NGO Sinergia Animal recorded new footage of calves kept in cages, inadequate slaughter of calves, and other controversial practices in the company's supply chain
São Paulo, January 26, 2024 — The international NGO Sinergia Animal launched a new investigation into Danone on Friday (January 26), exposing practices that cause suffering to thousands of animals in the supply chain of the dairy giant in Brazil.
Video and audio recordings expose the confinement of calves in individual cages for long periods (sometimes up to 3 months); mutilations (such as dehorning) carried out without pain relief; improper care for injured cows; and neglect of male calves—which receive only leftover colostrum, are transported as newborns, and slaughtered inadequately.
“The investigation reveals that these horrific practices are not isolated cases but rather a systemic issue within Danone’s supply chain. The company must urgently adopt an animal welfare policy that covers all the dairy farms that supply milk for its products. This is the only way to ensure that these practices are eradicated, reducing the suffering of thousands of animals,” says Carolina Galvani, executive director of Sinergia Animal.
In Brazil, the campaign SubMundoDanone.com has been publicized by Intercept Brasil, received the support of national celebrity Luisa Mell and influencer Fabio Chaves, and has had more than 325,000 views on social media.
One of the leading companies in the dairy sector, Danone now faces increasing pressure to take action on the problems exposed by the investigation. Consumers and animal rights activists are calling on Danone to implement a policy that prohibits the culling of male calves, confinement in cages, and mutilations without pain relief.
Neglecting male calves
In statements recorded by Sinergia Animal, employees and farm owners revealed that colostrum (the mother's first milk) is guaranteed only for female calves. The males do not receive it or get only leftovers. Studies show that this harms the development of newborns' immune systems and can lead to death.
According to animal welfare specialist Fernanda Vieira, Research & Animal Welfare Director at Sinergia Animal, the welfare of male calves is not a priority for the industry. Because they have no use for milk production, they are commonly discarded. “Male calves have little commercial value”, she says. Vieira explains that many of them are separated from their mothers soon after birth and receive less care than females.
“In Danone’s case, what we found is even worse—in addition to not always receiving colostrum as they should, male calves are transported when they are just a few days old and not yet sufficiently resilient—that is, without an adequate body weight and a dry umbilical cord. And then they are improperly slaughtered,” explains Vieira.
At a slaughterhouse where some of the newborn calves in the Danone supply chain are sent, the NGO obtained shocking images that show that the animals are sometimes improperly stunned—and therefore may be conscious during slaughter. “This is serious. These animals may be feeling pain, which goes against the slaughter standards established by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply”, remarks Vieira.
Sinergia Animal highlights that other practices exposed in the investigation contradict the recommendations on Danone’s own website: the removal of the structures that will form the horns of female calves (dehorning) and the inhumane treatment of disabled animals. Employee testimonies indicate that dehorning is carried out indiscriminately on the farms investigated, using caustic paste. The painful procedure is performed without anesthesia or any pain relief. Records also reveal that cows that cannot walk are not euthanized on the farm as they should be.
“The way animals are treated reflects the ethics of a company and has a profound impact on its perception by consumers and the general public. We hope that Danone recognizes the urgency of the situation and takes meaningful action to ban these atrocious practices”, concludes Galvani.
To watch the investigation in full, visit: www.sinergiaanimalinternational.org/danone
[High resolution images and videos are available here]
About Sinergia Animal
Sinergia Animal is an international animal protection organization working in countries of the Global South to reduce the suffering of farmed animals and promote more compassionate food choices. Sinergia Animal is recognized as one of the most effective animal protection NGOs in the world by Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE).