Food scares such as BSE, Salmonella and E. coli, as well as concerns over GMOs, antibiotics and pesticides, have led to an increase in the supply of organic milk and many farmers have adopted one of the farm assurance schemes. However, sales of organic milk now represent only 2.5 per cent of the overall liquid milk market.
Many people who choose to pay the extra for milk certified under one of the schemes below do so because they believe the animals have a much higher standard of living. However, all these dairy cows are still subjected to the exploitative nature of the industry.
Soil Association Organic Standards
In order to receive Soil Association certification for their milk, dairy farmers must comply with specific standards set down by the organisation. Certified farms are inspected annually by the Soil Association to ensure that these standards are being upheld. While most of the standards set out by the Soil Association are aimed at improving the quality of the milk, certain standards do pertain specifically to animal welfare.
RSPCA Assured (formerly Freedom Foods Scheme)
The RSPCA’s Freedom Foods standards for the welfare of dairy cattle provide little more than the legal minimum for cows and their calves. As in organic farming, cows suffer the repeated trauma of having their calves taken away shortly after birth and face the gruelling workload of pregnancy and lactation. The only practices of conventional farming which are prohibited are embryo transfer and ovum pick-up. Calves may still be housed individually up to eight weeks old and can travel to market as young as seven days old, enduring journeys up to eight hours long.
“There was no difference in overall welfare score between Freedom Foods and non-Freedom Foods farms. Thus, we were unable to conclude that membership of the Freedom Foods scheme ensured better overall welfare than non-participating farms.”
Red Tractor Farm Assurance
The Red Tractor logo on dairy products signifies that the milk was produced in the UK on a farm which meets the standards of the Red Tractor Farm Assurance Dairy scheme. However, these standards are simply the UK and EU legal minimums and nothing more! All of the farming practices outlined in The Dark Side of Dairy report are acceptable under this scheme.
Read more in our report The Dark Side of Dairy.
Or watch our short video The Dark Side of Dairy.