Investigation: Home Farm

Cruelty found at dairy farm supplying Freshways

An undercover investigation by Viva! Campaigns has exposed multiple incidents of animal cruelty at a dairy farm in Kent that supplies cow’s milk to Freshways – “the UK’s largest independent processing dairy”.  Freshways customers include Costa Coffee, Caffè Nero, Budgens, Iceland, Nisa, Londis and British Airways.

Secretly recorded footage revealed workers rough handling, slapping and kicking cows at Home Farm in Deal, which houses a milking herd of just over 500 cows. Many of the animals were found to be emaciated, while others, struggling with lameness, had their hind legs shackled together to prevent them from doing the splits.

One hidden camera captured a farmhand straddling a young calf, who was lying down whilst being force-fed formulated milk replacer. Tube-feeding is a skilled technique and, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), should be avoided when calves are lying down as “milk can enter the lungs, which can cause death”.

Dead calves were also found discarded in wheelie bins and one cow, who had been shot in the head, was found dumped outdoors – a breach of government regulations that states “while waiting for fallen stock to be collected, you must ensure that animals and birds cannot access the carcass”.

More images from the investigation can also be publicly viewed on Flickr.

Read the Independent exclusive

The true cost of dairy

Find out more about Viva!'s The True Costa Dairy campaign

Lameness and injury

Around one-quarter of all dairy cows may experience some degree of lameness at any one time. This is due to a variety of reasons, including long periods of standing on hard floors, poorly-designed cubicle housing, ineffective foot trimming, infectious diseases, poor nutrition or pelvic nerve damage caused by complications during birthing.

Footage from Home Farm showed numerous incidents of farm workers rough handling severely lame cows. One cow was kicked and slapped to get her to move, whilst another was hit close to her distended udder as she reluctantly entered the rotary milking parlour.

Some cows had their hind legs shackled to reduce the risk of falling as they slip and slide on the faeces-soaked flooring inside the cow sheds.

Cows lying in cubicles at Home Farm
Photo: Amy Jones
A severely emaciated cow at Home Farm
A cow in hobbles at Home Farm
Photo: Amy Jones
Close up of a hobbled cow at Home Farm
Bleeding cow in cubicle at Home Farm
Photo: Amy Jones

Colossal udders

Owing to selective breeding, the amount of milk cows produce has more than doubled over the last four decades. Despite being milked two to three times a day, up to 25 litres of milk can accumulate in a cow’s udder, which can swell and protrude between her hind legs. That’s the equivalent weight of carrying over five ten-pound bags of potatoes. It’s a sad reality for all cows in the dairy industry as a result of the high demand placed on them.

Investigators for Viva! Campaigns found a cow at Home Farm whose oversized udder had burst, causing her immense pain and distress. Her face was bloodied, indicating she’d been trying to clean the wound herself. Others were observed with sores and pressure wounds – a sign of poor health and welfare.

Cow leaking milk from large udder at Home Farm
Photo: Amy Jones
Milk pools under cows at Home Farm
Cow with burst udder and bloody face at Home Farm
Close up of burst udder on cow at Home Farm
Cow was severely distended udder at Home Farm

Calves separated and force-fed

Like most dairy farms, calves at Home Farm are separated from their mothers shortly after birth and housed in isolated stalls across the yard. Naturally, a cow’s young would suckle between eight and 12 times a day for up to a year. On dairy farms, calves are instead fed milk replacer formulas via artificial teats or tubes.

One young calf was seen in the footage being force-fed whilst lying down. She was being held and straddled by a farm worker, which goes against AHDB guidance on tube-feeding and may endanger the calf’s life.

Calves isolated in pens at Home Farm
Photo: Amy Jones
A calf looking through the bars of her pen at Home Farm
Photo: Amy Jones
A calf lying down in her pen at Home Farm
Photo: Amy Jones
A bird's-eye view of a calf pen at Home Farm
Photo: Amy Jones
A worker at Home Farm tube feeds a calf

Dead and discarded

Dead calves were also found discarded in wheelie bins at the back of the farm: a process permitted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), providing the deceased animals are collected by an approved transporter and taken for disposal “without undue delay”.

An adult cow had however been shot in the head and dumped outdoors – a breach of fallen stock regulations that state “while waiting for fallen stock to be collected, you must ensure that animals and birds cannot access the carcass”. This is to protect human and animal health and to safeguard against the environmental transmission of disease.

Wheelie bin full of dead calves at Home Farm
Wheelie bin of dead calves at Home Farm
Dead calf in wheelie bin at Home Farm
Dead cow with gunshot wound at Home Farm
Photo: Amy Jones
Close up of dead cow at Home Farm
Photo: Amy Jones

Take action now

Viva!’s nationwide Days of Action took place on Saturday 28 January and Saturday 11 March 2023 outside Costa Coffee shops around the country. Almost 100 events exposed the horrors of the dairy industry, reaching thousands of people on the streets of Britain.

Thank you to everybody who held placards, talked to the general public, handed out delicious dairy-free alternatives, distributed door-dropper leaflets and participated in the Twitter storm.

Read more about The True Costa Dairy on our dedicated campaign page and please continue sharing our investigation findings on social media.


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