A Bristol farm which supplies milk to chocolate maker Cadbury has been calling in members of a hunt linked to the royal family to shoot unwanted dairy calves.
Animal campaigners working undercover at a farm near Bristol have captured footage of a calf being shot dead by a member of the Beaufort Hunt.
The Beaufort Hunt has in the past been patronised by the Royal family – it was attended by Prince William before the 2004 foxhunting ban, and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were widely reported to follow the hunt in years previous.
Campaign group Viva! captured footage of a male bull calf, just a few days old, being shot in the head at point-blank range on top of a pile of dead cattle.
Cadbury confirmed the video was filmed at one of its suppliers, and the calf was killed by “a licensed slaughterer from the Beaufort Hunt Kennels.”
The footage was captured by Viva! last year, following a three-month undercover investigation of dairy farms which supply the company with milk. It was publicised by the Daily Mail.
However, it has now emerged the calf was shot by a member of the Beaufort Hunt, said to be Prince Charles’ “favourite hunt”.
The footage shows a man shooting a calf in the head on top of a pile of dead cattle in a trailer. The trailer door, which is then closed, carries a sign which reads: “Animal by-products for feeding to hounds. Not for human consumption”.
Male bull calves are of little use to dairy farmers, as to produce milk cows must be both female and pregnant. Consequently, a Viva! spokesperson explained that it was not always viable for farmers to raise male calves to adulthood.
Some go to veal farms but others, such as the animal seen in the footage, are killed in a manner which Viva! describe as “callous.”
None of the actions seen in the film are illegal, but animal campaigners Viva! says the footage highlights a side of milk production much of the public are unaware of.
A spokesman for Viva! a group which campaigns for a vegan world, said: “There seems to be a disconnect between the countryside and the city.
“People in the countryside may know this is happening but a lot of people in the city who shop in supermarkets and buy Cadbury’s have no idea.
“We even get some people who are surprised cows have to be female and made pregnant to produce milk.
“Our main message is to say ‘this is how milk is produced’. If you don’t agree with that, here’s the information and you can decide. We urge people to swap milk-based products for alternatives.”
The spokesman added that in their opinion a lot of people who consume milk but who oppose hunting may be surprised that by consuming milk they are fuelling hunting.
Reflecting on the footage, the spokesman said: “It’s also the way the calf is killed – it’s not just shot, it’s that it’s a baby calf lifted on top of other dead cows.
“It was already extremely distressed to be taken away from its mother, but then killed at point blank range on top of already dead animals.”
The spokesman added: “It’s important to emphasise that it’s not just Cadbury, it happens across the country among many suppliers of milk. It’s not an isolated thing.
“And it’s not a practice that has stopped in the last 18 months.”
A spokesperson for Beaufort Hunt echoed this. Speaking about the relationship between farmers and hunts generally, they said: “We have been providing a service for farms for many years.
“Sadly it’s the way milk is produced. We back farmers all the way, and any way we can help them we do. It happens all the time. It happens all over the country.
“It’s done humanely, obviously. It’s sad we don’t eat more veal but that’s the way milk is produced.
“Hunts provide farms with a service for disposing of unwanted livestock and deadstock. There are very strict rules and regulations about the way they are disposed. It’s all done very humanely and tidily and cleanly.
“Farms have been doing it for farms for an enormously long time. There’s nothing unusual about it. It’s a perfectly normal service that’s much-needed.”
However, in a letter sent to a customer last year Cadbury said the Viva! video “captures an out-of-the-ordinary incident.”
It said: “This particular calf had a deformed leg and was taken from the farm by a licensed slaughterer from the Beaufort Hunt Kennels where he was dealt with humanely.
“Healthy calves at this farm are not shot but are reared for seven days before being sold to a local dealer”.
A spokesperson for Cadbury told This is Bristol: "There is no such thing as a ‘Cadbury cow’.
“We purchase milk from hundreds of farms across the UK who are part of the wider dairy industry.
“This video is 18 months old and, at the time it was released, we said we took animal welfare very seriously and nothing has changed in the year and a half since we first made that statement".
The farm declined to comment when contacted by This is Bristol. Clarence House also declined to comment, but said neither Prince Charles, Harry or William are currently official members of the hunt, and they have not hunted since the implementation of the ban.
The latest story published this week in the Daily Mail has prompted the creation of a petition: “Tell Cadbury Chocolate (UK) to stop buying milk from cruel Bristol Farm!”
The petition has so far attracted 8,388 signatures.