Jolley: Winchester Dairy accused of animal abuse

Jolley: Winchester Dairy accused of animal abuseFortunately, in the greater scheme of things, 'activist' videos of animal abuse are rare and reflect only the tiniest, criminal portion of animal agriculture.  That they surface at all and those people caught doing the most vile things imaginable to the animals entrusted to their care react in the same, predictable fashion is still disgusting.

The latest video, taken at Winchester Dairy near Rosell, New Mexico by Mercy for Animals, could be a dubbed version of any of  dozens of previous 'gotchas' by MFA and a few other activist groups.  You know that old movie line, "If you build it, they will come."?  Try this variation on that theme, "If you beat it, they will tape it."

And that group at Mercy is very good at finding the felons and outing them in very public venues.  For a good look at how they operate and what they will do when they catch someone mistreating an animal, read 'Five Minutes with Nathan Runkle', my interview with their Chief Exec, here.  It was written after I talked with him over three years ago about the notorious E6 case which sounds distressingly similar to the current event.

That E6 bell cannot be unrung, of course, but MFA has just banged that same gong with the Winchester Dairy video.  ABC News did a full report on it and it was immediately picked up by a long list of publications like Meatingplace and Food Safety News.

It was a story with long legs, more like a monster centipede - lots of legs and very dangerous to Winchester and the dairy industry.  A Google scan a few hours after the report broke showed this:
About 9,750 results (0.32 seconds) 
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FOX31 Denver

Undercover video reveals factory farm cruelty hours ago
This particular dairy farm provides milk to Leprino Foods, which is ... the footage of the animal abuse at our farm, Winchester immediately ...

Warning: Graphic video shows alleged abuse of cows at New ...
FOX31 Denver-10 hours ago

Animal Rights Group Secretly Films Horrifying Video Of Dairy Cows ...
Business Insider-14 hours ago

Group Levels Abuse Allegations Against NM Dairy
ABC News-18 hours ago

Domino's Pizza targeted after abuse at dairy farm
Detroit Free Press-18 hours ago

Explore in depth (113 more articles)

Let me hammer that bad news home.  Shortly afterwards, Google found 9,750 results and 113 more articles, many of them describing in graphic detail the animal abuse perpetrated by Winchester employees.  Here is just one headline from Business Insider: Animal Rights Group Secretly Films Horrifying Video Of Dairy Cows Being Abused In New Mexico

ABC reported "The New Mexico Livestock Board has launched an investigation into a southern New Mexico dairy after an activist working with an animal welfare group recorded secret video showing workers whipping cows with chains and wire cables, kicking and punching the animals, and shocking them with electric prods."

Winchester released a statement claiming animal care and well-being are central to its operation. All employees were fired and Dairy management referred the abusive workers to law enforcement for further review following its own internal investigation.

Their claim rings as hollow as the bell MFA rung on their behalf.  If animal care and well-being was central the horrible abuse would have been discovered almost immediately and never allowed to continue.  The more likely explanation is their business was run exclusively as a bottom line oriented business with little or no employee training and no meaningful on-site overview by management

They saved a few bucks but they may have lost the farm. The news caused the dairy to stop milking operations, ending shipments to all vendors, many of whom have or will soon decide to quit doing business with Winchester. ABC News reported thousands of their cows have been moved to other dairies with strong track records in animal welfare.

"We remain committed to the ethical and responsible treatment of the animals and have learned from this incident," the dairy said.

Let me edit that statement: "We have just become committed to the ethical and responsible treatment of animals and have learned a valuable financial lesson based on this incident."

I'm not sure if Winchester can bounce back from this devastating hit on their bank account and reputation.  If they do, it will be after a long and painful struggle.  I am sure that if a business entrusted with the welfare of animals is caught and convicted of doing what the video shows, the execs in charge should be barred from animal agriculture for life.  No parole, no mercy.

And no more comments like this that do great damage to an entire industry:

"So this isn't a matter of a single dairy farm failing to meet industry standards. This is a matter of industry standards allowing for blatant animal abuse. That's why we're calling on the industry to make improvements at all of its facilities to prevent this type of abuse."  Matt Rice, Mercy for Animals' director of investigations.