An organization for the welfare of farm animals, Velbú, has asked that those farmers found to be breaking regulations concerning housing for dairy cows should not be allowed to turn in milk to Mjólkursamsalan (Iceland Dairies), cooperative organization that includes over 700 of Iceland’s family-run dairy farms and other milk producers across the country. Consumers are unable to make an educated choice as dairy products have no farm-of-origin labels, ruv.is reports.
The Chief Veterinarian of Iceland says that per diem fines are utilized against farmers who do not abide by rules on the welfare of cattle in cowsheds. Many cowsheds do not fulfill the requirements, even though current guidelines have been in use for decades. In many sheds the cows can barely move, stalls are too short and rails to low.
In their statement Velbú also refers to a law put in place over a decade ago which makes it mandatory to let cows outside for grazing for at least eight weeks every year, in response to reports that several farmers had ended that practice.
Some farmers have resisted the legislation, with one farmer, Björn Birkisson, threatening to bring the case to court two years ago, claiming that the legislation did not have its roots in concerns for animal welfare but rather was being enacted “because women in Vesturbær (a neighborhood in Reykjavík) think that the cows should get a summer vacation like everyone else.”
Violators of this law are also for the most part penalized with fines, and although the law stipulates that repeat offenders can be punished with jail time, no reports exist of such action being taken.
Velbú stresses its demand that consumers be allowed to exercise their right to do business exclusively with law-abiding dairy farmers and raises the question of whether one must avoid dairy altogether in order to boycott those farmers guilty of animal abuse.