The Expert Series (9): A Criminological Exploration of the UK Dairy Industry | The Vegan Society

The Expert Series (9): A Criminological Exploration of the UK Dairy Industry

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» The Expert Series (9): A Criminological Exploration of the UK Dairy Industry

In our 9th edition of The Expert Series, RAC member Dr Caroline Gorden conducts a criminological exploration of the dairy industry.

Dairy is constructed as an essential health food with millions of pounds spent on advertising each year. The idea that dairy is integral to our diet and that we might become calcium deficient without it is a deeply embedded perception among the public, and indeed, the consumption of dairy products is an entrenched part of our culture.

However, several research studies indicate that contrary to the popular belief that dairy is healthy for us, it is in fact the number one allergen in our food supply, with links to a lung, breast and ovarian cancers[1], prostate cancer[2] Parkinson’s disease[3] and heart disease[4]. Thus, the widely held perception that dairy is synonymous with bone health is misleading because there is no evidence to support this notion. Milk is a biological fluid that is designed to support a calf’s growth. Additionally, most adults worldwide do not produce the enzyme lactase that helps us to digest the main sugar lactose in milk. In Europe, a genetic mutation, allowing people to digest lactose is thought to have occurred only in the last 10,000 years alongside the cultural practice of dairying[5]. From a biological standpoint therefore, human consumption of milk does not make any sense. The perception that dairy is essential to our diet for calcium and meat essential for protein means that the moral and ethical issues fundamental to these industries are seemingly less well known among the general public. For example, according to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition[6], the diet of a meat-eater requires 17 times more land, 14 times more water, and 10 times more energy than a non-meat eater’s diet. Upon the UK leaving the EU, The Agriculture Bill 2018 stipulates that farmers will be rewarded for offering the greatest environmental benefits, however, it is unclear how this will serve to significantly erode the current environmental harms. Additionally, Dr. Walter Willet, a physician and nutritional researcher at Harvard University, argues that 760 million tonnes of food worldwide is fed to farm animals each year and yet it is estimated that world hunger could be eliminated with approximately 40 million tonnes of food. The evidence outlined above indicates that the consumption of dairy and meat perpetuates harm to our health, the environment and world hunger and creates a strong argument for the move towards the abolition of these industries.

This article will explore the dairy industry from a Criminological standpoint, highlighting the evidence to show that the UK dairy industry underscores the notion that dairy cattle are not afforded the same victim status as humans and indeed, as other domestic animals. As a consequence, it is evident that the emotional, social and physical welfare of dairy cattle is enormously compromised; a fact that serves to promote the negative outcomes on human health, the environment, and world hunger.

Current EU law recognises that animals are sentient beings, that is, they are able to feel pain and experience suffering[7]. As such, there are over 40 animal welfare laws under EU legislation. In relation to farm animals, there are 17 laws. EU legislation stipulates minimum standards of protection for pigs, calves, broiler chickens and laying hens kept for farming. However, dairy cows, beef cattle, ducks, turkeys, and farmed fish are not afforded the same species-specific protections. Rather, their welfare is covered by the General Farm Animals Directive and the Recommendation contained within the Standing Committee of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes[8]. The General Farm Animals Directive stipulates that owners of dairy cattle within the Member States of the EU take ‘reasonable steps to ensure the welfare of animals under their care and to ensure that those animals are not caused any unnecessary pain, suffering or injury’[9]. One protection afforded to dairy cattle arises from the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) who recommend the Five Freedoms that should be provided to dairy cattle:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready to access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour;
  2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area;
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment;
  4. Freedom to express normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind;
  5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and care which avoid mental suffering[10].

Following the UK’s departure of the European Union, Theresa May announced:

We should be proud that in the UK we have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world – indeed, one of the highest scores for animal protection in the world. Leaving the EU will not change that we are committed to maintaining and, where possible, improving standards of welfare in the UK, while ensuring of course that our industry is not put at a competitive disadvantage (Theresa May, 8th February 2017)[11].

Post-Brexit, the animal protection groups, Wildlife and Countryside Link and the UK Centre for Animal Law[12] recommend that a system is implemented to measure the welfare of dairy cows. For example, they suggest that farmers should report on the annual number of lameness cases, prevalence of mastitis and the number of calvings per cow. However, Viva’s report, The Dark Side of Dairy[13] highlights several fundamental moral and ethical issues that are widespread and entrenched practices in the UK dairy industry, and certainly, contravene FAWC’s Five Freedoms. Thus, the recommendations made by the animal protection groups would be inadequate. Viva’s report describes the significant physical burdens on dairy cows because of simultaneous lactation and pregnancy; such burdens ensure the cow is more profitable to the farmer by producing 14 times the milk than a calf would drink. The unnatural milk production enlarges the cow’s udder to such an extent that lameness and mastitis often ensue. Once the cow is worn out and can no longer yield as much milk, they are sent to slaughter, becoming ‘low quality’ beef in burgers, soups, and baby food. Artificial Insemination is the practice performed for impregnating cows, which can be stressful and uncomfortable for the recipient. Embryo transfer and multiple ovulation therapy are practices that are increasing in the UK and the rest of Europe. Embryos are removed from higher quality cows and replaced into their surrogate lower quality counterparts. This ensures that the higher quality cows reproduce as much as possible. Hobbles and shackles are among the devices used to enable cows to stand who have suffered muscle or nerve damage during calfing. To cull these cows would not be profitable for the farmer and so ways must be found to force the cow to carry on milking. Mutilation such as disbudding, castration, and supernemeary teats is practiced and some of these techniques do not require anesthetic despite the recognised severe pain it causes. A number of metabolic disorders occur in dairy cows because of demands on their energy reserves. Zero grazing is becoming increasingly practiced whereby dairy cows spend all year around inside. The unwanted by-products of calves mean that dairy cows and their calves are separated within a couple of days following birth. This is known to cause tremendous suffering to both the mother and calf. Approximately 100,000 male calves are shot shortly after birth or destined for the veal industry where they are slaughtered between 6-8 months of age. Because live transport is permitted, calves younger than four weeks old will suffer significant stress during transportation, not least because of their under-developed immune systems. Half of the female calves will be raised to meet the same destination as their mothers and the other half will become dairy/beef crosses and will typically be slaughtered between 15-24 months of age.[14]

Viva point out that modern dairy farms are about ‘maximising profit and minimising overheads’[15]. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 is supposed to be there to protect non-human animals from unnecessary suffering but it appears that in order to continue profiting, the ‘fundamental cruelties’[16] of the dairy industry must continue. Notwithstanding the fact that dairy cattle are not afforded species-specific protection, Theresa May’s proposal to improve standards of welfare for farmed animals whilst at the same time ensuring the industry is not at a competitive disadvantage is irreconcilable.

As highlighted at the start of this article, eating animals and animal products is a deeply entrenched part of our culture, not least because meat and dairy have been traditionally constructed as health foods. To abandon this practice would serve as a culture shock and so ways must be found to raise awareness of the health and environmental impacts but also in relation to perceptions of farmed animals. There is an abundance of evidence pointing to the intelligence and needs of farmed animals, for example, they have distinct personalities and every single one is an individual[17][18][19]. In his book The Secret Life of Farm Animals[20], Masson suggests that we forget animals are individuals mostly likely because individuality is considered a human prerogative. In the absence of this knowledge, farm animals will continue to be subconsciously perceived as somehow less valuable, less sentient beings, commodities to serve humans. Subsequently, farm animals become the victims of ‘institutional speciesism’ and until there is an awareness that the only difference between farm animals and other domestic animals is perception, then the anthropocentric nature of crime policy will continue to prevail.

 


[1] Ji, J., Sundquist, J. and Sundquist, K. (2015) ‘Lactose intolerance and risk of lung, breast and ovarian cancers: aetiological clues from a population-based study in Sweden’ in British Journal of Cancer, 112(1): 149-52

[2] Aune, D., Navarro Rosenblatt, D. A., Chan, S. M. D., VieiraRui Vieira, A. R., Greenwood, D. C., Vatten, L. J. and Norat, T. (2015) ‘Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies’ in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 101(1): 87-117

[3] Hughes, K. C., Gao, X., Yim, I. Y., Wang, M., Weisskopf, M. G., Schwarzschild, M. A. and Ascherio, A. (2017) ‘Intake of dairy foods and risk of Parkinson disease’ in Neurology 89(1): 46-52

[4] Baer, H. J., Glynn, R. J. and Hu, F. B. (2010) ‘Risk factors for mortality in the nurses’ health study: a competing risks analysis’ in American Journal of Epidemiology, 173(3):319–329

[5] Itan, Y., Powell, A., Beaumont, M. A., Burger, J. and Thomas, M. G. (2009) ‘The Origins of Lactase Persistence in Europe’ in PLoS Computer Biology, 5(8)

[6] Pimentel, D. and Pimentel, M. (2003) ‘Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment’in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78(3): 660S-663S

[7] Wildlife and Countryside Link and the UK Centre for Animal Law (2018) Brexit: getting the best deal for animals A detailed analysis of current legislation, with recommendations for enhancing animal welfare, British industries, and consumer confidence and choice in post-Brexit Britain. Available at https://www.alaw.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Brexit-Getting-the-Best-Deal-for-Animals-Full-Report.pdf

[8] Wildlife and Countryside Link and the UK Centre for Animal Law (2018) Brexit: getting the best deal for animals A detailed analysis of current legislation, with recommendations for enhancing animal welfare, British industries, and consumer confidence and choice in post-Brexit Britain. Available at https://www.alaw.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Brexit-Getting-the-Best-Deal-for-Animals-Full-Report.pdf

[9] Stevenson, P. (2012) European Union Legislation on the Welfare of Farm Animals, Compassion in World Farming. Available at https://www.ciwf.org.uk/media/3818623/eu-law-on-the-welfare-of-farm-animals.pdf 

[10] RSPCA (2018) RSPCA Welfare Standards for Dairy Cattle. Available at https://www.berspcaassured.org.uk/media/1283/rspca-welfare-standards-dairy-cattle-jan-2018.pdf

[11] Theresa May (8th February 2018) House of Lords, European Union Committee 5th Report of Session 2017–19 HL Paper 15 Brexit: farm animal welfare. Available at https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldeucom/15/15.pdf

[12] Wildlife and Countryside Link and the UK Centre for Animal Law (2018) Brexit: getting the best deal for animals A detailed analysis of current legislation, with recommendations for enhancing animal welfare, British industries, and consumer confidence and choice in post-Brexit Britain. Available at https://www.alaw.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Brexit-Getting-the-Best-Deal-for-Animals-Full-Report.pdf

[13] Powell, V. (2014) The Dark Side of Dairy. A Viva! Report. Available at https://scarydairy.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/dark_side_of_dairy_report_2014.pdf

[14] Powell, V. (2014) The Dark Side of Dairy. A Viva! Report. Available at https://scarydairy.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/dark_side_of_dairy_report_2014.pdf

[15] Powell, V. (2014) The Dark Side of Dairy. A Viva! Report. Available at https://scarydairy.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/dark_side_of_dairy_report_2014.pdf

[16] Powell, V. (2014) The Dark Side of Dairy. A Viva! Report. Available at https://scarydairy.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/dark_side_of_dairy_report_2014.pdf

[17] Marino, Lori and Colvin, Christina M., ‘Thinking Pigs: Cognition, Emotion, and Personality’, (2016). Mammalogy. 1.

[18] Veissier, I., Boissy, A., Desire, L. and Greiveldinger, L. (2009) ‘Animals' emotions: Studies in sheep using appraisal theories’ in Animal Welfare (South Mimms, England) 18(4)

[19] Broom, D. M. (2016) Considering animals’ feelings: Precis of Sentience and Animal Welfare, 2016.00.5

[20] Masson, J. (2004) The Secret World of Farm Animals. London: Penguin, Random House

 

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