M&S has said it is “very disappointed” to hear allegations one of its milk suppliers kept cows in cramped conditions, and had “taken action on farm”.
An investigation by animal welfare group Animal Equality UK claimed calves as old as six months old were being kept in individual pens designed for animals of up to eight weeks old at M&S supplier Grange Dairy in Dorset.
The group said some calves had struggled to take steps forward or back in their pens due to their size, while many also had difficulty entering their hutches - designed to shelter the animals in poor weather - resulting in open sores on their backs.
Some 1,000 calves were housed at the farm, owned by JF Cobb & Sons. The business had contravened animal welfare law by keeping calves older than eight weeks in the farm’s pens, claimed Animal Equality UK executive director Toni Shephard.
“We are calling on M&S to break ties with this supplier immediately. We urge all supermarkets to implement a zero-tolerance policy when farms break animal welfare laws.”
A spokesman for M&S said Trading Standards had since visited the site and found “no concerns” over welfare. However, the retailer said it was “very disappointed to see the images; any breach of our standards is completely unacceptable”, he added.
“Our experts have been on site and worked with the farm to take action and address the situation. We work hard to uphold the highest welfare standards, which is recognised by animal welfare charities.”
In a statement, JF Cobb & Sons said: “We have been in liaison with Marks & Spencer and our milk buyer over this matter. Last week spot audits were undertaken, including from Trading Standards. All of these audits were passed successfully, with no concerns over animal welfare.
“As a family farming business, we care passionately about our livestock and all our energy is focused on keeping our cattle comfortable and healthy. We work closely with vets and industry welfare experts to establish the best approach to looking after our animals and our health and welfare performance is industry-leading.
“Our animals are under close veterinary supervision and there is no suggestion that the health and welfare of our animals has been compromised.”