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Cow exhibitions Cows continue to suffer for ‘beauty ideal’

Cow shows are public festivals in Switzerland. Everyone wants to lead the most beautiful cow into the ring, doing her hair, rubbing her with lotion, using sprays to make her glisten. But this year people are nervous at Expo Bulle, the Swiss National Holstein and Red Holstein Show. 

The giant udders of the animals which play a central role in the milk cow exhibitionexternal link have resulted in new rules. 

Owners extend the milking times and glue the teats so that no milk can get out. But cows suffer if they go too long without being milked. A study conducted last year showed that around a quarter of the cows checked at the exhibition displayed udder oedema. This can be painful and is a visible sign of overfilled udders. 

Since the beginning of 2018, vets have checked with ultrasound the udders of the two top-placing cows directly after the presentation at all exhibitions. If they find an oedema – an excess of watery fluid in tissue – the breeder will face consequences, depending on the severity of the oedema. 

However, critics say this check-and-fine system is much too lenient.

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