Investigation: Tafarn Y Bugail
Shocking scenes of animal abuse have been recorded at a dairy farm in west Wales following an undercover investigation by Viva! Campaigns. Tafarn Y Bugail is a 500-cow dairy that, at the time of filming, supplied one of the largest dairy cooperatives in the UK, which has long-standing partnerships with major food and beverage brands.
Investigators visited the farm on several occasions between February and June 2023, capturing more than 240 hours of footage.
The damning investigation revealed multiple instances of excessive violence, with cows being hit, on average, 75 times per milking. In a particularly harrowing attack, which lasted over seven minutes, one individual cow was hit more than 55 times. Further footage shows the cows being pushed, shoved and kicked in the udder – with two also having their tails twisted.
All findings from the investigation were reported to Ceredigion County Council Trading Standards in August 2023. Red Tractor were also notified and encouraged to take action.
More images can be publicly viewed on Flickr.
The Metro reported on 19 November 2023:
First Milk, a dairy company which owns brands such as Pembrokeshire Cheddar, confirmed to Metro.co.uk that following Viva!’s findings it has cut off all ties with the farm.
A review by First Milk as well as a spot audit by Red Tractor have found ‘nothing to suggest a systemic issue at the farm’, spokespeople told Metro.co.uk.
Viva! founder and director Juliet Gellatley was among those who went undercover at Tafarn Y Bugail.
‘This farm is just the latest instalment of cruelty in the endless saga of pain that the dairy industry inflicts on cows,’ she said.
‘In one particularly harrowing clip, I watched a poor cow get beaten 55 times, causing unimaginable distress. Unable to escape, she had to stand and endure the beating inflicted upon her simply for existing.
‘The images of her suffering will live in my mind forever.’
Read the Metro exclusive
“Our technical team have reviewed the available footage, and our initial assessment has found nothing to suggest a systemic issue at the farm. Cattle are large animals and often require careful handling by trained farm workers to ensure good welfare outcomes for the entire herd. Our investigation is ongoing, and we will monitor compliance through unannounced assessments on farm going forward.”
– Red Tractor, October 2023
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For a cow to produce milk, she first needs to be made pregnant and then give birth. This process starts at around 15 months old when she’s artificially inseminated with semen mechanically drawn from a desired bull – often a beef breed.
At Tafarn Y Bugail, hidden cameras captured workers carrying out the insemination process on three cows whilst they were being milked in the parlour. After a nine-month pregnancy, others were filmed giving birth in the calving shed. On two occasions, farmhands were seen assisting the calvings by tying a rope around the calf’s legs to pull them out.
All five newborn calves in Viva!’s investigation footage were separated from their mothers within 12 hours of birth; one of these was just three hours old and could barely even stand. Female calves are moved to isolated hutches, where they’re kept from meaningful interaction with other calves for up to eight weeks.
For male calves, it’ll be a trip to the slaughterhouse. Despite new rules against euthanasia on-farm, some didn’t even make it that far – their bodies dumped in the open yard with other dead female calves and a bloated cow. Leaving carcasses exposed for wild animals to access is a blatant violation of the Government’s fallen stock and safe disposal of dead animals. This poses a risk to people as well as to other animals.
To keep the milk flowing, cows exploited by the dairy industry are artificially inseminated again just a few months after giving birth. The dual burden of nurturing an unborn baby and supplying milk takes a damaging toll on her body.
Emaciation, severely distended udders, swollen joints, muscle trauma, infection and nerve damage were found to be rife at Tafarn Y Bugail. One cow had a large abscess on her rump, which was cut open by a worker in the milking parlour. Blood and pus drained out for over three minutes, which the other cows were given no choice but to walk through once they’d finished being milked.
Wet concrete floors and rough handling increase the risk of injury as the cows slip and slide around. To prevent further muscle tears, no less than 17 cows had been shackled; their hind legs tethered together by devices called hobbles. These contraptions are generally used when an animal has suffered nerve damage during calving and struggles to walk.
Hidden cameras in Tafarn Y Bugail’s milking parlour recorded violent assaults from workers, who hit the cows on average 75 times per milking session. One desperate mother was struck over 55 times, as well as pushed and shoved. Others were seen having their tails twisted and one received a painful kick to her udder. These onslaughts weren’t isolated incidents.
Savage outbursts such as these are truly horrifying and completely inexcusable. Sadly, what has been witnessed at this farm is not an anomaly. This type of mistreatment takes place every day on farms all over the UK and abroad.
“Bedraggled, emaciated cows; beaten, bullied and frightened of their own shadows… as I walked around the farm, a sense of utter misery surrounded the whole godforsaken place. And the pitiful and desperate cries of cows calling to be reunited with their babies, is something that will haunt me forever.”
– Wendy Turner Webster (speaking about her experience visiting Tafarn Y Bugail with Viva! founder and director, Juliet Gellatley).
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