'Every pint sold helps care for dairy cows', insists a recently unveiled ad campaign for British supermarket giant Tesco. A spurious claim for any major retailer offering dairy products, let alone one with a below average track record for animal welfare.
It’s an irony that has not gone unnoticed on social media, with over 7000 people signing a petition calling on Tesco to withdraw the in-store ads, and others apparently reporting the company - which has also come under fire for the sale of live animal ‘keyrings’ in Chinese stores – to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Tesco falls short of the criteria outlined by Compassion in World Farming for ethical milk production, and unlike rival supermarkets Waitrose and M&S offers no guarantee that its cows spend at least 100 days outside each year. This means that Tesco sources milk from cows who are confined potentially for the duration of their lives, without access to grass, sunlight, or any basic and natural quality of life. This is at odds with a campaign that seems to suggest superior standards.
Also heavily implied in Tesco’s statement and yet boldly inaccurate is the idea that cows benefit from the dairy industry as a whole, as if their so-called ‘care’ were its primary objective rather than milk production - and by extension profit.
Even when CWF’s basal standards are applied, dairy farming is simply a practice that necessitates cruelty, as cows are forcibly impregnated almost continuously throughout their lifetimes in order to maintain constant milk production, a fact that still seems widely unknown to the public.
And adult cows are not the only victims. Because the cows’ milk has been designated for human consumption, no drop can be spared for its natural recipient - newborn calves.
Mother and baby are separated within days, causing unimaginable distress. Male offspring, conspired ‘surplus’, may be killed instantly or used for veal, whilst females will join their mothers in a lifetime of exploitation in the dairy industry. These newborns will subsist – sometimes for just the briefest time before slaughter - on Milk Replacer, so that humans may enjoy the milk made for them.
A powerful bond between mother and child is a necessity for all mammals, and yet in dairy farming it is most cruelly disregarded and denied, to the physical and psychological detriment of thousands of cows and calves every day. New mothers have been known to chase the trucks that drive their offspring away; to bellow for days; and in sanctuaries, to hide their young compulsively from their human keepers.
Bizarre then that Tesco believes that this constitutes ‘care’, especially when dairy cows simply collapse after years of this continuous impregnation cycle, called ‘downers’ by the industry. Selectively bred to produce an unnatural amount of milk, crippling health problems including lameness, mastitis, and eventual infertility and decreased milk production are a shortcut to already inevitable slaughter.
The dairy industry is arguably akin to the beef industry, only with a longer period of misery for cows before slaughter. And yet it’s doubtful that any supermarket would be so bold as to suggest that the consumption of meat helps to ‘care’ for farm animals. It seems plausible then that Tesco were hoping to capitalize on a lack of awareness about how milk gets onto the shelves of its stores, a move that has dramatically backfired as thousands of animal lovers rush to share the truth; buying dairy is a contribution to suffering.