Millions of people have no idea how their food is produced – with six in 10 admitting they didn’t realise dairy cows needed to be pregnant in order to produce milk, a study has found.

Despite 83 per cent believing they were ‘clued up’ on the processes used to get meat, dairy and eggs from the farm to our plate many are unaware what cows, pigs and chicken endure as a result.

Although it is standard practice to kill all male chicks on egg farms at a day or two old, two-thirds of people were unaware of it, with 69 per cent believing the practice should be made illegal.

Other common agricultural practices which respondents thought were illegal were the use of farrowing crates to hold breeding sows almost immobile; the tail amputation of piglets and the removal of teeth – both procedures being commonplace and done without anaesthesia.

But the study, of 2,000 people, commissioned by vegan campaigning charity, Viva! found that after learning more about the legal treatment of farmed animals in the UK, almost half would consider cutting back on the meat, eggs and dairy products.

And 16 per cent would give up meat and dairy entirely.

Juliet Gellatley, founder & director of Viva!, said: “Most people are so far removed from the reality of industrialised animal farming that they have no idea how food gets from farm to plate.

“All the practices which they found shocking are entirely legal so we have an enormous moral gulf between producers and consumers.

“Perhaps it’s a case of keeping people ignorant because the consequences of having an educated public would be dire for the farming industry.”

The study found that 33 per cent of adults have no idea dairy cows are slaughtered when their milk yield drops.

Instead, one in ten wrongly believes they go to an animal sanctuary or live out their ‘retirement’ on the farm.

Eighty-eight per cent of people have no idea that most pigs are killed at just six months old, despite having a natural life expectancy of around 15 years old.

Thirty per cent believe it is illegal to shoot male dairy calves, while almost half think the process of cutting a piglet’s teeth with pliers and no painkillers is illegal.

Another 40 per cent think the same about removing the end of piglet’s tails without anaesthetic, while 38 per cent didn’t think farmers were allowed to keep breeding, female pigs in farrowing crates which prevent them from turning around.

In fact, all of these processes are legal and standard practice on many UK farms.

Juliet Gellatley, from Viva! added: “Through its undercover exposes of farming practices, Viva! has started the process of dispelling public ignorance and as a consequence, vegetarianism and particularly veganism have been growing at an extraordinary rate.

“Increasing numbers of people are rejecting animal products entirely.

“Partly it’s for health reasons, partly to reduce the environmental impact of livestock reared for meat and dairy but mostly it’s because they are shocked at how animals are treated.

“The industry has only itself to blame and cannot continue to whitewash its practices with the claim that Britain has the best animal welfare in the world. The public is no longer buying it.”

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