Report Not Record

Recently, an activist from the group Mercy For Animals took a job on a Colorado dairy farm. While the farm was paying this person to care for their cows, the person observed and recorded animal abuse. For two months this person took video footage of abuse without reporting it to farm ownership. I cannot imagine the betrayal this family must’ve felt when they were contacted by local authorities saying that there was video footage of abuse taken at their farm by someone they trusted as an employee.  They gave this person a paycheck while they stood by and watched as their cows were mistreated! That is not how a person who cares about animals would react. I watched the video. If I had footage like this from any farm, the owner would see it as soon as possible in order to properly address the behavior.

Every day we get an email update from our cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), that contains industry news, milk futures, and other things that interest those of us in this business. The farm where this abuse occurred also happens to belong to DFA, and on Tuesday, the email included a story about the abuse video. For a nice change, I didn’t find out about this video from the news media or curious coworker. DFA and the dairy chose to release the video before Mercy For Animals with correct and relevant information.  Mercy For Animals won’t tell you that this farm had its own video surveillance.  The owners had already terminated several of the employees shown in this video before learning of its existence, and after seeing the additional MFA footage, appropriate actions were taken with other employees. In addition, DFA then worked with a third party to conduct an audit and has made suggestions to help the dairy improve its procedures to improve animal care and prevent abuse in the future.

I’m glad that our coop takes an interest in our farm, and not just our milk. In fact, our field rep came to our farm to go over the Gold Standard/FARM checklist just a few months ago. I’m also glad that DFA is sharing this story, and the message to report, rather than record, animal abuse. There’s no question about it, abuse happened, and that sucks. But there’s a lesson to be learned in the difference between the behavior of the farmers and activists involved.

The farmers acted to stop the abuse by terminating the responsible employees, before the authorities were involved. And since, with the help of DFA, they’ve acted to improve their farm and share their story. Additionally, both the dairy and DFA are working with authorities to prosecute those guilty of abuse. The activists didn’t act. They watched.  They filmed. They edited.  But in the end all they really did was stand by and let abuse happen. Clearly, they preferred to orchestrate an attack the farm and our industry instead of protecting the animals.

Sure, it would’ve been better if the abuse had been prevented instead of corrected, but I believe bad employees can happen to good farmers.  After bad things happen, all we can do is move forward.  Before Mercy For Animals released the video to show you what happened in the past, the farm and DFA had already done just that.  Instead of dwelling on the problems MFA wants to show you, they’re being proactive in finding solutions and a path forward.  In a statement today, DFA condemned the actions not only of the abusers, but also of Mercy For Animals for their manipulative tactics and lack of immediate action.  I hope here to have echoed that sentiment.

Please, if you witness animal abuse, do the right thing: #ReportNotRecord.