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FOUR PAWS investigates buffalo mozzarella: a premium product with hidden cruelty



© FOUR PAWS

Buffalo mozzarella is a popular product around the world. However, buffalo mozzarella aficionados often are unaware of the circumstances under which the cheese is produced. In summer 2014, FOUR PAWS published footage and revealed that buffalo mozzarella – mostly perceived as a premium product – is not produced under premium conditions. 


Buffalo husbandry has changed – as have many other animal husbandries

 

Keeping numbers of buffalo changed during the last years. Earlier buffalos were mainly used as three purpose animals, which means that they were kept for milk, meat and labour. Nowadays buffalo are mainly held for diary purpose.  Extensive stables and pasture land has been replaced with intensive indoor systems which bring about many animal welfare problems. Buffaloes with overgrown claws, swellings on the withers and very high stocking density can be found on a regular basis. The latter problems are results of dangerous conditions that can harm the animals. Overgrown claws are consequences of rarely provided pasture access; therefore claws are not worn down naturally. Regular claw treatment is not carried out as the animals are more and more neglected. FOUR PAWS criticizes that there is no EU-wide regulation of buffalo keeping und buffalo welfare. The lack of specie-specific regulations means that buffalo remain unprotected. 

 

While in several countries and the Near East (Bulgaria, RO, Turkey, Iran), buffalo numbers dropped due to mechanisation and holsteinisation, Egypt, Germany and Italy's numbers have increased due to the demand for buffalo milk products.  According to FAO data, buffalo milk production in Europe takes place in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy producing several tones of buffalo milk per year.  Buffalo slaughters for meat production are published for Bulgaria, Greece and Italy.

 

Italy has the highest production volume compared to the rest of Europe, as the demand for buffalo mozzarella (Mozzarella die Bufala Campana, being a registered trade mark) increased on the national and international market. Also quotas imposed on Bovine by the European Union encouraged an increase in buffalo production. The number of buffalo producers in Italy increased during the last years . In 2013, 318 buffalo farms were recorded by the A.S.B.N (Associacione Nazionale Allevatori Specie Bufalina) keeping in mean 178.7 buffalos.  Main production areas are Campania (119 farms in 2013)  and Lazio (125 farms in 2013). 



© FOUR PAWS

Male buffalo calves an “unnecessary by-product”?

The situation of the male calves is the biggest animal welfare problem we have discovered during our investigations. As only a small percentage is raised for breeding purposes the rest is treated like an unwanted by-product of the buffalo mozzarella production. In this context criminal acts are also carried out! Over the last past years Italian authorities have regularly reported findings of illegally killed calves. However, even if the male calves are not illegally killed, an immense ethical problem remains as the male calves are sent to slaughter at the young age of 20 days.


What FOUR PAWS has achieved

Our work led to an increased awareness of buffalo welfare among consumers and relevant players of the buffalo mozzarella production. Additionally, we have been in contact with supermarkets and producers thereby ensuring that these players live up to their animal welfare responsibilities.

 

As an animal welfare organisation we can point the finger on abuses and offer solutions. The responsibility now lies with supermarkets, importers, producers, consumers and last but not least the political players to tackle problems and improve the status quo. FOUR PAWS demands a buffalo-specific legislation and strong controls on buffalo farms to end the suffering of buffaloes. 


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