AN investigation by Animal Aid into a Somerset dairy farm has revealed the horrendous toll calf hutches play on the animals' mental wellbeing, as well as shocking physical abuse.

The footage documents the sad lives of calves separated from their mothers and forced to reside in small hutches.

Key findings form the investigation at an unnamed farm include:

  • calves living in tiny hutches, their natural instincts to interact and feed are restricted or denied;
  • calves desperately trying to have full-body contact with one another, as they naturally would, but they are unable to due to their confinement to the hutches and pens;
  • appalling treatment of a newly born calf, who appears to be still damp with birthing fluid. It is shouted at, slapped and kicked.

Animal Aid campaign manager Tor Bailey said: "Animal Aid sought to expose the sad reality of calf hutches, a common and accepted part of the exploitative dairy industry.

"Each one of these individual calves was taken away from their mother, causing them both huge distress, and forced to reside in these tiny pens.

"After weeks incarcerated in these pens, some calves will be traded at market, group reared for veal, trucked to the slaughterhouse and some female calves will often go on to join the milking herd to themselves face forced impregnation and having their sons or daughters removed in order to produce huge volumes of milk, not for their young, but another species, namely humans."

Tor Bailey added: "Calf hutches are to my eye emotionally damaging, socially and developmentally stifling.

"These calves – some only hours old - are lonely, intermittently hungry, sad, confined babies, taken from their mothers within just hours of birth to be reared on their own in tiny pens.

"The calves are subjected to rain, hail, wind or high temperatures with just a plastic shell and some straw for comfort.

"The calves cannot run, play or even touch one another."

Animal welfare specialist Dr Helen Lambert said: "Cows are emotional, complex, intelligent, and social beings with markedly different personalities.

"Research shows us that keeping calves in these small hutches with little room to move, and few opportunities to interact with one another can have long-lasting and permanent effects on their well-being."