A farmer who grabbed media headlines after leading two Holstein heifers into a supermarket says the publicity stunt was carefully planned from start to finish.
The plight of dairy farmers facing falling prices was propelled up the news agenda after milk producer Matt Weaver and a 70-strong group of supporters led the year-old animals into the Asda supermarket at Stafford on Sunday (9 August).
See video: Dairy cows herded through Asda supermarket
Footage of Mr Weaver telling bemused shoppers “the reason we are doing this is that milk is far too cheap,” were shown repeatedly on national television.
Photographs of the event appeared prominently on news websites, across social media and in newspapers the following day.
“It wasn’t something that was done on a whim,” said Mr Weaver, who milks 270 Holsteins at Stone, Staffordshire.
“You can’t achieve what we did without careful planning. The animals were carefully selected from our show team of cattle and we were confident they would be well-behaved.”
It has been suggested that Mr Weaver could have been liable for any losses incurred by Asda had the heifers urinated or defecated within the store – or any compensation claims had the animals hurt or injured shoppers or supermarket staff.
But Mr Weaver said the heifers were fully halter-trained and had regularly mixed with the public at country shows since February.
“They were probably cleaner than I am standing here now.”
Matt Weaver, milk producer
Defra and trading standards officials were informed ahead of the event and the animals were and fully shampooed before being taken into the store.
“They were probably cleaner than I am standing here now,” Mr Weaver said.
But other farmers should be very cautious before undertaking similar stunts, he added.
“It was a one-off – the impact would be much reduced if it happened again because it has already been done.”
Farmers For Action chairman David Handley also urged other producers to think twice before embarking on copycat protests.
Consumers were behind farmers because protests so far had been polite, peaceful and well-mannered without serious incident, said Mr Handley.
“Unfortunately for our industry, there are an awful lot of people out there and other organisations who want to decry us and bury us.
“We have to be above them all the time – but full credit to everyone who has done what they’ve done so far. Keep it up and we will win the battle.”