Dear Friends and Supporters,

Until recently, many people did not know that dairy cows, to order to keep milk production going, must have a calf every year and that this calf is often taken away from them within hours of its birth. Then the very popular Dutch TV show “Radar” covered our report “Giving Milk a Good Shake” to expose some of the uncomfortable truth behind dairy farming. In this TV show we were interviewed and our footage of calves being taken from cows was shown. There was also extensive coverage of the 30-40 dairy farmers who prove that it can be done differently. They let the calves grow up in the herd with their mother. Never before has a program from Radar had so many reactions. From outraged consumers, but also angry farmers because, according to them, separating a calf is better for the cow and the calf. The uproar became even louder when, in the beginning of this year, a majority of the Dutch Parliament agreed with a plan to keep calves longer with cows.

Support from vets, dairy farmers and opinion leaders

Unfortunately, this plan to keep the calves longer with the mother-cow was deferred by Secretary of State Mister Van Dam. The KNMvD (Royal Dutch Society for Veterinary Medicine), some scientists and farmers are of the opinion that with current dairy farming practices it is not possible to keep calves for longer periods with the cows. We are disappointed about this premature conclusion which is focused on the limitations of the current intensive industry standards, and not on the possibilities. The animals' natural behavior should be the starting point, not the housing system. Yet we still consider the recent events to be a success because the most important step has been taken: to open the discussion! Opinion leaders, veterinarians, farmers and journalists are writing like crazy about the ethics of dairy and the importance of calves being raised more humanely. The by-product calves of the dairy industry are no longer out of sight. A large group of people want the calves to stay with the cow and this group is getting bigger.

Here are some important articles that have been published recently:

Psychologist Roos Vonk and two veterinarians published an article in the Dutch daily newspaper Volkskrant “Ethisch willen omgaan met dieren is niet 'emotioneel' (Treating animals ethically is not “emotional”).
Veterinarian Dr. Arabella Burgers got an article she wrote published in NRC called “Dierenarts, bekommer je eens om het dierenleed” (Veterinarians,  take account of the animal suffering!).
Durk Oosterhof, a dairy farmer in the Netherlands, published his opinion in the newspaper Leeuwarder Courant called “Kalf bij koe wordt socialer in de kudde”  (Calf with the cow is more social in the herd).
Chantal Overgaauw, journalist for “Working Mother” published an article called “Melk van moeders zonder baby’s” (Milk from mothers without babies).
Bert van den Berg from the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals wrote a blog on this topic for the agricultural paper Boerderij. His blog is called “Kalf bij koe vergissing van Moeder-Natuur?“ (Calf with the cow, a mistake by Mother Nature?).
Dan Weary, a world-known professor of animal welfare and dairy-cow specialist from Canada is interviewed by the Boerderij newspaper. “Koe bij kalf kan boer veel opleveren” (Calf with the cow can give a lot to the farmer).

In addition our opinion piece “Love for the calves only lasts two weeks on dairy farms” was recently published in Trouw, a well-read Dutch daily newspaper.

The advantages of calves staying with the cow

On the vast majority of dairy farms, calves are not just removed from their mothers quickly after birth but then put in small individual pens. Two weeks later, 85% of these calves are sold through livestock markets and are transported to calf fattening units at home and abroad. There the calves live in a barren environment, on a slatted floor until they are slaughtered a 8-11 months later. Eyes on Animals regularly inspects calf transports and has seen many calves arrive exhausted and weakened at their fattening farms. See this video >> If the calves would grow up in the herd -  with their mother – all this lugging around of vulnerable animals would be unnecessary.

But above all, calves who grow up in the herd have a much better life. They can play together, learn from each other and the adults, are challenged and given the care and social education they need. Because if we want to use the meat from these calves, surely giving them a good life is the least we can do?

Of course we realise that keeping calves in the herd on dairy farms raises some challenges. This cannot be achieved from one day to the next. But we know that it is possible. Forty farmers, of whom we have met about 10, already keep calves with the herd. So let's see what their success factors are, and learn from them and spread their ideas, rather than adhering to a system that has no potential for the welfare of calves.

Eyes on Animals organised a workshop for dairy farmers

On April 1st this year we brought together over 40 dairy farmers, calf farmers, industry groups and scientists to share ideas and experiences, and organised a tour of a farm where calves remain in the herd. Several speakers, including the Canadian Animal Welfare Professor Dan Weary, the author of Cow Signals Jan Hulsen and farmer Hanneke Mellema who keeps the calves with the cow, told their stories. Watch all the presentations on our YouTube channel >> With these meetings we hope to bring the parties closer together and to encourage new -animal friendly- initiatives. The meeting went very well!

Our ultimate aim is that milk from dairy farms that keep the calves with their mothers in the herd will be marketed under a separate label. A separate label would allow these farmers to be financially rewarded. And other dairy farmers – who are still hesitating a bit – could be encouraged to switch. We are in consultation with dairy farmers and various supermarket chains to see how we can market “herd milk”. The moment when “herd milk” can be found in the supermarket is getting closer, we will not give up until we succeed!

We want to thank you for your support and will, of course, keep you informed of important developments!

Best wishes,
The Eyes on Animals team

Without your help we could not attain these important steps to curb animal-suffering. Please, do support us with a donation. Every gift, small or large, is very appreciated.

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