Dairy UK, the NFU and Milk Development Council have jointly written to the Sunday People to complain about an article which claimed that dairy cows suffer from “sickening cruelty”.

The article, published on 20 Nov, suggested that cows lived in “squalor and agony to produce our milk”.

The three organisations said the paper’s investigation was an appalling distortion of dairy farming and had been driven by animal rights activists.

“As most people who have visited a dairy farm or seen cows grazing in fields will suspect, cows that are contented, well-fed, clean and healthy produce more and better milk,” said the industry’s statement.

“British dairy farmers are subject to a high degree of regulation, including assurance schemes which ensure cows are free from pain, injury and disease and can express normal behaviour.

“Each UK dairy farm undergoes regular, intensive inspections based on these standards, and failure to comply with any part can leave the milk producer without a market.”

A spokeswoman for the MDC said of the statement: “We have no idea whether they will print it, but we are trying our hardest to get a right of reply.”