Charlie, 14, asks whether you know if your milk comes from a happy cow, or a cow that is kept inside all its life. He thinks milk should be labelled so you know what you’re drinking – he’s campaigning for full fact milk.
Welcome to the farm where I like to help out. This is a dairy farm where cows make milk. It’s great to drink and put on your cereal, but have you ever stopped to think how it gets from here to your breakfast table?
In the UK, we buy more than five billion litres of this stuff every year. Another six million litres are used to make butter, yoghurt and cheese. With 1.8 million dairy cows, that’s a lot of animals to consider.
Not every farm treats their cows the same way. Some farms don’t let their animals outside. They’re kept in small spaces where they can’t move around. They never get sunlight or get to eat grass.
This can lead to severe health problems for the animals. They’re kept in sheds and packed together because it helps keep the cost down and produces even more milk. This means that when the people buy their milk they don’t always know what kind of farm the milk came from or how the cows are treated. Was it a farm with access to fields or was it a factory style farm with no grass? And is that something shoppers should be concerned about?
World Animal Protection are campaigning for all supermarkets to label their milk. Emma Slawinski from World Animal Protection says: “We’re looking to work with supermarkets to get labels on milk so people can see whether the cows that have made that milk have been able to go outside. We think that if people could see and could understand then they would want to buy milk from cows that have gone outside and they could make that choice. With more and more pressure on farmers to try and produce more and more milk for less and less money, sometimes it’s being sold for less than it costs to produce. Obviously, that can’t go on.”
Making cows happier
It’s spring and we’re letting the cows out. This is my favourite part of the job! Here, the animals get to go outside, enjoy eating grass and behaving, well, how cows like to behave.
Martin Cooke is a vet who specialises in farm animal welfare. He says: ”They like to be out at grass and grazing. When you’ve seen the cows go out at the beginning of the grazing period, you can see how happy they are to be outside.”
Emma agrees: “It’s really important that cows get to go outside onto pasture because we know, and it’s been proved, that it makes them happier and healthier.”
Martin explains: “In intensive systems it’s a bit like being shut in school all day, every day, and eating the same food. Cows like to choose. Cows like to play with their friends. Being at pasture lets cows live like cows.”
For now, we have no idea where our milk comes from, but I hope with labelling this will mean happier and healthier cows.
Find out more about the World Animal Protection organisation.
Would you prefer to buy milk from happy cows? Tell us in the comments below.