The Miami Beach-based Animal Recovery Mission has released a video from its undercover abuse investigation at a Central Florida dairy farm
The graphic video, with disturbing images of cows cruelly being beaten, speared, stabbed and burned, was shot by investigators between August and October after McArthur Dairy, one of the largest producers of milk in the state, hired the investigators, the Palm Beach Post reported.
Deputies arrested three employees on Wednesday at the McArthur Farm in Okeechobee. The McArthur Dairy workers who were arrested on charges of animal cruelty all live in Okeechobee and were seen on the video committing abuse, according to Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen, the Post reported. A warrant has been issued for a fourth worker, the sheriff said.
Charged: Mario Hernandez, 31, an assistant supervisor, arrested on a third-degree felony charge of animal cruelty. Authorities said he struck a cow in the face with a sharpened PVC pipe. Fernando Lopez, 45, a caretaker, and Naul Dorantes-Garcia, 36, both face first-degree misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals. They are accused of hitting cows in the udders with a blunt PVC pipe.
It’s the third dairy farm in Florida that has drawn concern because of cattle abuse, following recent animal cruelty investigations into Burnham and Larson dairy farms, the Miami Herald reported in November. A fourth dairy, Davie Dairy, is also under investigation by the Okeechobee Sheriff’s Office, the Palm Beach Post reports.
“This was a regular occurrence, hitting and stabbing animals with this, on a daily basis,” Richard Couto of the Animal Recovery Mission told WSVN while holding a makeshift spear. If the men didn’t have spears available, he said, “they would take PVC and they would make it razor sharp. They were stabbing in the reproductive areas with this, in the face, in the backs, in the udders.”
The video shows the workers stabbing the cows with spears tipped with knives and a dairy farm worker using a blow torch on several cows. The animal rights group said the workers did this as a shortcut to sanitize teats before milking, searing hairs off the cows’ udders.
“They are set on fire alive,” Couto told the station.
The McArthur workers were also accused of using a mechanical pulley system to pull calves from pregnant cows before the mothers were given the chance to fully dilate. “The mothers having their babies automatically ripped from them the second that they’re born,” Couto told WSVN. “Imagine it being the sickest time in your life and barely being able to move and having a worker come up to you with this spear and inflict more pain and misery on you.”
McArthur Farms is a member of Southeast Milk Inc., a Florida dairy cooperative that provides milk to McArthur Dairy and other suppliers.
Animal Recovery Mission said the farm is owned and controlled by Dean Foods, but the company disputed that claim. Dean Foods sells products including TruMoo, Country Fresh, Brown’s Dairy and DairyPure.
“We want to make it clear that Dean Foods does not own or control any dairy farms. While we proudly own the McArthur Dairy brand and dairy processing plant located in Miami, the ‘McArthur’ name is totally coincidental,” Dean Foods said in a statement. “Dean Foods has no ownership interest and is in no way involved in the management of McArthur Farms.”
The statement, released to the Palm Beach Post by spokesman Jamaison Schuler, said Dean Foods “is appalled at the behaviors shown in the video released by ARM.”
The McArthur brand milk is sold at Publix Super Markets, Target and Walmart.
On Thursday, Publix released a statement and went on Twitter to address the video.
“We were recently made aware of an additional undercover video, which was taken at McArthur Farms. We are upset by the images and disturbed by the cruelty shown toward the animals. As soon as we were made aware of the behaviors in the video, we immediately suspended receiving raw milk product from this McArthur farm,” Publix said.
Walmart’s statement on Thursday read: “We do not tolerate the mistreatment of animals and we’re working with our suppliers to quickly and thoroughly investigate the actions shown in the video and to take the appropriate steps to help ensure this unacceptable behavior cannot continue. This video is hard to watch. We take animal rights seriously and have strict policies in place to hold our suppliers accountable.”