Florida Dairy Group Promises Reforms After Disturbing Cow Abuse Videos Surface

A Florida dairy cooperative says reforms are coming after an animal rights group released damning undercover videos from two production facilities. The footage shows workers abusing dairy cows by kicking them in the head, punching them and beating them with metal bars.

Despite the company’s promise to improve animal welfare standards, will life really get any better for these poor creatures?

Animal Recovery Mission, a Miami-based animal rights group, captured the abuse on video at two dairies in Florida — Larson Dairy Farm and Burnham Dairy Farm in Okeechobee County. Both dairies supply milk to Southeast Milk, Inc.

This news report describes the cruelty allegations:

Publix, possibly the most popular grocery chain in Florida, announced that it would suspend delivery from Larson Dairy Farm based on these videos. Publix tweeted the following in response to customer queries:

We are aware of the undercover video taken at Larson Dairy and are shocked and disturbed by the cruelty shown toward the animals. We are suspending raw milk deliveries from that farm. We are also in contact with the FL Dept of Agriculture, and they have advised us they…

…will be visiting Larson Dairy as quickly as possible to ensure the safety and well-being of the animals. At Publix, we are committed to animal welfare and are focused on working with suppliers who share the same goals.

You can watch Larson Dairy’s reaction to the undercover videos here:

“We recognize we have an issue, we’re trying to learn from it, and move forward to gain the trust of all our customers, and especially our consumers,” Jim Sleper, CEO of Southeast Milk Inc., told the media. “Any employees who witnessed animal abuse and failed to report it should be terminated. We pledge to cooperate with authorities looking into all allegations.”

What is Southeast Milk going to do in response to these allegations? The company claims that it will hold mandatory remedial training sessions for dairy owners and operators within 30 days. It will also speed up its adoption of new, stricter national standards for cow care. That means there would be more training, closer interaction with veterinarians and stronger sanctions for farms that fail to comply. Closed circuit video surveillance cameras may be implemented as well.

The following charges have been issued:

  • Helias Cruz, 49, is charged with one count of kicking an animal.
  • Omar Jimenes Mendosa, 36, is charged with two counts of hitting an animal with rebar.
  • Omar Guadalupe Mendosa, 29, is charged with eight counts including stabbing with rebar, pulling a cow’s leg with rebar, hitting with rebar and punching and kicking.
  • An unnamed juvenile, 17, is charged with four counts including punching the udder of a cow, bending its tail, hitting the cow with rebar and kicking the cow.

Authorities arrested Cruz, but the other three alleged abusers appear to have vanished. And that’s problematic for several reasons.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff maintains that no one informed his office of these allegations. He first learned of them after ARM’s video went viral on the internet. By then, the workers obviously knew they’d be law enforcement targets. The sheriff feels he had no real chance to arrest them.

“The bad guys knew we were looking for them before we knew who the bad guys were,” Sheriff Noel Stephen told CBS12 News. “I think that it’s a discredit to myself and my agency in the way that this was reported.”

ARM says that before it released the videos publicly, it sent them to a number of federal agencies — but not to the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office. And that’s unfortunate. Now they’re in a bit of a tussle regarding the 350 hours of video that might — or might not — end up as useful criminal evidence.

Fortunately, Sheriff Stephen continues to pursue justice. “I believe there will be criminal charges forthcoming on the completion of this investigation,” he told the Sun-Sentinel.

Let’s put aside the difficulties between the sheriff and ARM, however, and focus on the bigger picture. ARM recorded some important footage, and thousands of people saw it. This excellent undercover work just adds to the ever-growing mountain of proof that dairy operations hurt innocent animals.

Big Dairy knows that much of its customer base becomes uncomfortable in the face of documented animal abuse. It turns people off. But people living in blissful ignorance of how their cheese, coffee creamer and milk reaches the table must face the hard truth.

That truth inevitably turns some of them vegan. Often, just seeing what’s really going on out there is all it takes. The trick is getting people to see it. And viral videos go a long way in this regard.

Will Southeast Milk, Inc. treat its cows better in the wake of this public relations nightmare? That remains to be seen.

Each of us can help mistreated cows by rejecting dairy and switching to plant-based alternatives. Ending this industry for good would help these animals more than any grudging “reforms” ever will.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

54 comments

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill3 days ago

GO VEGAN!!!!

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Cathy B
Cathy B4 days ago

This is outright animal abuse. Prosecute the guilty and slap the dairy with a fine for permitting this atrocity to take place on their property.

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Lesa D
Lesa D5 days ago

i agree with Kay B...

thank you, Susan...

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Danuta W
Danuta W7 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Jana DiCarlo
Jana DiCarlo7 days ago

sadly this is NOT isolated practice in the animal husbandry industry. This goes on all the time, to all animals. It is disgusting.
Have gone vegan, and am not looking back.

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Peggy B
Peggy B7 days ago

TYFS

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Lisa M
Lisa M7 days ago

Go VEGAN!

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Winn A
Winn A7 days ago

:-(

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Winn A
Winn A7 days ago

This abuse has to end now!

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Marigold A
Marigold A7 days ago

They will more closely supervise their workers.

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