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Viva!, a vegan campaign group, said undercover investigators visited Tafarn Y Bugail in rural Ceredigion on several occasions between February and June.
Investigators saw a catalogue of ‘horrific scenes of animal abuse’, including alleged ‘extreme rough handling’ of cattle and ‘dead animals left outside’.
Photographs seen by Metro.co.uk from the four-month probe show the corpses of cows dragged outside the complex – one being half-eaten.
An animal welfare scientist who viewed parts of Viva!’s footage said some of the allegations were ‘concerning’ and ‘common to the dairy farming industry’.
Tafarn Y Bugail has been approved by the Assured Food Standards, which issues the Red Tractor quality mark that has long assured Britons what they are buying is responsibly sourced, safely produced and comes from well-cared-for animals.
Animal welfare and climate change groups have long tried to sour public attitudes towards dairy (Picture: Viva!)
First Milk, a dairy company which owns brands such as Pembrokeshire Cheddar, confirmed to Metro.co.uk that following Viva!’s findings it has cut off all ties with the farm.
A review by First Milk as well as a spot audit by Red Tractor have found ‘nothing to suggest a systemic issue at the farm’, spokespeople told Metro.co.uk.
Viva! founder and director Juliet Hellatley was among those who went undercover at Tafarn Y Bugai.
‘This farm is just the latest instalment of cruelty in the endless saga of pain that the dairy industry inflicts on cows,’ she said.
‘In one particularly harrowing clip, I watched a poor cow get beaten 55 times, causing unimaginable distress. Unable to escape, she had to stand and endure the beating inflicted upon her simply for existing.
‘The images of her suffering will live in my mind forever.’
According to Viva! during their investigation, cows were seen being pushed, shoved, and kicked in the udder and two had their tails twisted by workers.
At the farm, investigators allege they saw the ‘extreme rough handling’ of cattle (Picture: Viva!)
On average, the herd was whipped 75 times per milking. Additional video captured by Vivia! included one cow being whipped more than 55 times for seven minutes.
The vegan campaigners also claim some calves were taken from their mothers within 12 hours without having nutrient-rich colostrum (the first milk a mother produces) beforehand.
Lameness – being unable to walk due to injury or weakness in the legs – has also long been a concern for animal welfare groups.
About one-quarter of dairy cattle suffer from some degree of lameness, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), a levy board funded by farmers and growers.
However, the rate of lameness at Tafarn Y Bugai appeared to be ‘significantly’ higher, with one cow ‘so severely lame that she walked on three legs’. Others had ‘severely’ swollen udders which affected their ability to get around.
Andrew Knight, a veterinary professor of animal welfare at the University of Winchester, was shown the videos by Metro.co.uk and said: ‘It was disturbing to see the cow at the end unable to place any weight on one foot.
‘This only occurs with the most severe and painful forms of lameness. It also increases the strain on remaining limbs, as the animals’ high body weight must be supported by three, rather than four, legs.’
Cow corpses were spotted on some occasions dumped outside the farm facilities (Picture: Viva!)
At least 17 other cows wore hobbles – straps used to keep an animal’s front or back legs from separating to prevent injury.
Knight added: ‘It was also disturbing to see the use of chains and shackles. This is legal but guidance states these should be rarely used. Shackles prevent natural movement, exploratory and social behaviour and any prolonged use of them is cruel.’
Guidance from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) states that if an animal dies on farmland it must be ‘collected, identified and transported from [the] farm without ‘undue delay’ and that farm staffers must ‘ensure that animals and birds cannot access the carcass’.
However, photographs from February seen by Metro.co.uk show the body of a dairy cow on a dirt path by a fenced-up field. In front of it, a long trail of smeared blood is also in view.
In two other photos that Viva! described as being ‘straight out of a horror film’, a dead calf can be seen lying on hay with most of its body having been eaten down to the bone. Its eyes and ears are also missing.
Hellatley said this was the first sight she was met with when arriving at the farm. ‘It was heartbreaking,’ she recalled.
Tafarn Y Bugai, home to some 500 dairy cows, has the stamp of approval from food quality officials (Picture: Viva!)
The decaying carcass, investigators allege, had been left about 48 hours in April at a barn which housed pregnant and newly-born cows.
Further footage shows some of the herd slipping in the enclosure, while another video shows them walking on the blood and pus drained from a cow after an abscess on its rump was cut open by a worker during milking.
‘Bacteria in milking sheds increases risks of mastitis and infected milk,’ Knight said of the clip. ‘Hence, hygiene maintenance in milking sheds is important.’
For animal rights activists, the industrial food production system that keeps supermarket dairy aisles and cheesemongers well-stocked sometimes mistreats cows.
Some female calves are kept in individual pens for up to eight weeks from birth. From 15 months old, they are impregnated by artificial insemination and often have their offspring taken away hours after they are born, Knight said.
Allowing a calf to nurse decreases the amount of milk available for human consumption.
Lameness is widely seen as one of the most urgent welfare issues affecting dairy cows (Picture: Viva!)
‘The bond between a mother and her calf is extremely strong and it can be extremely distressing for both cow and calf when calves are taken from them. The traumatic separation of calves from their mothers unfortunately underpins modern dairy production in the UK,’ he added.
A typical dairy cow lives for about 20 years but is often trucked off to veal farms or cattle ranches after five years or so when its milk production runs dry.
Male cattle aren’t so lucky, Knight says. They are usually taken to the slaughterhouse within the first few years of life as they cannot give milk.
Efforts by vegan groups to turn Britons off dairy come at a time when the tea-drinking nation is consuming slightly less milk and farms are shutting down.
The amount of milk we drink has dropped about 50% since the 1950s. Demand remains, high, however, with 96% of adults buying milk, according to Dairy UK, which represents milk processors.
But as much as dairies have attempted to keep pint prices down amid the cost-of-living crisis, the amount they’re paid has fallen below rising production costs.
While dairy consumption remains high in Britain, it has decreased over the past few decades (Picture: Viva!)
In 1995, 35,700 milk producers were open. From April 2021 to the following year, 160 went out of business, leaving 7,880 left.
About one in four are now ‘unsure’ whether they’ll keep going after 2025.
First Milk said that Tafarn Y Bugail supplied the company with milk at the time the allegations were first made.
‘However, it is no longer a First Milk supplier – a decision made by the farm that is unrelated to this issue,’ the farmer-owned co-operative said.
‘First Milk is committed to leading standards of animal welfare across all our member farms. We were disappointed to see such footage and worked closely with the farm to investigate the allegations and address any welfare concerns that were highlighted.
‘A member of our team visited the farm as soon as we were made aware of the allegations and saw no evidence of immediate animal welfare concerns.
County officials say an investigation has been launched into the farm’s practices, with initial audits found so ‘systemtic’ issues (Picture: Viva!)
‘In addition, we notified Red Tractor, who conducted a spot audit, with the auditor being satisfied that animals were content, with minimal stress and no signs of significant injury or disease.
‘As this farm is no longer in our supply base we will not be taking any further action, although we continue to review our processes to ensure that high welfare standards are in place on all member farms.’
Assured Food Standards added: ‘Our technical team have reviewed the available footage and an assessor has since conducted a spot check on the farm – neither of which suggest a systemic issue at the farm.
‘These checks have found evidence that animals showing signs of illness in the footage were being appropriately treated under the supervision of a vet at that time.
‘Cattle are large animals and often require careful handling by trained farm workers to ensure good welfare outcomes for the entire herd. We will continue to monitor compliance including further assessments on the farm going forward.’
Assured Food Standards auditors found any sickened cows had been treated by a vet (Picture: Viva)
Meanwhile, Ceredigion County Council stressed to Metro.co.uk that county officials take all allegations of animal abuse ‘seriously’.
‘However, we cannot comment on any ongoing investigations but can confirm that the footage and photographs provided are continuing to be reviewed,’ a spokesperson said.
For Gellatley, Viva!’s founder, the alleged abuse at Tafarn Y Bugail captures how certain aspects of modern dairy farming can be ‘cruel’ to cattle.
‘Consumers could have consumed dairy products from this farm without knowing it,’ she added, ‘directly funding the cruelty that is ingrained in factory farming.’
Defra was unable to comment. Griffiths Brothers Ltd has been contacted for comment.
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