This advertising is false and misleading on the grounds of what it implies.
Consumers are increasingly aware of animal welfare when they choose their shopping. The promotion seeks to imply that this milk guarantees a level of care that the cows which provide other milk are not given. It also implies that dairy production is good for the welfare of cows more generally. The promotion seeks to reassure consumers that by buying this milk, they are doing a good thing for animal welfare.
I argue that (i) Tesco’s milk does not provide animal welfare standards (or ‘care’) that justify their statement and that (ii) the production and harvesting of milk is not beneficial to animal welfare and does not therefor constitute as ‘care’.
(i) Tesco’s milk does not provide animal welfare standards (or ‘care’) that justifies the statement in question.
The scheme in question does not appear to meet the basic dairy cow welfare standards which would make them winners of the ‘Good Dairy Award’ which is delivered by Compassion in World Farming. Other supermarkets have been able to meet the standards of this award.
Compassion in World Farming’s standards provide for the following welfare criteria for dairy cows:
• A written grazing policy must be in place and cows must have access to grazing in the grass growing season.
• No tethering is permitted.
• An active programme must be in place for the monitoring and reduction of lameness, mastitis, poor body condition and improving longevity.
When considering the ‘care’ of dairy cows I believe the general public would expect, at the very least, that cows have access to the outdoors during grass-growing season, that cows are not tethered, and that farmers are proactively working to reduce suffering caused by illness and or injury.
If Tesco is not able to meet these basic requirements it is highly misleading that they make claims that their scheme helps to provide ‘care’ for dairy cows.
(ii) The production and harvesting of milk is not beneficial to animal welfare and does not therefor constitute as ‘care’.
As previously mentioned, this promotion is designed to reassure customers who are concerned about the welfare of farm animals that buying (this) milk is good for cows. However, the commercial production of dairy involves a range of issues that are incredibly detrimental to animal welfare.
Dairy cows used in commercial production are typically breeds which have been selectively developed to produce high milk yields. With an increase in milk yields, there is an increase in problems that negatively affect the welfare of dairy cows. A paper by Compassion in World Farming details many scientific studies that show intensive breeding for milk production is bad for animal welfare. (Tesco does not appear to have any policy that discourages or prohibits the use of these breeds, which are used industry-wide). These cows are genetically programmed to prioritise milk production over the health of their own bodies. Given a natural healthy life, cows can live for twenty years or more. High-yielding dairy cows will typically be slaughtered after three or four lactations because their milk production drops and/or they are chronically lame or infertile.
Like any mammal, in order for a dairy cow to produce milk she must first give birth to calf. It is standard industry practice for calves to be removed from their mother either within a matter of hours, or after several days.
It is widely accepted that the separation of a calf from its mother is extremely detrimental to the welfare of both. Cows will quickly form strong bonds with their offspring as will the calves in return. It is well documented that mother cows will bellow for many hours or even days after their calf is taken from them. Calves also suffer immensely from this separation and call for their mothers. Studies have even found that separation at an early age causes long-term affects on their social behaviour.
As cows are ruminants, grazing is an important part of their repertoire of natural behaviours. Many cows used in dairy production are kept indoors all, or part of the year. (This Tesco scheme does not appear to include any requirement that cows have access to the outdoors). Cows reared indoors will have no opportunity to graze naturally, or even to experience the space, sunlight and relative ‘freedom’ that outdoor access provides. Permanent indoor housing of dairy cows is recognised as being bad for animal welfare by organisations such as the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming.
Buying milk and dairy products cannot be considered to ‘help care for dairy cows’ because this implies that the production of dairy is a force for positive animal welfare. Dairy production, in its essence, does not prioritise animal welfare or the ‘care’ of animals. It prioritises milk yields.
We respectfully ask that Tesco to withdraw this promotion immediately.