Dairy Australia misleads public

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 7 February 2011

Following intense consumer pressure, Dairy Australia responded to the public outrage caused by Animals Australia’s public awareness campaign with misleading information. Get the facts.

For the first time, the Australian dairy industry has come under intense public scrutiny for its callous treatment of ‘bobby’ calves — some 400,000 week-old calves sent to slaughter annually as ‘waste products’ of the dairy industry.

Animals Australia’s public awareness campaign hit newspapers nationally on January 27th alerting the public to a shameful proposal by the industry to legalise the withholding of food from these vulnerable animals for the last 30 stressful hours of their lives as they are trucked and prepared for slaughter. National TV coverage soon followed.

Thousands of outraged people have since held the dairy industry to account by expressing their dismay at the proposal. Rather than take this opportunity to examine how the industry could begin to bring their practices closer in line with community values, Dairy Australia has chosen to mislead the public whilst refusing to acknowledge that denying milk to a hungry week-old calf for up to 30 hours is unacceptably cruel.

Dairy Australia says…

“All dairy calves are removed from their dams when they are young to reduce the risk of disease and research suggests that separating cow and calf as early as possible reduces the stress on both"

The whole truth…

Cows carry their unborn calves for 9 months and have been known to bond with their babies in just minutes. At any age, the separation of cow from her calf can be profoundly distressing. Cows will often bellow for their missing babies, sometimes for days.

Dairy Australia says…

“The bobby calf market is valuable…"

The whole truth…

Male dairy calves are not wanted by the dairy farm — they are sold to redeem the costs incurred to feed them for their first 5 days, and often because farmers prefer not to kill them themselves.

Dairy Australia says…

“The proposed standard will improve the welfare of calves as it provides assurances that calves must be fed within 30 hours from the last feed where currently there is no standard in place"

The whole truth…

The national Cattle Code currently recommends that bobby calves should not be deprived of feed for more than 10 hours during transport to slaughter. Dairy Australia wants to extend this by 20 hours! Despite the current recommended 10 hour limit, this is not usually adhered to. Instead it is common practice for many calves to be without food for 24 – 30 hours. The recommended standard is not about improving animal welfare — it is about legalising existing unsatisfactory practice.

Dairy Australia says…

“Industry will continue to support that processors slaughter calves as soon as possible which is often a lot less than 30 hours."

The whole truth…

The RIS states that calves will be fed usually from 8 – 10am on day 1, and left overnight at an abattoir, then be killed from 5 or 6am – 3pm the next day. Many calves will therefore be 24 – 30 hours off milk.

Dairy Australia says…

“Animals Australia supports a scenario of animals being slaughtered on farm as it means the calves are not subject to transport"

The whole truth…

Animals Australia does not agree with the routine practice of separating newborn calves from their mothers only so that they can be removed from the milk producing system and killed. However, whilst this practice remains legal, and unwanted calves continue to be born, it is our position that on-farm killing (quickly and competently) would at least spare these vulnerable calves from the rigours of handling, transport, and slaughter — and of being without food for up to 30 hours.

Dairy Australia says…

“Calves have water available to drink at the abattoir if they are thirsty."

The whole truth…

Many calves will not drink water — they have to be taught. This will do nothing to assist their hunger.

Dairy Australia says…

“… when calves drink milk it forms a ball like substrate in the stomach and is released slowly over time … calves can go for a lot longer on one meal than humans."

The whole truth…

Our scientific critique indicates that this milk ‘bolus’ would break down totally by about 9 hours after feeding — i.e. from about 9 hours calves will again be hungry.

Dairy Australia says…

“We also have training in place to ensure calf handlers know how they can and can’t handle calves"

The whole truth…

Regardless of the training and incidents of bad handling being brought to the attention of authorities, Animals Australia continues to see bad handling on a regular basis. These are young calves without the maturity or physical ability to move well and so they are often thrown or dragged by impatient handlers.

Dairy Australia’s promotional video on their website aimed at convincing the public that bobby calf welfare is a priority for the industry says…

“This early pattern of care and attention extends across the animal’s life, making sure they always have ample feed, shelter, and water."

The whole truth…

Common industry practice is to deny bobby calves liquid feed (milk) during transport to slaughter. They then pushed for a legal standard that denies calves food for up to 30 hours.

The key to creating a kinder world for bobby calves rests with an informed public. Decades of relentless marketing have led consumers to believe that milking cows is a ‘natural’ and ‘wholesome’ process. In reality, the distressing separation of mother and calf coupled with the appalling treatment of calves sent for slaughter paints a very different picture.

Whilst the government continues to support cost-saving industry measures that weaken animal welfare, only increased consumer pressure will force transparency within the dairy industry and bring hope for a kinder future for bobby calves.

Every informed consumer is another potential ambassador for these unwanted animals. Please help spread the word by sharing this video with your friends.

Post to Facebook | E-mail to a friend