Hidden animal cruelty in Italian buffalo farms providing mozzarella to UK supermarkets
A number of the UK’s leading supermarkets are being urged to review the animal welfare conditions behind their buffalo mozzarella products, after footage emerged showing severe neglect and cruelty in the Italian farms which provide to many UK retailers, including some supermarket own brands.
The footage, which has been released by FOUR PAWS following a two year investigation, exposes the total lack of animal welfare standards and the cruelty that starts just after the buffalo calves are born.
Evidence of brutal killings of buffalo calves
The investigations took place in the area of Campania where most of the buffalo farms are located, and exposed severe cruelty and evidence of male calves being brutally killed.
The torture for male buffalo calves starts shortly after their birth. As buffalo meat is not generally consumed, the male calves are considered to be an “unwanted by-product” and there is evidence to suggest they are therefore brutally killed using illegal methods such as bludgeoning with hammers, drowning in pools of excrement or starvation in an enclosure right in front of their own mothers.
Gabriel Paun, FOUR PAWS calls for a stop of the barbaric and illegal killings of male calves.
Watch the shocking footage here:
Appalling keeping conditions of buffalos in Italy
Adult buffalos raised for milk and reproduction also face other welfare challenges during their lives. They have specific needs according to their species but more often than not, the FOUR PAWS investigation found that these needs were not catered to. Buffalos have thicker skins and fewer sweat glands than cows. Therefore adapting to a hot and humid climates such as in Campania is a survival challenge. They need access to mud baths or water spray systems but most buffalo farms do not provide this, or even t basic shelter from the sun.
Most of the farms investigated were extremely crowded and did not offer access to green pastures. In many cases the buffalos were found to be living in a very thick layer of their own excrements. Some animals had open untreated wounds and many of them suffered severe walking difficulties due to overgrown and untended hooves.
Drinking water was not permanently available and almost always dirty. When some animals died the living ones were often forced to bare their sight and smell for up to one week before the body was collected, a practice not only unacceptable from an animal welfare perspective, but which can also lead to disease outbreaks.
Paun claimed that: “The situation is out of control. Altogether, the buffalo farms in Italy require substantial management and structural improvements for species appropriate animal welfare and hygiene. Business as usual is no longer an option. The buffalo needs its dignity back.”
© FOUR PAWS International
Buffalo mozzarella is a premium product
Buffalo mozzarella can be found in most UK supermarket chains in the premium category at a price that is often at least double that of cow mozzarella. “The premium image of the product and its premium price certainly would give you the idea of high animal welfare standards. But it’s the exact opposite,” concluded Paun.
FOUR PAWS demands species appropriate keeping conditions
FOUR PAWS has prepared a set of demands in line with and beyond EU-wide regulation for farming buffalo and calls for supermarket chains across Europe to use them when sourcing their mozzarella. The demands include criteria such as ending the brutal killing of the male calves, regular audits, appropriate care and veterinary treatment, access to outdoor mud baths or indoor spray systems and permanent clean drinking water.