Four former employees of a dairy farm that supplied DiGiorno have been charged with criminal animal cruelty following the release of an undercover video that was taken by an investigator for Mercy for Animals (MFA).
In December, MFA released shocking footage that was taken last fall showing dairy cows being subjected to an inexcusable level of violence by workers at Wiese Brothers Farms in Greenleaf, Wis. Workers were caught kicking, beating, stabbing and whipping cows, in addition to dragging those who couldn’t walk on their own with chains by their necks and legs. The investigator also documented cows who were left to suffer with illnesses and injuries with no veterinary care and calves being immediately removed from their mothers and having their tails docked without painkillers.
In all, the workers are being charged with a total of 11 counts of criminal animal cruelty with each count being punishable by up to nine months in jail and $10,000 in fines. All four are due back in court on March 4.
In this case, Wiese Brothers Farms supplied a cooperative named Foremost Farms, which is a cheese supplier to Nestle’s pizza division, which owns DiGiorno, putting Nestlé in the hot seat for using milk that was supplied from sick and abused cows.
According to a statement, MFA is calling on Nestlé to adopt tougher animal welfare guidelines to protect cows, “including zero tolerance for kicking, punching and shocking cows; requiring suppliers to prohibit painful and unnecessary mutilations of animals; and requiring suppliers to provide a safe, clean and sanitary environment for cattle.”
“These criminal charges should be a wake-up call that heartbreaking animal abuse runs rampant at DiGiorno cheese suppliers. Swift action must be taken to end this unspeakable cruelty. Nestlé has the power and responsibility to implement meaningful policies to end some of the worst forms of animal abuse in the dairy industry,” said MFA’s executive director, Nathan Runkle. “No socially responsible corporation should support dairy operations that torture animals.”
Nestlé condemned animal cruelty when the footage was released and has since taken some steps to improve things. A spokesperson told ABC News that the company launched a new auditing program in January that will target direct suppliers and those who do business with those suppliers and that everyone will be held to the Supplier Code and Responsible Sourcing Guidelines, which outline standards for animal welfare.
Sadly, this is the fourth MFA investigation of a dairy farm that has resulted in criminal charges in the past five years. Even with stronger oversight, the dairy industry is still full of a number of practices that are harmful to cows and reduce them to mere commodities, which is why MFA and other animal advocates are also urging caring consumers to ditch dairy. As MFA puts it:
Cows have a natural lifespan of about 25 years and can produce milk for eight or nine years, but the stress caused by factory farm conditions leads to disease, lameness, and reproductive problems that render cows worthless to the dairy industry by the time they are four or five years old.
These highly intelligent and social animals suffer almost unimaginable abuse from the time they are born and ripped from their mothers’ sides until they are so physically worn out from repeated pregnancies and constant milk production that they are sold for slaughter.
For more info on MFA’s campaign to protect cows from unnecessary violence and suffering, visit SliceOfCruelty.com.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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