Three dairy farm workers wanted by law enforcement officials for allegedly kicking and beating up cows have possibly fled the country, according to news reports.
Earlier this month, the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office issued arrest warrants to four employees of Larson Dairy Farm in Okeechobee.
One of those workers was arrested and charged after Animal Recovery Mission (ARM), a Miami Beach-based animal cruelty investigative organization, published a video showing workers beating and kicking cows in their barn, reported Miami Herald news partner CBS4. The three others have yet to be located.
“In two days we obtained warrants for four individuals,” said Sheriff Noel Stephen, according to CBS4. “We have only been able to locate one of those individuals on misdemeanor charges of kicking one of the cows. The other three individuals have absconded more than likely out of the country, the way that it looks right now based on our investigation.”
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Days after the Larson Dairy Farm footage was released, the Miami Beach group released new footage from nearby Burnham Dairy Farm, also in Okeechobee.
In that video, dead cows were piled up in a pasture. No arrests have been made in the Burnham case. The vidoes pushed Publix Super Markets to suspend milk shipments from both farms.
On Monday, Jim Sleeper, chief executive of Southeast Milk Inc., Florida's largest dairy cooperative, announced that its members will now be required to undergo extensive training. He also said new practices will be implemented and that surveillance cameras will be installed at all farms, reported Local10.
"These remedial trainings will be mandatory for all of our members and will reinforce the importance of employee supervision, cow care and strong support and continuous improvement," Sleeper said at a news conference in Hardee County, the outlet reported.
Richard Couto, founder and lead investigator for Animal Rescue Mission, told the Sun Sentinel he was skeptical about the cooperative’s statement.
“It is great to see a reaction like this from a co-op in the dairy industry, although is it a song and dance?” Couto said. “It possibly is, and that’s my concern, that this statement was done because there were dairies finally caught for animal abuse in the state of Florida. The statement was possibly geared toward the public, toward dairy consumers, so they wouldn’t go to those alternative products and they would still feel comfortable drinking their milk and eating their cheese.”