Zero grazing is an intensive system of agriculture, it is a disgusting system in which dairy cows never go outside and are denied the freedom to graze on grass.
Instead, they are fed ‘cattle fodder’, while they are crammed into huge confinement units designed to make their short lives even more hellish. These cows live in artificially lit, cramped conditions while being denied anything that is natural to them such as spending time with and raising their babies. In zero grazing farms, the mother-child bond is nonexistent. Usually within 48 hours, every mother has her baby snatched away.
As you read on, one of the farms our investigators visited openly practice “snatch calving” (they are the farm’s words) – and this is nothing less than torture. It is incomprehensible cruelty.
Zero grazing farms cause even more stress and disease for animals already suffering at the hands of a broken system intent on producing high milk yields and increased profits over any sort of animal welfare, let alone basic compassion. It is a mechanised, inhumane form of exploitation.
The UK is the 13th largest cow’s milk producer in the world, churning out 15.2 billion litres in 2021 (the highest annual figure since 1990). This is a huge volume of milk, which puts an incredible strain on cows.
Indeed, the average annual yield per dairy cow has risen from 4,100 litres in 1975 to 8,200 litres in 2021 – that’s an average daily output of 27 litres (48 pints). As the human population continues to grow (estimated to reach 9.5 billion by 2050), demand for dairy increases, and there has been a disturbing rise in the number of zero grazing industrial farms emerging.
This model is something which originated in the USA, with the introduction of ‘mega-farms’. However, the figures for zero grazing farming has been rising rapidly in the UK and Europe over the last few decades too.
The percentage of Danish dairy cattle that are permanently locked indoors increased from 16 per cent to 70 per cent between 2001 and the present, and in the Netherlands this figure increased from less than 10 per cent to almost 30 per cent since 1992. These are shocking figures, and in the UK it is estimated that around 20 per cent of dairy farms now use zero or severely restricted grazing systems.
This dystopian nightmare of dairy farming must be stopped.
“I sent my team of investigators to three of the largest dairies in the country and they unearthed shocking findings at these large-scale facilities.”
The first thing that hits you is the sheer size and scale of these ‘farms’. Seeing them up close, these massive steel-framed buildings and conical feed silos cast a long, dark shadow across their surroundings.
Situated amongst beautiful acres of English countryside, the juxtaposition of abhorrent cruelty taking place within these sheds was even more disgusting. These are places devoid of anything other than round-the-clock misery and are a clear sign of how out of touch the British public is with how their food is produced.
Nobody with a conscience could see these farms and think this is natural. There is nothing natural about zero grazing.
Idyllic UK farming at its best
Control, surveillance, the replacement of natural rhythms by timed feeds and the lack of any meaningful interaction is how these operations are run. And that’s what they are, operations. There is nothing resembling any form of empathy here, these processes are simply battery farming at a huge scale for dairy cows.
Over the years, our countless undercover investigations have shattered the grossly misleading images of idyllic dairy farming that has been marketed to the public. But these past investigations pale in comparison to these industrialised behemoths pedalling cruelty and suffering on a mass scale.
Zero grazing farms are a bleak look at the kind of future these poor dairy cows will face if we don’t stop them.
The story was the same on each of the farms our investigators visited. Rows and rows of abused, malnourished, skeletal cows forced to produce unnatural quantities of milk, many lame from the excessive size of their udders, separated from their babies from the moment of birth. The farms housed huge herds of between 1,300 and 2,500 dairy cows each.
Three times a day, these poor cows are taken to the sterile mechanised milking parlour, where machines suck the milk from their already swollen udders. Still the milk keeps coming. Forced impregnation continues, nourishing a growing baby whilst being forced to produce a never-ending supply of milk means malnutrition is inevitable. What follows is a cycle of exhaustion, heartbreak and disease.
There is no hope, no end in sight for these poor mothers, lined up in rows, standing on concrete, which has excreta washed away while their bodies slowly die, until the day they are taken to the slaughterhouse.
In one instance, during our investigation, a mother lay on the ground, barely able to raise her head, depressed and in pain, behind her a pool of her own diseased, vaginal discharge was seen leaking on to the concrete. This is viewed simply as collateral damage to those running these operations.
It is no great secret that mastitis, bacterial infections, increased lameness and depression are all more prevalent in zero grazing conditions, according to the European Food Safety Authority.
One of the worst sights was the sheer number of calves separated from their mothers, feeding from mechanised bottles, utterly devoid of any kind of love. Their eyes so sad and innocent. Adding insult to injury is the vision of fresh grass and rolling hills so close to where they are imprisoned.
At a large farm in Cheshire, the workers openly talked about the practice of “snatch calving”. The second the calf is born he or she is taken from his or her mother, a disgusting violation of motherhood, twisted, all for the sake of profit.
Following an emotional separation, newly born calves are placed in isolation hutches where they’re legally confined for the next eight weeks. At two months old the calves should be moved to a nursery where they can play and socialise with other young calves. Yet, during our investigation, 12-week-old calves were found still in isolation, confined in violation of law.
At another farm, a large white noticeboard indicated one of the calves was suffering from seizures – a symptom of an underlying illness like nervous coccidiosis, infection, nutritional or mineral deficiencies, and stress.
We know how the suffering of dairy mums is rife in the dairy industry, but as it becomes more and more mechanised and industrialised, things are going from bad to worse. That’s why we need your help.
This appeal is actually the first report into a far bigger campaign Viva! is launching. And we wanted you to hear about it first. The mass scale industrialisation taking place across these farms, are all suppliers to some of the BIGGEST and MOST LOVED brands in the dairy industry.
While we can’t reveal all the details yet, Viva! are intent on exposing them nationally and beyond, and showing the public just how badly they are being lied to.
We can’t do this without your help.
Please, we implore you to help us show not only the widespread abuse, but the dangers of zero grazing farming, so that every member of the British public views these horrific scenes in the same way you and I do.
Our work never ends and to bring these practices to their knees we need your help.
Yours for the animals,
Founder & Director