Lauren Melella, Global Animal

In October, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) launched “Keep Cows on Grass,” its first Europe-wide ongoing campaign calling for an end to industrial dairy farming. The WSPA, along with Ben & Jerry’s and Compassion in World Farmingwant to bring attention to the fact that cows are vanishing from the rolling pastures of the European landscape.

WSPA members urging the public to “Keep Cows On Grass.” Photo Credit: WSPA

The campaign highlights the growth of “mega-dairies” in the European Union. Being the world’s largest producing region of cow’s milk, dairy farmers are intensifying the productivity of each cow my permanently moving them indoors.

Because cows are increasingly becoming housed indoors as the trend toward intensification continues to grow, it is becoming more common that cows never get to chew a blade of fresh grass.

According to research conducted by Compassion in World Farming, “this type of ‘zero-grazing’ system is associated with increased risk of many health problems including lameness, mastitis, reproductive problems and a number of bacterial infections.”

Mike Baker, the CEO of WSPA, states, “The worrying progress towards industrial dairy farming in Europe means, we could stop seeing cows grazing in fields. Cows grazing are a vital part of our heritage in Europe and we want to keep it that way. WSPA wants to see dairy farmers survive and thrive and we are campaigning for the end of the trend towards intensification.”

The billboard for the campaign. Photo Credit: WSPA

In the Netherlands, one of the world’s largest milk producers, a third of cows are now kept indoors. Up from 16% ten years ago, now 67 percent of cows in Denmark are kept inside as well.

The campaign launches with billboard and press advertising asking: Where does my milk come from? to raise this important issue direct with consumers. WSPA puts the welfare of cows and the livelihoods of farmers at the heart of its campaign. In some countries, like Denmark, up to 67 percent of all cows never feel the warmth of the sunlight or the satisfaction of a mouthful of grass.

This reality is contrary to what consumers think. Half the people polled on the question of “Where does my milk come from?” in Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK believed that their milk came from cows grazed in fields. But with increasing numbers kept in industrial dairy farming systems, where they are permanently housed inside and are not allowed to graze naturally, this is not the case.

This is an issue on which the public feel strongly. In a separate poll, 89 percent of people said they believed cows should have access to pasture during the warmer months of the year, and 66 percent said they would ‘avoid’ or ‘try hard to avoid’ milk that came from cows kept permanently indoors without access to grazing on pasture. There is currently no European Union legislative welfare protection for cows.

The WSPA is asking consumers to put pressure on retailers by asking questions about the origins of their milk and the welfare of the animals that supply it. By doing this, we can support for this “Better Dairy”  campaign for humane, sustainable, pasture-based systems as well as counter the spread of the burgeoning myth that, as one dairy representative told a BBC reporter, “cows do not belong in fields.”

For more information: http://www.wspa-international.org/press/dairy/default.aspx#.UL5FmIUZeKw

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