The report says that developers are increasing farm sizes gradually and ‘retrospectively’ applying for planning permission.
World Animal Protection UK says that while no official figures exist, its research has found nearly 100 intensive indoor dairy farms with a further 43 suspected.
These systems, the organization says, can hold more than 2,000 cows and now account for up to 20% of the milk produced in the UK. The report says that cows in such conditions are at a higher risk of suffering from lameness and udder infections.
Consumers want organic
World Animal Protection points to a recent YouGov poll, which showed that 87% of respondents want to buy free range milk from cows that grazed on pasture, which would require more transparency about where British milk comes from.
Alyx Elliott, UK head of campaigns at World Animal Protection said, “We believe that the British public will be shocked about the number of intensive indoor dairy farms in the UK, especially when these systems put cows at an increased health risk and prevent them from expressing their natural behavior.
“This century, countries such as Denmark have seen the majority of their cows moved to indoor intensive farms, without anyone noticing, and we do not want this to happen to us.”
The report states that in 2001, 85% of cows in Denmark had access to outdoor grazing; by 2010 this was 35%.
Elliott noted that people are willing to pay more for free range milk – and they are already familiar with the ‘free-range’ concept.
“This provides a fantastic opportunity for the dairy industry to create value in the milk we are producing. It means providing better labelling and replicating the great work pasture based dairy farmers are doing already,” Elliott said.
In discussions with supermarkets
World Animal Protection UK says that it is in discussions with nine supermarkets including Tesco, Aldi and Waitrose about providing free range milk labeling, and recently met with Defra farming Minister George Eustice to discuss the opportunities free-range milk presents to the dairy industry.
It says that one of its recent studies found that there is no reason why free-range milk could not be made widely available and a brand introduced with a minimum of 20,000 liters of milk supplying around 40 stores.
The NFU was invited to comment on the World Animal Protection UK report, but had not responded as of publication of this article.