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Covert investigation reveals animal abuse at Wisconsin dairy

An undercover investigation disclosed by Mercy for Animals on Nov. 12 reveals animal abuse at a Wisconsin dairy farm. Video released by Mercy for Animals shows workers at Andrus Dairy in Birnamwood, Wisconsin, kicking and punching cows, hacking off their tails with pruning shears, shooting them in the face and nostrils with high-powered water hoses and dragging them by their necks with ropes attached to tractors.

The nonprofit Mercy also provided material showing that the dairy is a supplier to Ohio-based Great Lakes Cheese, one of the largest cheese companies in the country and a supplier to major grocery chains.

Great Lakes Cheese, after learning of the video and the investigation, said it would no longer work with Andrus Dairy.

After reviewing the video, Dr. Temple Grandin, a world-renowned animal welfare expert, said, "The handling of dairy cows in this video is not acceptable. …Employees must be trained to never kick or hit a cow's udder or face. High pressure water shot in the eye is abusive."

James Reynolds, a professor of large animal medicine at the Western University College of Veterinary Medicine in Pomona, California, reviewed the video and said, "Animals are definitely handled very roughly in most scenes."

To other observers, the expert statements seem like understatements.

"I'm disgusted by this," said animal welfare advocate Pamela Owen of Madison. "This is torture. This is a crime."

The video is the second in the past year to show animal abuse on a Wisconsin dairy farm. A previous video resulted in the arrest, prosecution and conviction of four workers at a dairy in Greenleaf, Wisconsin. That video prompted Nestle, the parent company of DiGiorno, which had contracted with the dairy, to pledge widespread reforms.

As Mercy released the video from Andrus Dairy, the group's president, Nathan Runkle, said, "Treated as mere milk-producing machines, cows exploited and abused for Great Lakes Cheese endure lives filled with misery and deprivation. No socially responsible corporation should support dairy operations that beat, kick, shock and drag animals. Due to its complete lack of meaningful animal welfare standards, Great Lakes Cheese has allowed a culture of cruelty to flourish in its supply chain."

Mercy has documented many other instances of animal abuse. The organization urges the adoption of "meaningful animal welfare guidelines," including zero tolerance for kicking, punching, and shocking animals; requiring suppliers to prohibit painful and unnecessary mutilations of animals; requiring suppliers to provide a safe, clean, and sanitary environment for cattle; and the installation of video monitoring systems that live stream to the Internet to help deter abuse.

Editor's note: This story is developing.

On the Web …

The video from Mercy for Animals is at gotmisery.com.

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