At the end of November, popular Italian cheeses Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) and Grana Padano were put under the spotlight after a disturbing set of revelations were released by CIWF (Compassion In World Farming).
In the summer of 2017, undercover investigators visited farms whose dairy cows provide milk to make these cheeses and recorded footage showing the cattle living in horrific conditions.
The video clearly shows animals in cramped structures that force them to lay on concrete if they want to rest. The pens are too small for the large animals, causing them to be wounded, and are covered in urine and excrement. Even worse, these cells are not just where they spend their nights; these cows live their entire lives indoors.
No space for pastures
As the Italian section of CIWF says on its website, Italy is a hotbed of factory farming. This is why most Italian dairy cows spend their lives in overcrowded boxes inside huge warehouses without ever getting to graze in a field, or feel grass beneath their hooves. They live to produce milk and nothing else.
Several studies show that, in addition to having a strong environmental impact, zero grazing farming has a significant influence on the mental and physical well-being of the animals. Feeding hay that has already been cut for them, for instance, stops them from performing natural grazing behaviors, which causes mental distress.
40% of milk produced in Italy is used by the company Made in Italy, who are largely responsible for the deplorable conditions in which these animals live. These products, known all over the world for their high quality, continue to exploit the animals they profit from, despite the large amounts of money they make.
The ecological impact
The intensive breeding and keeping of hundreds of dairy cows is also having a disastrous effect on the local environment. 50% of the crops produced there is used to feed livestock, and very large amounts are needed to keep them alive and producing milk.
Pierluigi Viaroli, a professor at the Department of Chemical Sciences, Life and Environmental Sustainability of the University of Parma, says amount of pesticides used to grow the necessary amount of crops pollutes the groundwater and rivers in the area.
Finally, farmland and pastures are now being used to build factory farms instead, which affects the lives of wildlife living in the area, forcing them to leave or die out.
Clear and transparent labeling
Despite the fact that Italy is home to around 2 million dairy cows, most of them are raised in factory farms. While there are specific, EU regulations on the raising animals used for slaughter, dairy farming regulations are quite variable.
Because of the lack of transparency in the industry, consumers also find it very difficult to be able to choose products that have been sourced from environmentally friendly and ethical businesses.
Of course, many farmers treat their cattle with respect, allowing them to graze and grow in the open air. It is therefore right for consumers to be able to choose the product on the basis of a clear and transparent label, which indicates exactly the methods of breeding and production that have gone into making it. That way, they will be able to support those who treat their animals correctly.
CIWF has launched a petition to ask the Minister of Agriculture to introduce voluntary labeling. Sign it here and help make farming more ethical.
Watch the investigation's video below:
Source and Cover Image: CIWF Italia
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