Back in the Spring I was invited to visit Worthy Farm near Glastonbury to witness the cows being let out to pasture for the first time after the winter and to see them frolic, dance and sing with evident delight as their hooves touched grass for the first time.
WSPA (the World Society for the Protection of Animals) has been working in the UK for some time to improve the lot of these lovely ladies with their Not In My Cuppa campaign. European colleagues are now joining the call and I was invited to travel to Amsterdam a few weeks ago to see how things are done in the Netherlands. This on its own was exciting enough but WSPA and Compassion in World Farming also teamed up earlier this year with Ben & Jerry’s to launch the Supporting Better Dairy campaign. A good cause and ICE CREAM! How could I refuse?!
Until I started working with WSPA I had no idea that there are no European minimum welfare standards for dairy cows. Unlike chickens, pigs and sheep these hard-working creatures who bring the milk to our tables have no welfare rights whatsoever. Of course standards vary enormously across Europe so the Supporting Better Dairy Campaign is aimed at getting EU legislation to change this and to show the cows some love! The aim is to collect signatures that will help propose new legislation for improving standards for Europe’s 23 million dairy cows.
Suzi Morris, UK Director of WSPA explains: ‘We cannot assume that the needs of dairy cows are being put first, so the EU must take the lead and ensure that cows do not suffer. We need tougher laws to prevent vast numbers of European cows from suffering painful mastitis, debilitating lameness, infertility and drastically reduced lifespans – all tragic consequences of keeping cows in poor conditions’.
Having Ben & Jerry’s on board as well as the voice of Joanna Lumley means that this campaign really does have some welly. The Caring Dairy programme was launched by Ben & Jerry’s to establish sustainable dairy standards that better balance the needs of people, cow, milk and the earth. In a nutshell; Happy Cows, Happy Farmers and a Happy Planet for future generations!
My trip to the Netherlands showed me what can be achieved when farmers work together. In May 2007, Ben & Jerry’s partnered with CONO cheesemakers (makers of leading Dutch brand Beemster cheese) to roll out the caring dairy scheme with their 460 farmers. All the milk used in all the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sold in Europe, comes from these farms and these happy cows!
The cows I saw on Happy Farmer Rudi’s farm (once I had clambered across a ditch, up a bank and under the electric fence – the things I do for blogging, honestly!) had luscious green pasture land, clean barns with good drainage of all outpourings ;-), a back massager and automatic milking. When they saw Rudi, and after they had finished having a good old nosy at me, they wandered into the barn for milking without any discernible signal from him. One girl took up residence under the back massager (she was still there when I left an hour later, she’d signed up for a proper spa day!) while the others grabbed a bite to eat. When they decided it was time to be milked they strolled one by one into the milking parlour to enjoy their special treat food and to be milked by robot. This was amazing, freeing Rudi up to spend time with his family, it milks the cows gently adjusting to their movement and checking for signs of mastitis – happy cows and a happy farmer!
To highlight the plight of European dairy cows, I am delighted to announce that Ben & Jerry’s are launching a new ice cream flavour today! Called ‘Cow Power’ it contains a little bit of everything chocolatey and I can vouch for its deliciousness having had a taste preview on Rudi’s farm! Sweet cream ice cream has been teamed with chocolate cookie pieces, a chocolate fudge swirl and DARK CHOCOLATEY COWS!
Please sign the petition please click on the image below and you will be whisked over to Ben & Jerry’s place to sign and add your voice to the campaign. Thank you!