Investigations of Willet Dairy by the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, state Cattle Health and Assurance Program, state College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Health Diagnostic Center and ProDairyhas determined that the farm “meets or exceeds animal care standards” despite accusations that resulted from an undercover investigation conducted by Mercy For Animals.
However, at least one veterinarian taking part in the investigation had an ongoing relationship with Willet as a consultant.
Both the SPCA and District Attorney also issued a clean bill of health for the farm.
One worker, Phil Niles, who was shown in the video, had been an employee for 19 years and plead guilty to misdemeanor and animal cruelty. He was fined and banned from having contact with animals for a year. Another questionable worker reportedly fled the area.
Despite the level of cruelty depicted in the video, some of the practices are considered standard by the industry. However, the investigation did spur a bill to ban tail docking in New York, which would make it the second state after California to do so.
New York is now considering a bill, AB 1893 (formerly A. 9732) which would amend agriculture and markets law and prohibit the tail docking of cattle.
If you’re a resident of New York, contact your legislators asking them to support the bill to ban tail docking.
An undercover investigation from Mercy for Animals of Willet Dairy in Locke, NY, aired on ABC World News and Nightline last Tuesday showing the horrors of the dairy industry and has resulted in a new bill that could prevent tail docking in New York state.
As one of the largest dairy farms in New York, Willet Dairy reportedly has 7,500 cows and ships 40,000 gallons of milk each day, mainly to NYC residents.
While undercover, a Mercy for Animals investigator obtained footage of workers beating and electrocuting cows, overcrowding, dragging calves away by the leg and leaving others with obvious injuries and infections untreated. One worker claimed he now has arthritis in his hand from punching cows.
After seeing the footage, Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, introduced New York State Assembly bill A.9732, that would ban the practice of tail docking in cattle, which would follow California’s lead as the first state to ban the practice.
Tail docking is performed to (supposedly) prevent the spread of leptospirosis to dairy workers, along with promoting udder health of cows. Various procedures to remove the tail are performed with no painkillers, and typically involve severing the tail off, or using a band to cut off circulation, causing the tail to fall off on its own.
The practice and process of removing up to two-thirds of the tail is considered archaic, cruel, inhumane and unnecessary by many and has been banned in several European countries.
Scientific findings, including studies in the Journal of Dairy Science, have also concluded that there is no benefit to cows having their tails docked in regards to the health of cows or people and that docking also causes additional stress for cows during fly season. Neuromas, or growths of nerve tissue, may also appear, which indicate tail docking can cause chronic pain, according to the AVMA, who decided against the practice in 2004.
“Despite overwhelming evidence that the dairy operation repeatedly violated New York’s animal cruelty laws, which was meticulously compiled by Mercy For Animals and presented to the Cayuga County District Attorney [and the ASPCA and local SPCA], the law enforcement agency refuses to uphold the state’s laws to protect animals – allowing abuse to continue at Willet, unchecked,” according to Mercy for Animals.
“Sadly, the inhumane conditions uncovered at this factory farm are not isolated. Whether raised for meat, dairy or eggs, animals used in food production are frequently subjected to appalling confinement, mutilations, brutal handling and slaughter. Because agribusiness values profit over ethical principles, cruelty to animals continues to run rampant on factory farms.”
Assistant District Attorney Diane Adsit told the Associated Press that many of the actions shown in the videotapes “are commonly accepted practices used to protect both animals and farmers on large dairy farms.”
“While shocking to look at, these practices are not necessarily illegal,” Adsit said. If an investigation by the local SPCA leads the organization to file animal-cruelty charges, “we will prosecute anyone so charged,” she said.
However, MFA’s executive director David Runkle makes an excellent point, “If this dairy producer mutilated, neglected or cruelly beat puppies or kittens like they do dairy cows and their calves, they could face imprisonment on grounds of cruelty to animals. Farm animals deserve the same protection.”
Unfortunately, no one seems to be willing to step up against the agricultural community here.
For more information, visit Mercy for Animals’ Farm to Fridge.
photo from creative commons