Publix Supermarkets announced it is suspending milk shipments from a major Florida dairy farm after a video showing workers kicking and beating cows was published online.
Animal Recovery Mission (ARM), a Miami-Beach based animal cruelty investigative organization, shot the undercover video at Larson Dairy in Okeechobee and published the five-minute video on Thursday. The incident is being investigated by the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, the Palm Beach Post reported.
“I believe there will be criminal charges forthcoming on the completion of this investigation,’’ Sheriff Noel Stephen said at a news conference Thursday afternoon, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
The footage shows employees beating the animals with a steel rod inside the barn, urging them to move quickly into and out of their milking stalls. It also shows workers kicking the cows in the head and torso.
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The animal welfare group had one of its undercover investigators get a job on the farm milking cows. That’s when the abuse was captured and recorded on camera.
“On day one, we started seeing serious abuse by the milkers, by the managers, by the foremen,” Richard Couto with ARM, told Miami Herald news partner CBS4. ARM says their member worked at the farm for a little less than a month.
“Imagine a piece of steel rebar being jabbed in the head of any living thing,” Couto told CBS4.
The behavior wasn’t isolated. ARM says that its agent witnessed the abuse every day.
“The abuse continued as the days went on,” Cuoto said.
Publix issued a statement Thursday saying, “…We are disturbed by the images and shocked by the cruelty shown toward the animals. We are suspending raw milk deliveries from that farm. At Publix, we care about and are committed to animal welfare,” according to CBS4.
Larson Dairy Farm is one of the largest in Florida; the Larson family has been in the dairy business since 1947, and in Okeechobee County since 1971.
Dairy farm owner Jacob Larson issued a statement on Thursday, saying an employee who was shown hitting cows had been fired:
“We are deeply saddened and appalled by the actions in this video, which first came to our attention this morning. The unusual use of force is simply unacceptable on our dairy or on any other farm,” Larson said.
Follow Monique O. Madan on Twitter: @MoniqueOMadan