Cruelty to animals in lower saxony: death in the pasture

A farmer from Papenburg lets his cows die in agony. Despite repeated criticism, the Milchkontor has only now ended the cooperation

Dragged to the pasture to die: Evidence photos from Peta document the cruelty of a Lower Saxony farmer Photo: Peta

The images are hard to bear: filthy cow carcasses, severed forelegs and emaciated cattle lying around in the meadow, too weak to stand up. The animal rights organization Peta has now published photos of a dairy farm in the district of Emsland to draw attention to the neglect and misery of the animals.

Peta has reported the farmer to the Osnabruck public prosecutor’s office because of numerous alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act and the Animal Welfare Ordinance. "The animals must be confiscated as soon as possible. We urge the authorities to take action against the animal abuser," says Peta spokeswoman Lisa Wittmann.

The milk producer is a supplier for Germany’s largest dairy company, Deutsches Milchkontor (DMK). That in turn terminated only now the co-operation with the farmer. Although according to Peta similar conditions are to have been already repeatedly observed by residents on the yard. The farmer does not take care of the animals and lets them starve in the open. "Cows and calves on this farm in Papenburg are said to be neither adequately fed nor given veterinary care – apparently they die a cruel death over a period of days," says Wittmann.

With the photos it acts according to Peta around photographs of the previous winter. The fact that they are only now being published is due to the fact that the authorities have not reacted despite existing indications. "Nothing has changed on the farm to this day," Peta complains.

The Deutsche Milchkontor (DMK) is by far the largest dairy in Germany and has its headquarters in Zeven, Lower Saxony. Last year, its turnover was 5.1 billion euros.

The company, which is organized as a cooperative, is particularly criticized by many dairy farmers in particularNo large dairy in Europe pays less money to its suppliers than DMK.

In Lower Saxony, there are currently still around 10,000 dairy farms. The number has fallen by around a third within ten years. Almost 900,000 dairy cows are kept in Lower Saxony barns.

The DMK only reacted after the photos were published.

However, neither the responsible public prosecutor’s office nor the veterinary office want to accept this accusation. "Peta’s complaint includes incidents that occurred between the end of January and mid-March and which, after criminal charges were filed by the district of Emsland in March, have since been concluded with a penalty order by the Oldenburg public prosecutor’s office," the veterinary authority says. Since then, however, there have been no more complaints. Whether it comes soon to a court procedure, is not to be foreseen at present however yet, since the responsible judge is at present ill.

What is questionable, despite the decision now to end the cooperation with the dairy farmer, is the behavior of DMK, which distributes the Milram brand. After all, the accusations against the milk producer have been known for some time. It is not fitting that the dairy company advertises its own quality control on its homepage, which went beyond the legal obligations, for example with so-called "farm audits".

Veterinarian Jurgen Block does not see a widespread problem, as Peta states in dairy farming.

This would "once again check the structural condition of the stables, the hygienic conditions and animal health". But only now, after Peta published the photos of the farm in question, DMK also reacted. "After the allegations raised by Peta became known, we stopped accepting milk from the farmer in question with immediate effect," it said in a statement. In addition, the company pointed out that it is in close contact with the veterinary authorities and is supporting them in the processing.

However, Jurgen Block, a veterinarian in the Oldenburg region, does not see a widespread problem, as Peta states in dairy farming. "There are certainly problems with black sheep, even in this industry," says Block, who is also a member of the animal protection committee of the Lower Saxony Chamber of Veterinarians. The controls are not perfect, however, there are also limits to what can be done there at some point. "You can’t do much more than is currently being controlled," Block says.

More problematic for dairy farmers, on the other hand, continues to be the low milk price. "That then leads to an investment backlog," Block says. And that, in turn, sometimes affects animal welfare. "Fortunately, things don’t yet look like they do in some poultry houses," says Block.

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