The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme at present covers the production of eggs, pork, chicken, turkey, salmon and dairy veal. RSPCA-Approved farms maintain a high level of welfare for the housing and management of layer hens, pigs, meat chickens, turkeys and salmon. Given the serious welfare issues facing hens in cages, sows in sow stalls and traditional farrowing crates, and poultry in crowded sheds, the RSPCA believed it was important to first introduce a welfare-friendly alternative for these species. Standards for dairy cattle may follow in the future.
In contrast to the fairly intensive nature of dairy production overseas – where cows may be housed in sheds for their entire lives – most Australian dairy cows spend at least part of the day on green pasture. Welfare issues in the dairy industry include the treatment of bobby calves, mastitis and lameness in dairy cows, the induction of calves, tail docking of dairy cows, and dehorning of dairy calves (see linked articles below). Australian dairy cows generally have lower levels of mastitis and lameness than those in the US and UK, are not routinely tail docked, and calves are not reared in extreme confinement.
In the absence of RSPCA standards for dairy production, consumers are encouraged to contact the manufacturers of their favourite dairy products and ask them about standards of care for cows and calves.
Some questions to ask:
- Do you source milk from farmers who don’t tail dock their cows?
- Do you source milk from farmers who don’t induce calving?
- Do you source milk from farmers who use pain management when disbudding calves?
- Do you source milk from farmers who have a lameness and mastitis reduction strategy in place?
- Do you source milk from farmers who are finding ways to grow bobby calves out for veal or beef?
- Do you source milk from farms that don’t export breeding cows?
- Do you source milk from farms that are allowing more contact between cow and calf?