Wisconsin dairy video shows abuse, panel says

SALEM, Ohio — The jury is still out as to what might happen to Wisconsin farm workers who allegedly abused dairy cattle in a video released Nov. 26 by an animal rights organization.

However, a nationally recognized group of animal care experts has finished its own review and finds the actions in the video reprehensible.

The video, produced by Mercy for Animals, shows workers repeatedly striking downed animals, lifting them needlessly off their feet with a front-end loader and dragging them across concrete, apparently while still alive.

The events took place at the Wiese Brothers Farm, about a half-hour south of Green Bay.

Panel’s opinion

The panel was created by The Center for Food Integrity and is comprised of a independent group of specialists.

Members include animal welfare experts Jim Reynolds of Western University; Temple Grandin of Colorado State University; and Raymond Anthony, an ethicist with the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“There’s nothing defendable in the video,” Reynolds said. “The cows are under stress, certainly in fear and probably in pain. The animals are clearly being abused.”

The panel was particularly bothered by the “systematic” nature of the events in the video, which appear to be repeated, and possibly widespread.

“What takes place in the video appears to be systematic,” said Reynolds. “For example, they’re all using the same type of coiled rope to repeatedly strike the animals. It appears to me that the employees seen in this video are doing what they were taught to do.”

Anthony said the underlying reason for the abuse should be investigated immediately.

“Is it lack of training, poor or inadequate farm management, or blatant cruelty? It is important to find out just how long these workers have been using these techniques and how widespread is their employment.”

Farm responds

The farm owners produced a statement following release of the video, in which they said they are “shocked and saddened to see a few of our employees not following our farm’s policies for proper animal care. We have zero tolerance for animal abuse.”

The farm said two employees were terminated and a third was removed from animal handling responsibilities. The farm also named three of its employees as “specialists,” who will now oversee the care and handling of any cow unable to get up.

The farm also says it is reviewing its overall animal handling policy, and making sure it’s up to date.

Losing business

Meanwhile, the farm has lost a major buyer of its milk. Wiese Brothers Farm had been a supplier of milk that went into the popular DiGiorno Pizza chain. Following release of the video, DiGiorno Pizza, which is owned by Nestle, said it will no-longer accept milk from the farm.

“Nestlé is outraged and deeply saddened by the mistreatment of animals shown in this video,” the company said in a statement to media.

Animal care

Grandin, who is perhaps the most nationally recognized member on the panel, said the farmers’ treatment of the downed animals was unacceptable.

“If an animal won’t get up you need to just walk away and come back later,” she said. “It just might be able to get up if you give it some time. But you certainly don’t use a machine to inappropriately lift it up in the air and you don’t drag animals with a chain.”

Further findings

The following is a list of the panel’s key conclusions based on what they saw in the video:

  • Repeated loud verbal elocutions and derogatory name calling that may be distressing to the animal, and which can foster a negative attitude towards animals.
  • Repeated physical actions, e.g., kicking and whipping with different items, stabbing with a pole that can cause injury and distress to the animals.
  • What appears to be physical injuries to some of the animals (which appear to go untreated) and possibly negative affective states due to fear and confusion.
  • Moving a conscious (and perhaps already distressed or injured) cow with a forklift.

Questions to answer

The panel also asks the following questions be answered:

  •  Whether some of them may have previously worked with beef cattle, and in situations where use of whips and prods were previously acceptable?
  • Are the practices isolated to the few workers featured in this video and if so, what are the farm’s managers doing about addressing techniques that distress animals?
  • Why are these animals being moved in the first place, and what alternatives have these workers been exposed to for moving non-compliant or immobile distressed or injured animals?
  • What are the consequences to workers if these animals do not move in a timely fashion according to the daily routine?
  • What relationship do the workers have to the farm managers or supervisors, and how often and for how long are managers present on site during a work day?

Video

The following video contains graphic language and visuals. Viewer discretion is advised. 

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

6 Comments

  1. tiffany hardy says:

    What people fail o realize is that it happens all the time – not just this dairy i have worked at several – and one infact broke a cows neck by dragging it – i think you should look into a lot more – working on a dairy is a passion for me and i have a great love for cows and in all actuality they are not much differant than us. If it would hurt u a good guess is that it hursts them to. Doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure out that the better they are treated tthe more they will give.

  2. docsock says:

    This is your food production system American, enjoy your cheap milk. Never treated cows like this on my neighbors 60 cow dairy where I helped growing up, but the cows are long gone on his small farm. It won’t be long until all that is left are mega-dairies with 1000s of cows and cheap, migrant labor performing day to day duties while the “farmer” never touches a milker.

    • Sadly this is the norm in the livestock industry today, there is no concern for the animals nor the neighbors! It is in all segments of the industry, broilers, pigs, laying hens, etc.,. With the advent of Gates and his view perhaps we can get back to once again having real farmers in charge of our food and not owners who do not live in the environment they have created and foisted on the neighbors. It is my wish for Christmas real farms with smaller amounts of animals getting the care they should get. If any of these owners are Catholics perhaps they need to hear the words of their Pope! Greed is ruining farming and everything connected with it!

  3. FED UP & POd FARMER says:

    After viewing this video, will admit that it does show rough handling, but NO abuse, and I am much more bothered by the so called panel . Aside from showing a bloody discharge from a cow that obviously just calved and a few swollen hocks, the entire rest of the video was that of mainly getting downed cows up or moved. Dairy cattle are not very intelligent, “give up” trying to help themselves quickly, and can be very beligerant at times. If a cow is not made to get up, it WILL die. It is the utmost priority to get the cow up, and THAT is what is clearly being done here, though I will admit it doesnt make a good impression on those who have never had to get a cow up. Remember-these cows can weigh 1800 lbs, and I have NEVER seen a person who could move them around by themselves or without equipment. While some may look like they are excessivly raised by the skid steer, there may be circumstances that require it-such as an obstacle that they must be lifted over. However, the intent of these videos IS to make as much as possible look bad on animal industries and they edit the footage to make it appear as bad as possible.

    Getting back to the “panel”..these people have never had to move cattle-it is so much easier to criticize when you have never been in anothers’ shoes…Temple Grandin was born and raised in Boston, Ma.. and has never worked on a dairy farm as far as I am able to tell, and extremely unlikely that she has ever had to get a cow up or run farm machinery. Raymond Anthony is in the Philosophy department and I was unable to find any connections between him and dairy cattle that were not personal opinions of his Ethics thought process. It is very unsettling to see his pro-agenda 21 type of envisions…. Jim Williams may be considered a veterinarian, but upon closer look, he is very anti-modern farming and is a member of groups that seek to ban gestation stalls for sows, conventional cages for laying hens, tail docking for dairy cattle and MUCH more private-property invasive regulations. The REAL problem with this panel is that there are NO farmers on it-who know that there are financial constraints, time constraints, and REALITY instead of “story book solutions”. The questions/findings raised by this panel are absolutely absurd!!! So, a cow is distressed because you called her a name…Just exactly how would THEY move an 1800 lb animal WITHOUT a piece of equipment..IS the REAL intent of hitting the cow a deranged sense of pleasure OR an attempt to get the animal moved…what the hell difference if they worked with beef cattle previously…and, more stupidly-why would anyone ask about why these cattle were being moved??? If these people truely knew or cared about dairies, they would know that these cows HAD to be moved and the MANY consequenses would be not to get them moved. The very first priority of a business-including an animal based business, is to be profitable-NOT animal welfare-if a business can not be profitable, no amount of animal pampering can or will- allow it to continue to be in business. While animal welfare is a major priority of any farm, the business end MUST be included in ANY insight-this panel has not made ANY consideration of that fact, and the continuation of using panel such as this one to influence animal businesses is EXTREMELY detrimental to ALL sides (farmers and consumers) except the animal rights goons-but, of course, that is just exactly what they want…

  4. I wonder whether this is a CAFO dairy operator? He appears to back the industrial farms. Ohio is one of the few states that does not define commercial operations. I have implored Farm Bureau for years to do this for years. Why is Ohio so behind the times on this issue? My grandparents were farmers so I am not exactly a newcomer to the farming community. I am a newcomer to industrial farms, however, having had one move in and destroy my home and life. I am sure FED UP & POd FARMER would consider this to be perfectly okay and the price one should pay for having acreage. The acreage we had was zoned residential but that did not matter to the commercial operator who moved in on our home destroying the value and after 26 years of trying to sell it, finally forcing me to leave it to the bank. I am sure FED UP would feel this was perfectly okay. I for one would prefer to see more small and medium sized farms dotting the landscape in Ohio. The Issac Walton League stated it best FED UP, too many animals, making too much waste, on too litle space! Read up on the damage done to Lake Eriie, FED UP! Greed plays a major role in this type of animal industry. Along with the greed comes the uncaring attitude of the workers and the cruelty to the animals. Businessmen owners hiring workers and never overseeing what they are doing is another part of this commercial culture, Ohio can and should do better than this for the animals, the neighbors and the environment. The animal industry has taken a wrong road and I will work to help it change for the good of all Ohioans.

  5. If anyone would like to read more about how cows are treated on an Ohio dairy farm, here’s a great blog post, with photos, by Brenda Hastings, a dairyman from Geauga County: http://ow.ly/rUONd

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