Report claims dairy cows 'in pain'

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

An animal welfare group has accused the dairy industry of practices leading to dairy cows living a short and painful life.

Voiceless has released a report into the life of a dairy cow, which it says is the result of two years of rigorous analysis of current scientific evidence and the relevant legal frameworks.

Group spokeswoman Elise Burgess said The Life of the Dairy Cow was the most comprehensive consumer- focused report ever produced in Australia and contained recommendations for legislators, industry and consumers.

"The report has been reviewed by five leading animal welfare experts from Voiceless' Scientific Expert Advisory Council and endorsed by leading global animal protection groups," she said.

The report said it posedthree important questions in relation to the daily life of the modern dairy cow: is she feeling well, is she behaving naturally and is she functioning well.

It said by shining a light on the daily life of the Australian dairy cow - through a systematic examination of the key welfare issues - it was clear that too frequently, the answer to these questions was "no".

"The modern dairy cow commonly suffers from mastitis, lameness, metabolic disorders, mutilation procedures and the inevitability of repeatedly losing her calf," the report said.

"It is also clear that much of her suffering and poor welfare is made worse by the demands placed on her by high-production dairying and the growing consumer expectation for cheap milk. Reform is needed to address this situation, particularly if the current growth in milk output and the pressures toward intensification of dairying continue.

"This reform must take place across different jurisdictions and at different levels of government and society.

"For the most egregious welfare issues - such as mutilation practices, calving induction and the slaughter of bobby calves by blunt force trauma - the answer is clear: they must be prohibited under the existing criminal law, unless deemed necessary by a veterinarian for therapeutic reasons."

The report also called for an end to live exports, calling it a "cruel" and "grossly unpopular trade" and can no longer be justified on commercial or economic grounds.

However, WAFarmers dairy section president Phil Depiazzi has accused the authors of the report of being "light on facts" and he would question some of the so-called facts the report has made about the modern dairy farmer.

"Questioning cows' ability to handle 35 litres of daily milk production in the modern era is not correct because modern nutrition has ensured the cows' needs are catered for," he said.

"Today's farmers are breeding for a robust animal that suits today's farming requirements because healthy animals are essential to the viability of our industry.

"From a farm perspective, the authors of the report appear to have a lack of understanding for farmers' high regard for their animals' welfare."

Pinjarra dairy farmer Tim Clune said the daily welfare of his dairy cows was one of his biggest priorities.

Mr Clune supplies Brownes from his 400-head dairy farm.

"These animals are my life and I am a dairy farmer because I enjoy what I do," he said.

"If consumers demand that in the interests of perceived animal welfare we drop our milking rates for each cow to 20 litres a day that's fine, but they'll have to pay double the price they do now for their milk.

"They can't have their $1 milk and still expect the industry to live in the 1960s."

These animals are my life and I am a dairy farmer because I enjoy what I do. Tim Clune

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