FOUR PAWS investigates buffalo mozzarella: a premium product with hidden cruelty
Buffalo mozzarella is a popular product, perceived by many as a "premium" item. However, fans of buffalo mozzarella are often unaware of the circumstances under which the cheese is produced. Last summer, FOUR PAWS published footage exposing that buffalo mozzarella is generally not produced under premium conditions.
Buffalo farming has changed
Extensive keeping with regular pasture access has been replaced with intensive systems which bring about many animal welfare problems. Buffaloes with overgrown claws, very high stocking density or swellings on the withers can be found on a regular basis. The latter problems are results of inappropriate barn equipment that harms the animals. Overgrown claws result from the extremely rare pasture access provided to the buffalos, which means their claws are not worn down naturally. Regular claw treatment is not carried out as the animals are more and more neglected. FOUR PAWS criticises the lack of EU-wide regulation of buffalo keeping and buffalo welfare. The lack of species-specific regulations means that buffalo remain unprotected.
Male buffalo calves an “unnecessary by-product”?
The situation for male calves is the biggest animal welfare problem we discovered during our investigations. Only a small percentage are raised for breeding purposes, and the rest therefore treated as an unwanted by-product of buffalo mozzarella production. In this context criminal acts are also carried out! Over the last past years Italian authorities have regularly reported findings of calves being illegally killed. However, even if the male calves are not illegally killed, an immense ethical problem remains as the male calves are sent to slaughter at the young age of 20 days.
What FOUR PAWS has achieved
Our work led to an increased awareness of buffalo welfare among consumers and relevant players of the buffalo mozzarella production. Additionally, we have been in contact with supermarkets and producers thereby ensuring that they live up to their animal welfare responsibilities.
As an animal welfare organisation we aim to not only expose these abuses but also to offer solutions. The responsibility now lies with supermarkets, importers, producers, consumers and politicians to tackle these problems and improve the situation. FOUR PAWS demands a buffalo-specific legislation and strong controls on buffalo farms to end the suffering of buffaloes.