animal Justice Project is an animal protection NGO campaigning to end cruel animal farming practices, and advocating for a plant-based diet.

CONTACT


Claire Palmer MSc Zoology

Founder

Animal Justice Project

T: +44 (0) 785 149 7827
E:
claire@animaljusticeproject.com

W: www.animaljusticeproject.com / www.thefoultruth.org / www.lifelinecampaign.org / www.expiredcampaign.org

REFERENCES

[1] www.dailymail.co.uk/Fury-animal-cruelty-organic-farm-footage-shows-herdsman-kicking-cows-face-Video.html

[2] www.parkfarm.co.uk/awards-and-reviews
[3] www.specialityfoodmagazine.com/news/the-bath-soft-cheese- company-named-supreme-champion
[4] https://irp.cdn-website.com/b82df2c7/files/uploaded/ICDA%20 Cheese%20CLASS%20RESULTS.pdf
[5] www.parkfarm.co.uk/about-us/

[6] www.parkfarm.co.uk

[7] www.abelandcole.co.uk/producer/3/bath-soft-cheese-company

[8] eg. www.planetorganic.com/products/bath-soft-cheese-250g

[9] www.bathecho.co.uk/news/business/bath-soft-cheese- company-benefit-growth-grant-95020
[10] www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/45/contents

[11] https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2007-08560-016

[12] https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US201300871626

[13] https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2007-08560-016

[14] https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2007-08560-016

[15] www.goveganworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Marchant- Forde-et-al-2002.-responses-cows-calves.pdf

[16] www.veterinaryevidence.org/index.php/ve/article/download/241/320

[17] www.researchgate.net/publication/274013035_ The_effect_of_physical_contact_between_dairy_cows_and_calves_during_separation_on_their_post-separation_behavioural_response

[18] https://youtu.be/-9qXHSUoh4I

[19] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23438402/

[20] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads /attachment_data/file/902524/FAWC_Opinion_on_the_welfare_of_cattle_kept_for_beef_production.pdf

[21] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159111003236?via%3Dihub

[22] Per comms. Email to Animal Justice Project by Rural Payments Agency

[23] www.dairystillkills.org

[24] Per comms. Email to Animal Justice Project from Abel & Cole

[25] www.fieldandflower.co.uk/about-us/our-farmers/our-beef-will-pollett

[26] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/996221/Bovine-tb-afu.csv/preview

[27] www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/5068071/sanco-2677-99-pvet-en-2677r13doc-circa-europa

[28] https://animaljusticeproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/vlcsnap-2021-08-12-11h22m35s747.png

[29] https://animaljusticeproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/vlcsnap-2021-08-12-11h21m37s382.png &

https://animaljusticeproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/vlcsnap-2021-08-12-11h22m02s482.png
[30] www.ibtb.co.uk

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