This undercover video was shot by a member of Mercy For Animals at Willet Dairy Farm (one of New York’s largest) between December 2008 and February 2009.
The evidence: tails are cut off and horns burned away (one had her face immobilized on a fence) with no painkillers; numerous incidents of neglected infections and puss-filled open wounds (a prolapsed uterus was left untreated for over two weeks); filthy conditions, with the animals standing in feces and urine; downers left unattended for days; workers kicking, hitting, pushing, and using electric prods; and terrified newborns dragged from their distressed mothers (the anguish in their bellowing is palpable). One worker uttered these proud recollections:
…I walked around behind him and started kicking him in the balls…as hard as I fuckin could.
Cracked her right over the fuckin skull [with a wrench]…stupid bitch!
Fuckin kicking her, hitting her…fuckin jumpin off of the top of the goddamn gate and stoppin on her head and shit.
Then just fuckin hold her head and just start fuckin puchin the shit out of her.
Oh, you can tell I have no love loss for these motherfuckers.
A detailed 40-page Criminal Complaint was prepared by MFA and forwarded to the Cayuga County DA. Their response: “While shocking to look at, these practices are not necessarily illegal.” This is what is referred to as normal industry practice. Done to a dog or cat, arrests would have already been made.
Tail docking is common because sometimes the tail just gets in the way. The tail is either tied with a band to kill circulation (until it falls off) or simply chopped off with shears. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal has proposed a tail-docking ban similar to the California law that took effect January 2010. The AVMA has opposed tail docking since 2004. The American Association of Bovine Practitioners says, “The AABP is not aware of sufficient scientific evidence in the literature to support tail docking in cattle.”
Disbudding (destroying the horn-producing cells of the horn bud) and dehorning (removing the horns after they have formed) are done with caustic materials, hot-irons, guillotine shears, wires, knives, saws, spoons, cups, or tubes. These procedures, which are not currently regulated, are supposedly done for safety (both worker and animal) and quality (less bruising). They are also very painful. Veterinarian Holly Cheever (from the MFA report): “[the animals]…show clear evidence of extreme excruciating pain and fear by their vocalizations (bawling and gurgling), their tail wringing, their dilated eyes, their stamping and jumping to attempt to free themselves from their head ties.”
On the downers, Dr. Cheever says, “…any cow, as a prey and not a predator species, experiences terror due to her immobility, which instinctively causes stress since she knows she is helpless to protect herself…” As for the untreated injuries, ethologist Jonathan Balcombe remarks, “…most of the injuries depicted are chronic and appear to have gone largely or entirely untreated. Chronic pain is almost certain to accompany these symptoms.” Veterinarian Deb Teachout concludes, “This is a bad place to be a dairy cow. There is no doubt that these cows are physically and emotionally suffering as there is total disregard for their safety, comfort, and medical condition.” Balcombe: “My professional opinion is that these animals suffer chronically in the conditions depicted. Episodes of acute pain and stress are exacerbated by prolonged confinement, thwarting of natural behaviors, and for many the pain of long-term injury, infection and/or disability.”
Livestock animals are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act, and arrests and convictions under state laws are virtually nonexistent. Cows (pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep) are legally regarded as machinery; like all machines, they follow an endless cycle of creation, use, and disposal. In a sobering assessment, Willet’s Lyn Odel once said, “We don’t farm any different than anybody else does up and down this road. This is about the nature of our business, about how we farm. It’s not about Willet. It’s about the dairy industry.”