- Soil Association
- Animal welfare on organic farms
Animal welfare on organic farms
All Soil Association organic farms are inspected at least annually, and we treat animal welfare very seriously. If any issues around animal welfare are raised, suitable action is taken immediately, including removal of organic status if required.
Our certification team performed an unannounced inspection at Coombe Farm the day after we received the report and raised the issues with the farm team. Farm staff have already started implementing changes to their ways of working to prevent the issues arising in future, including improvements to feeding regimes and the staff identified in the video are no longer working in the area. They will be assessed and retrained. If the actions taken by the farm are not found to fully meet the required corrective actions at any point, we will without hesitation, take further action.
Animal welfare is at the heart of organic and our standards are the highest of any farming system in the UK. The feeding of calves with colostrum (the mother’s first milk) is very important as it’s full of antibodies to build immunity to a range of diseases. Organic standards permit the use of a stomach tube only on sick animals or those having difficulty feeding to ensure calves get the optimum amount of colostrum as soon as possible after birth. Of course, this needs to be done properly by trained staff to ensure that calves are not distressed by the process.
Shackles are used on cows which have suffered physical damage to the nerves to their back legs, mostly associated with calving. The shackles provide an additional support for the affected cow enabling her to exhibit her normal behaviours. Shackles are left on for the minimum amount of time required for the cow to regain full mobility and are then removed.
In part of the video, it could appear that some animals are confined to small cages. This is not true. On this farm, calves access their milk in a small space which they can enter and leave freely. The stall is there to protect a calf having a drink from being knocked by another calf who would also like to have a drink. There is no animal welfare concern with this practice.