Secret filming reveals the rise and collapse of the ‘battery cow’

Posted on the 18th September 2007

Footage taken inside British dairy farms by Animal Aid exposes a shocking new development in the industry: the arrival of the almost permanently confined ‘battery cow’.

Under this ultra-intensive regime, many of the cows are kept inside sheds all year-round. Some may get out for intervals during the summer months; many will never venture outside at all.

Over recent weeks, the national campaign group has filmed secretly at four ‘zero grazing’ dairy operations. They found animals crowded together in the gloom, and evidence of emaciation and disease. At one farm, two cows and a young calf had been shot and dumped outside.

The film accompanies a new Animal Aid report, Battery Cows: Zero grazing and the dairy industry, which demonstrates that dairy farming in general, and zero grazing in particular, cause high levels of stress, disease and physiological breakdown in cows. After just four lactations, intensively reared dairy cows are likely to be lame, infertile or suffering from some other ailment that renders them unproductive. At this point, they are sent for slaughter.


During its investigations, Animal Aid was approached by a number of industry insiders who felt aggrieved by the increasingly intensive nature of dairying and how zero grazing regimes impact on the welfare of cows. Their alarming eyewitness accounts are included in the report.

One relief worker stated:

‘When I got to the farm, I could see that a cow had just calved. The young calf was just a few hours old and was suckling. I stood watching and smiling. There is no more beautiful sight. The farmer came over and – I thought – tousled the calf’s ear. But there was a gun in his other hand and he put it to the calf’s head. When the shot fired, the mother jumped and ran. The calf went down kicking but he didn’t die outright. He was dragged away, still kicking as the milk spilled from his mouth.’

Says Head of Campaigns at Animal Aid, Kate Fowler-Reeves:

‘The industry-promoted image of Daisy amongst the buttercups has long been bogus but zero grazing takes the cruelty of dairy farming to another wretched level. Already, cows are repeatedly made pregnant through invasive techniques. They must bear the emotional toll of separation from their calves who, if male, are likely to be shot within days of birth or sent for slaughter. Now, with zero grazing, all freedom is denied them. Day in, day out, they stand in their own filth, often on lame legs or enduring painful udder infections. This is the truth of modern-day dairying and a harbinger of the future. It is a far cry from the carefree-in-the-meadow image presented when dairy companies are trying to flog a pat of butter.’

Notes to Editor:

  • For further information, contact Kate Fowler-Reeves or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line available for broadcast quality interviews.
  • The undercover investigation was conducted at four dairy units between 25th May and 3rd September 2007. Still images are available on request.

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