Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

The Kids are Not Alright: British Goat Farms Exposed

Intensive farming and the mutilation of baby animals the industry doesn’t want you to see

Release date: 
Friday, June 15, 2012
Castration of a male kid at Enson Farm

 

CAMPAIGNING animal group Viva! believe that consumers will be shocked by the horror behind their goats’ cheese tartlets.

Through a series of ground-breaking undercover investigations the group has shone a light on the rapidly expanding goat’s dairy industry in the UK – including farms that supply the UK’s biggest supermarkets. Viva! has also dismissed claims that goat’s milk is a healthy option.

Behind the pastoral image often portrayed Viva!’s exposé has found potentially illegal and other routine mutilation of baby animals1, disease outbreaks2, piles of dead carcasses3, intensified zero-grazing farming practicesand Billy goats increasingly sold for the ethnic food market5. The group says that it is this intensification that has allowed the industry to surpass the production of 2 million litres a year in Britain for the first time6.

In May 2012, the group filmed undercover at Upper Enson Farm (Britain’s largest grazing goat herd6) in Staffordshire, who milk around 1,800 goats for Delamere Dairies – who supply M&S, Waitrose, The Co-op, Sainsbury’s and a number of other major UK retailers7. In September/October 2011, Viva! also filmed at Bromes Farm in Somerset, which farms around 1,200 zero-grazed goats and supplies Tesco8.

Viva! founder and director Juliet Gellatley says, “Ethically minded consumers who have been shocked by increasingly intensive methods of production in the dairy cow industry have been switching to goats’ milk under the mistaken belief that it is somehow more humane.” 

Ms Gellatley continues, “We are not talking about small herds of goats anymore, on today’s farms herds can run to well over a thousand animals. Whilst some have access to the outside, the industry is increasingly moving towards zero-grazing practices where these inquisitive animals never even go outside.

“As with dairy farms with cows, males are often surplus to requirements because they are simply the wrong sex to produce milk. On one goat farm we filmed at they previously disposed of young male kids by swinging them by the back legs and smashing their heads into a metal post. Now they raise them for the ethnic meat market.

“Most consumers will be shocked to discover that the modern dairy goat industry is underpinned and only possible by the mutilation of baby animals at just a day or two old. Usually without anaesthetic, they are ear-tagged and most have the tips of their horns burnt off. Males suffer further with a method of castration that can cause significant long and short term pain. Whilst the industry might dispute how much pain is caused, our footage of countless screaming kids shows that mutilation is the order of the day to keep the nation’s goats’ milking flowing.

“There is also a misconception that goats’ milk is somehow a healthy option. It is not. Goats’ milk has virtually the same lactose content as cows’ milk and has not been proven to be less allergenic. Goats’ milk also contains IGF-1 and oestrogen, both of which are known to be cancer promoters. Goats’ milk is also high in saturated fat and generally contains an even higher amount of somatic cells than cows’ milk. In other words more pus! Plant-based milks, such as those derived from soya, oat or rice, make a much healthier and kinder alternative.

“Don’t agree with the mutilation of babies and want to improve your health? The answer is simple: drop dairy and go vegan.”

ENDS information: 

 

1 The disbudding of goats must be carried out by a veterinary surgeon according to the Goats (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB9733 & PB0081). “In the UK, goat disbudding is usually undertaken within the first seven days of life, as horn bud growth can be rapid. The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 requires that the procedure must be undertaken by a veterinary surgeon. It is also recommended that it should be carried out under general anaesthesia.” David Harwood, Honorary Veterinary Surgeon, British Goat Society, AHVLA. The disbudding shown in the undercover footage was undertaken by a female farm worker on Upper Enson Farm. No anaesthesia was used during filming.

Disbudding of baby goats

Other (legal) mutilations of kid goats at Upper Enson Farm included ear-tagging and the castration without anaesthetic of male kids. The footage shows kids crying out in pain and in evident discomfort throughout the procedures. In its March 2011 report FAWC (Farm Animal Welfare Council)’s report on mutilations in piglets said: “Mutilations involve handling stress, acute pain (short term, arising from tissue damage during the procedure) and the possibility of chronic pain (longer term, arising from nerve damage.” FAWC’s 2008 report into the mutilation of lambs concluded that: “… there is widespread acceptance that, without effective analgesia, all methods commonly used for both castration and tail docking of lambs cause pain and distress.” Although these reports do not cover goats specifically, it is reasonable to assume that similar welfare concerns would affect goats, also.


At Upper Enson farm the farmer admits they have an outbreak of Cryptosporidiosis (which can cause chronic diarrhoea and sometimes eventual death in younger goats). It is spread by infected faeces, but no effective biosecurity was observed on farm (no footbaths) and some bedding was covered in faeces, as was milking machinery. Kid goats with diarrhoea were not isolated. Live and dead kid goats are carried in a wheelbarrow; presenting more potential risk of cross-contamination. More on Cryptosporidiosis here.

Kid goats indoors


3 Carcases of dead nanny and kid goats are observed at Upper Enson Farm (with further carcases mainly from stillbirths at Bromes Farm). At Upper Enson the local abattoir collects them for ‘rendering’. At Bromes farm the local hunt takes dead goats. 

Dead baby goats and ewes


4 Bromes farm is completely zero-grazing, which means that the goats do not go out to pasture. This article from Farmer’s Weekly (25 August 2011) confirms that they do not go outside as it would reduce the time that nannies could be milked. Goats at Upper Enson farm are allowed out to pasture at certain times of the day (if the weather allows).


Both farms used to kill male dairy Billy goats, but now grow on for the meat market. On the first visit to Bromes Farm (September 2011) a worker said they killed them as there was no market (confirmed in Farmer’s Weekly article). On subsequent visit worker says they used to kill them by holding them by the back legs and smashing their heads against a post (this is legal). On this subsequent visit the worker now says that they sell the males at a week old to a Bristol-based company to be grown on for “curry”. At Upper Enson, a worker confirms that they used to gas all of the male dairy goats but have now developed a meat market for them. A 2010 article from Farmer’s Weekly confirms that most goat meat goes to the Asian (which would include Halal) and Caribbean markets (including worn out nanny goats).

6 http://www.fstoppress.com/articles/dairy-goats/

7 Delamere supplies these retailers: http://www.delameredairy.co.uk/where-to-buy.aspx

8 Bromes Farm supplies Tesco (as said on footage)

For more information about this media release, contact Viva!’s press office on 0117 944 1000 or by emailing press@viva.org.uk