Looking to make a better dairy choice?

Dairy / 19th May 2020

When it comes to choosing humanely farmed products, sometimes it’s pretty straight forward (like choosing RSPCA Approved chicken) but other times it can be very hard. Dairy products are one of those that can be more difficult. For many of us, dairy is an important part of our diet but when it comes to choosing milk, cheese and other dairy products that we feel confident have come from animals who have lived a good life, there isn’t a lot of guidance. This is where we need your help.

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about how Australians are driving change for some of our country’s most intensively farmed animals, simply through our purchasing decisions. Over the past few years, we’ve seen well-known businesses switching to cage-free eggs, making the life of egg-laying hens so much better. We’ve also seen huge improvements to the way chickens farmed for meat are housed, giving millions of birds a better quality of life every year. Your power in influencing and encouraging change can’t be underestimated.

While the RSPCA regularly talks to dairy farmers and the dairy industry about what could be done to improve animal welfare, the difficulty lies in the nature of dairy supply chains. Milk is collected from multiple farms and mixed together to supply the brands that you purchase. This means that as conscious dairy consumers we need to show the brands we love that there is demand for a higher welfare dairy product.

Commitments made by the dairy industry
In the meantime, you’ll be pleased to know there has been some positive industry-wide progress on improving cow and calf welfare – even during the recent tough years where dairy farms have been impacted by drought and low milk prices.

In 2012, the Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Framework was launched following consultation with dairy farmers, manufacturers, government, retailers, NGOs and interest groups. The framework’s purpose is to set goals that align with an agreed set of principles to ensure the future sustainability of the dairy industry.

In 2018, commitments that relate directly to improving animal welfare were added to the framework. These commitments include ending the tail docking of cows, ending calving induction, providing pain relief for calves being disbudded under two months, and the implementation of strategies to reduce lameness. These are all significant in improving how cows and calves are treated on dairy farms, and the framework reports on the progression against these commitments publicly through their website.

What still needs to change?
Like many Australians, the RSPCA still has concerns about key animal welfare issues in dairy production that relate to bobby calves (the calf who’s been born so that a cow produces milk), cow-calf separation,  painful procedures or conditions such as mastitis. The RSPCA is also concerned about the welfare of dairy cattle who are exported overseas for breeding purposes as they aren’t currently protected under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.

The RSPCA team is in regular contact with retailers and industry bodies who welcome our input on animal welfare in the dairy industry. This is important as it keeps animal welfare on the agenda in their planning whilst giving us the opportunity to push for better standards. What’s even more promising is when individual farmers reach out to understand how they can also implement better animal welfare outcomes on farms. But ultimately, we know that the dairy industry needs encouragement and support from consumers.

If Australian consumers who choose to consume dairy products want higher welfare, they need to say they want it, they need to support it when it’s done, and they need to pay a fair price for it.

So, what can you do?
1. Contact the makers of your favourite milk, cheese, yoghurt or other dairy product and ask them about animal welfare on their farms.

2. Write to your supermarket and let them know that you care about farm animals and that you would buy higher welfare dairy products.

Here are some questions to ask:

– Do you source milk from farmers who don’t tail dock their cows?

– Do you source milk from farmers who don’t induce calving?

– Do you source milk from farmers who use pain management when disbudding calves?

– Do you source milk from farmers who have a lameness and mastitis reduction strategy in place?

– Do you source milk from farmers that are allowing more cow-calf contact?

– Do you source milk from farmers that are finding ways to grow bobby calves out for veal or beef?

– Do you source milk from farmers that don’t export breeding cows?

Want more? What’s the deal with veal?


  1. Marilyn Harrison says:

    I am now at the point where I need to see for myself the improvements in animal welfare .Why can’t we see more dairy farms open their premises to the public so we can see for ourselves the whole process of where our milk cheese ect comes from. I have spoken to many farmers wife’s over the years and they say they never watch when the bobbie calves are sent for slaughter.Don’t people realise what happens to these young animals babies in fact.

  2. I agree with Marilyn Harrison above. I’ve been vegetarian purely for the Animals (capital ‘A’ out of respect for all Animals) for 36 years and now going vegan for them, and for no other reason. I have been buying my milk for the last two years or so from Mother Cow Dairy brand. Generally only found in health food shops. This brand of milk is totally cruelty-free, humane, and tastes amazing (although I do not buy it for the taste). All the cows, calves, and bulls are treated kindly: that means the calves get to stay with their mothers and drink all the milk they need, and the excess milk is only used to sell for people. All the elderly cows, all the bulls, and all the male calves are taken to a Sanctuary where they are looked after for life!!! It’s amazing! No one is sent to slaughter. I use this milk for my four furbabies too. As far as I know, it’s the only brand of milk that does this. All the profits go to keeping the Sanctuary for the small and large babies! I call all Animals babies, because that’s what they are: they are also the children of God and Mother Nature. I’m so happy to have discovered this milk, I could cry from sheer relief. Good on them!!!

    • Harry Singh says:

      I’ve stopped drinking milk and putting milk in my tea, precisely due to cruelty in the production of milk.
      Just couldn’t get cruelty free milk in Perth.
      I’ll now look for Mother Cow brand in Health Food stores and will buy irrespective of cost.

  3. An even better thing you can do: go vegan.

    No animal has to suffer, it’s better for the environment, and a perfectly healthy way to eat if you have a well planned diet.

    Also animal to human pathogen transmission is less likely, and antibiotic resistance can be reduced if we breed less animals for human consumption and pump then full of antibiotics.

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