On Saturday 11 March 2023, a national protest dubbed ‘Day of Action’, led by the vegan campaign charity Viva! in association with We The Free, saw volunteers across Leeds take a stand against the dairy industry.
The volunteers offered passers-by free plant-based milk outside a Costa Coffee outlet and educated them on what cattle often go through to supply the demand for dairy products.
Dairy industry cruelty revealed in undercover investigation
Lynda, a volunteer for We The Free, said: “I have been vegan for ten years. We are here talking to people, asking them questions, and telling them what happens in these farms. This is an event with Viva!, who investigated Home Farm in Kent, which supplies cow’s milk to Costa and many other chains. So we are here showing the footage of how cruel the whole process is.”
The Viva! investigative team allegedly discovered emaciated cows, some struggling just to walk, while they claim that others were manhandled, slapped and shoved. The investigators state that some cows were visibly injured or in shackles and they also describe various other ways in which the animals were being mistreated.
Juliet Gellatley, director of Viva! and part of the investigation team, stated: “I loathe this industry. The public thinks that dairy farming is somehow idyllic when in reality it’s about death and destruction, desolation and depression.”
The footage is distressing to watch, and appears to show hours-old calves being force-fed, or dumped into trash bins, or just being treated harshly. In response, Red Tractor conducted their own inspection and stated that this footage and claims made by Viva! did not reflect the normal industry practices and the farms were being operated in compliance with their animal welfare standards.
Plant-based alternatives get the thumbs-up
A lot of people stopped to taste the plant-based milk substitutes that the volunteers were offering, along with vegan cookies and muffins.
Melanie Watson said: “I like almond and coconut milk. I think I will drink that from now on. It is not nice what they are doing to those animals; they are very cruel.”
Another passer-by, Jo, said: “In my eyes, coconut milk is good. I am not a vegan, but I do go for vegan alternatives every now and then.”
Alex Kavanagh tried almond milk for the first time at the event and liked it a lot. He was ready to switch his regular milk with almond.
Becoming vegan: easy when you remember why
The protestors also sought to educate the public about the harmful effects of cow milk on the human body.
As Lynda explained: “To produce milk, the cows are forcefully impregnated repeatedly. So, the cow’s milk is full of hormones which is not good for humans. It is meant for the calf, who is separated from the mother after birth.”
Kirsten Little, We The Free volunteer, said: “I made a change three years ago to commit to veganism. Once I connected [with] what these animals go through, I made the change. If somebody wants to switch their diet, it is a very easy process, honestly. You just need to remember why you are doing it.”
The protest took place in 40 towns and cities across the UK including Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester.