A water buffalo in front of a bright blue sky © Aneesh Sankarankutty

Buffalo Mozzarella Exposé: Are You Being Milked by ‘Natural’ Marketing Claims?

Issue 1|Winter 2024

In Ontario, Canada, mother water buffaloes were forced to deliver their calves in wet manure slop, which accumulated to a height of several feet, according to a whistleblower who contacted PETA. Water buffaloes are native to the tropical and subtropical climates of South and Southeast Asia and haven’t adapted to tolerate harsh Canadian winters, causing them to lose parts of their ears from frostbite during subfreezing temperatures. Some had even lost teats due to the severe cold, the whistleblower said.

Water buffalo calf covered in muck on the ground

This baby buffalo was born in muck and will know only misery.

Astonishingly, the Ontario Water Buffalo Company – which sells buffalo mozzarella, gelato, and other products made from the water buffaloes’ milk – claims that the animals it exploits are “raised how nature intended.”

But the whistleblower told PETA another story: that buffaloes languished from painful ailments in filthy conditions. After receiving the tip, PETA investigators took a scheduled tour of the facility and found systemic animal suffering.

Animals Denied Adequate Veterinary Care

The whistleblower reported that buffaloes were confined to crowded, filthy pens for months on end. They said that one animal fell, couldn’t regain her footing in the excessive feces, and was dragged out by ropes to be milked.

Also according to the whistleblower, buffaloes were denied adequate veterinary care for various ailments and injuries, including open wounds, abscesses, and sores. A blind calf who couldn’t stand reportedly lingered for two weeks before he died.

Open wounds on a water buffalo

The whistleblower reports that calves suffered from open wounds and sores.

Weaned calves were denied adequate hay or were given moldy or wet hay and became thin and “hobble[d] around,” the whistleblower told PETA, reporting that calves suffered from parasites and that diarrhea was rampant. Many animals allegedly became so weak that they couldn’t stand.

Mothers Forced to Give Birth in Muck

Rather than being provided with a bedded area in which to give birth, buffaloes had to deliver their calves in a small, filthy pen and even in a gutter, where calves suffocated in feces, according to the whistleblower. Other expectant mothers reportedly delivered their calves in mud, piles of manure, or even ponds.

Left: Some calves were reportedly born in this gutter and suffocated in feces.
Right: Manure was piled up several feet high in this enclosure.

Broken Bonds, Stolen Milk

Water buffaloes are highly social, and mothers are fiercely protective of their babies. In their natural homes, female water buffaloes live together in maternal herds consisting of adults and their offspring. Males stay with their mothers for about three years.

But on dairy factory farms like this one, these bonds are shattered, as mothers and babies are torn apart so that humans can steal the mothers’ milk. A PETA investigator saw that buffalo calves were taken from their mothers soon after birth and penned within their view, causing distressed mother buffaloes to call out to their precious calves.

A milk machine attached to a water buffalo

Mother buffaloes are treated as milk machines.

PETA’s investigation confirmed the whistleblower’s claim that buffaloes suffered from uterine prolapses – a painful condition in which the animals’ internal reproductive tissue protrudes from their bodies. Many of these buffaloes were allegedly bred and milked after their uteruses were stitched back into their bodies.

Painfully Overgrown Hooves and Horns

The whistleblower never saw a farrier visit the farm and reported that the buffaloes’ hooves had become overgrown, which PETA’s investigation confirmed, and that the animals struggled to walk. Some buffaloes’ horns grew downward, the whistleblower told PETA, with one buffalo’s face abraded by a horn growing into it – a horn that a manager cut off, causing profuse bleeding.

Following PETA’s investigation, Quality Cheese – which produces Bella Casara cheese sold at Canadian grocers Loblaws and Longo’s – will no longer source milk from Ontario Water Buffalo Company. Loblaws contacted Quality Cheese after hearing from PETA and confirmed the cheesemaker’s decision.

PETA submitted our findings and the whistleblower’s allegations to Ontario’s Animal Welfare Services (AWS). A subsequent eyewitness visit revealed that the filth and neglect persist. The investigator found that the animals – including a calf with an open wound on her head caused by a recent dehorning procedure – were confined in a filthy slop of feces and swarmed by flies. A concrete pit, intended for the buffaloes to bathe in, reeked of feces, and several buffaloes had overgrown hooves. PETA alerted AWS to the most recent findings and requested that the animals be removed and that appropriate cruelty charges be filed.

RESCUED!

Animal Rahat, a PETA-supported animal rescue group in India, received a call about a frightened male buffalo calf who was all alone and shivering in the cold – likely abandoned by a dairy farmer. Rescuers whisked Mahesh off to their sanctuary, where he bonded with Lalu, another rescued buffalo calf.

A water buffalo in front of a bright blue sky© Aneesh Sankarankutty

 

Be Part of It!

Help stop animals from suffering in the meat and dairy industries: Go vegan. Avoid all animal-derived foods, even “natural” meat and dairy items, misleadingly labeled to make the consumer, not the animals, feel comfortable. Watch the investigative footage and share it with everyone you know.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind