Livestock News

Animal-advocacy group claims to video abuse at Calif. dairy


An animal advocacy organization known as The Animal Legal Defense Fund said is has filed a lawsuit against Dick Van Dam Dairy, its owners, and supervisors after an undercover investigation is purported to have recorded instances of abuse at the California farm. The organization is seeking for the dairy to be shut down permanently and for the defendants to be barred from possessing or working with animals in any capacity.

A short celebrity-led video was released by The Animal Legal Defense Fund in conjunction with the lawsuit announcement. In the video, which was reportedly shot by Animal Outlook, dairy staff are seen jabbing cows’ faces, legs, and udders with splintered wooden canes and metal pipes, kicking them in the face and udders, twisting their tails so hard the bone breaks, slamming metal gates on them, and poking fingers in cows’ eyes, among other things. No date was given for the video, and it was not stated over what time frame the filming took place. All of the workers’ faces are blurred in the video, making it unclear how many individuals were potentially involved.

Because Dick Van Dam Dairy supplies milk to Dairy Farmers of America, the ALDF is asking that Target at least temporarily stop carrying the DairyPure and TruMoo brands, which are made by Dairy Farmers of America. The organization hopes Target will conduct an independent investigation of the Dairy Farmers of America’s supply chain.

This video, if legitimate, would mark the first major undercover dairy video to be unveiled since footage was released in summer 2019 implicating Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana in an abuse case. Fair Oaks initially received substantial backlash over the video shot by animal-rights activist organization Animal Recovery Mission, though some of that was tempered in later weeks after the local prosecutor’s office said that it believed that an Animal Recovery Mission employee coerced much of the abuse that was filmed. Multiple arrests were made in the case.

The kinds of abuses that happened at Fair Oaks and appear to have happened at Dick Van Dam are exceedingly rare in the dairy industry, where the mantra of cow comfort is celebrated (most any dairy farmer will tell you that happy cows make for healthy and productive cows). The videos that do get released are primarily focused on social media distribution, intended to tug at the public’s heartstrings. Activist groups have also been known to fabricate video narratives to suit their goals, and sometimes they knowingly mislabel legitimate animal-husbandry practices as abuse.

That said, the Dick Van Dam Dairy incident does stand out in that there is concrete legal action — a lawsuit — being taken.

According to Thursday’s statement from The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the law firm Talkov Law Corp. is assisting in the lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court for Riverside County. The lawsuit alleges further abuse related to newborn calves being denied medical attention cows’ udders having injuries and infections, forcing the dairy to discard some of the milk. As is usually the case in undercover farm videos, the person who shot the footage remained unidentified and didn’t appear to step in to assist any animals being abused or immediately contact authorities.

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