KUNM

Dairy Workers Accused Of Animal Abuse

Sep 17, 2014

Sick or weak cows, known as downed cows, are moved with tractors in the videos that Mercy for Animals says were recorded at Winchester Dairy.
Credit Mercy for Animals

  A national animal protection organization released secretly-taped videos today and accused workers at a southern New Mexico dairy farm of animal abuse.

The graphic videos show workers viciously beating dairy cows with metal chains and wires, using electric prods on cows’ udders and dragging weak or sick cows with tractors as they bellowed in distress.

Mercy for Animals lawyer Vandhana Bala said the videos were taken by a man who got a job at the Winchester Dairy near Dexter, New Mexico, in order to see if workers there were abusing animals. Bala says their treatment of the dairy cows there goes far beyond industry standard practice.

“Those are intentional and malicious acts of cruelty that constitute criminal violations under New Mexico law,“ Bala said.

In a statement Winchester Dairy said that within hours of receiving the videos they shipped their dairy cows to other farms with “strong records in animal welfare” and launched an internal investigation. The owners shut down the farm where the abuse took place, fired all the farm’s employees and referred the employees in the videos to law enforcement.

The diary industry represents a big chunk of the New Mexico economy – with 150 dairies and the largest average herd size in the nation, according to Dairy Producers of New Mexico.

State Representative Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell said she doesn’t condone the tactics Mercy for Animals used to obtain the videos at Winchester Dairy. But she said there will be a positive impact on the industry.

“I think that all dairy owners right now will make a more concerted effort to have meetings with their herdsman,” Ezzell said, “and if they see something that comes up that is detrimental to that animal, it needs to be stopped immediately. That worker needs to be let go.”

Ray Baca, spokesman for the New Mexico Livestock Board, said they’ve started an investigation, identified all of the individuals in the video, and that they’ll begin doing interviews this week. If the videos are found to be authentic, the livestock board will forward the evidence to the Chaves County district attorney’s office for prosecution.

Mercy for Animals’ Vandhana Bala said they’re calling for the largest mozzarella producer in the world, Leprino Foods, to require all of its suppliers to implement humane animal treatment standards. 

Leprino counted Winchester Dairy as one of its suppliers but a spokeswoman said all shipments from Winchester were immediately canceled when the videos came to light. A Leprino statement called the way the workers treated animals in the videos "appalling and unacceptable" but called it an "isolated incident."

Bala says six other dairy farm projects have resulted in criminal convictions of dairy workers who abused animals, and animal treatment standards for suppliers of Nestlé and Kraft