Dairy industry reacts to sensationalist claims on BBC Panorama programme

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) is disappointed at the sensationalist picture painted of the UK dairy industry during last night’s (14th Feb) BBC Panorama programme, which showed several cases of animal abuse and questioned cow and calf welfare.

The programme titled ‘A Cow’s Life: The True Cost of Milk?’ detailed numerous cases of animal abuse on a Welsh dairy farm, which the RABDF is saddened by. It also highlighted lameness and the removal of calves from their mothers at birth.

RABDF Managing Director Matt Knight said: “UK dairy farmers operate to some of the highest welfare standards in the world due to the robust and comprehensive legal frameworks protecting animal welfare alongside the credible quality assurance schemes and initiatives that exist. Cow welfare is at the heart of everything they do. Happy cows are productive cows, which is why it is so important.

“Lameness was an issue highlighted on the programme with one vet suggesting up to 30% of cows expected to be lame in the UK. The industry is working hard to overcome lameness with diagnostic, early warning tools helping highlight the issues early.

“Our farmers work long hours, often going weeks without a break to ensure the health and welfare of their cows are maintained. So, we are sad the BBC has chosen to highlight one farm where inexcusable abuse was witnessed, as this is not representative of our industry,” he said.

Mr Knight added: “While the inclusion of the Ethical Dairy in Scotland, whereby calves are kept with their mothers, showed high welfare, the system is not commercially viable for most dairy farmers, with the programme highlighting that most of the liquid milk was consumed by the calves.

“The programme did, however, highlight the fact many farmers are losing money or making very little money, which is important as the value of milk is underestimated by the vast majority of consumers both in monetary and nutritional terms. It is time milk and dairy products are valued correctly,” added Mr Knight.

The UK’s sales of dairy products continue to rise, with an extra 302 million litres of milk bought in 2021 compared to 2019. In 2021, cheese volumes increased by 13.2 per cent compared to 2019.

Mr Knight added: “Our farms continue to improve the highest levels of welfare in the world and are vital in producing one of the most versatile products which form an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet.”

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