Expert Statements on Dairy Investigation

Holly Cheever, DVM

Dr. Cheever is a veterinary practitioner, licensed in the states of New York and Vermont, who has had a lifetime of exposure to dairy cattle. Dr. Cheever is a graduate of Cornellís School of Veterinary Medicine and assists local and state law officers in the investigation and prosecution of animal abuse, frequently in cases involving dairy cattle. Dr Cheever states:

"The calves show clear evidence of extreme excruciating pain and fear by their vocalizations (bawling and gurgling), their tail wringing, their dilated eyes, their stamping and jumping to attempt to free themselves from their head ties."

"Some cows have deep, extensive penetrating wounds into the soft tissue (musculature), which are clearly very old, judging by the degree of dried and crusted tissue and blood and the excessive inflammation around the wounds. All the wounds are packed with filth from their environment. From these images, it is impossible to believe that any of these wounds are receiving proper medical care."

"Once a cow is "down" for more than a few days, she experiences myopathy (muscle degradation) due to the effect of her bodyís heavy weight compromising the circulation through her limbs' muscle tissue, and becomes progressively unable to use her limbs."

"[A]n element of a "downer's" suffering that is rarely noted is that any cow, as a prey and not a predator species, experiences terror due to her immobility, which instinctively causes stress since she knows she is helpless to protect herself with her instinctive fight or flight response."

"Although the removal of any calf from any cow is always traumatic for both individuals, the manner in which this dairy separates the new calves is unnecessarily rough on the newborn, who is dragged away from his/her dam by one hind leg, which is painful. The mothers express their distress and anguish by following their calf closely, touching them with their muzzle, vocalizing with distress calls, and trying to push through the gate that separates them from their calf."

"[I]t is my professional opinion that the environment that this dairy provides as well as its cattle-handling techniques are improper, unhygienic, dangerous, and inhumane."

 


Nedim C. Buyukmihci, VMD

Dr. Buyuckmihci is an emeritus professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. He has over 34 years of experience, much of it involving large animals, including cows used for dairy production. Dr. Buyuckmihci states:

"The most glaring problem was the brutal manner in which young cows are disbudded (removal of the germinal region of the horn) using an electric cautery... Most importantly, from the violent struggles of the cows, and their bellowing, it was clear that no anesthesia was being used. This is unconscionable at any age, but particularly so at the age of these cows. Intense pain and suffering was being inflicted on the cows as a result."

"Recently born calves were dragged away from their mothers by workers. Although this is routinely done in the dairy industry, it is a source of intense anxiety and suffering for the cow and the calf. These individuals bond closely immediately after birth."

"[T]he manner in which the cows at this facility were disbudded and tail docked demonstrated complete disregard for the well-being of these individuals. Other handling issues, such as subjecting the cows to electric shocks or unsafe floor conditions, demonstrated a seeming lack of concern for the consequences to the cows. Although an "accepted" practice in the dairy industry, the forced separation of calves from their mothers was a source of intense distress for both."

 


Jonathan Balcombe, PhD

Dr. Balcombe is an ethologist with Bachelors and Masters degrees in biology and a Doctorate in animal behavior received from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Balcombe is the author of four books on animal behavior, as well as more than 40 book chapters and peer-reviewed journal papers. Dr. Balcombe states:

"Several aspects of the animalsí behavior suggest pain. In the first sequence the animal steps up and down rapidly, and twice falls down. The second calf struggles violently and bellows, then gurgles, during disbudding. The tail is also flailing. My overall impression is that this animal is in intense pain."

"Cows and their calves form strong bonds with each other. Normally, cows nurse and protect their calves for many months leading up to weaning. Both vocalize after separation, and they recognize each otherís voices from a very early age."

"The conditions in which the cattle are being unloaded are treacherous and unacceptable for meeting the safety of these animals."

"My professional opinion is that these animals suffer chronically in the conditions depicted. Episodes of acute pain and stress are exacerbated by prolonged confinement, thwarting of natural behaviors, and for many the pain of long-term injury, infection and/or disability. Conditions in which the animals are off-loaded from trucks are perilously dangerous to the animals, and may be contributing to the frequency of their injuries."

 


Geoff Ball, DVM

Dr. Ball is a licensed veterinarian with 19 years of experience working with animals. As part of Dr. Ball's training he has studied farming animals and zoonotic disease. Dr. Ball's veterinary practice involves evaluating animals for pain and stress in various situations. Dr Ball states:

"Cows normally use their tails to repel flying nuisances, and without the end of their tail are more hindered by these pest[s], leading to more stress. The practice of tail docking, in this case with an emasculator, is a painful and stressful procedure that has no direct benefit to the cow, or the workers."

"Injuries displayed include seeping abscesses the size of oranges, chronic wounds with no signs of treatment, chronic joint injuries, decubital ulcers, emaciated animals and vaginal prolapse. The number of chronic injuries displayed is unacceptable and demonstrates very bad management techniques and shows a problem with the facility as a whole ... The number and chronicity of the injuries not only demonstrates a neglect of the animals, but shows a massive problem with the facility."

 


Debra Teachout DVM, MVSc

Dr. Teachout is a practicing veterinarian who graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. She also holds an advanced degree in veterinary clinical pathology from Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Teachout states:

"The video of a dry-lot (no access to pasture) dairy exposes numerous transgressions in the humane treatment of farm animals due to serious deficiencies in the facility itself, employee regard for animals, medical care, and in the overall management system."

"The milking parlor is also dirty and wet with many cows showing draining and filthy infected wounds on their rear legs which are in close proximity to the milking machines."

"Employee animal handling is atrocious. There are numerous examples of kicking, hitting, and screaming at the cows as the employees attempt to move them from place to place, do procedures on them, or load them onto a truck. The employee that is doing the disbudding procedure forces his finger deeply into the eye socket of the calf and then grips the face with the rest of his hand in an attempt to hold the struggling calf in place so that he can destroy the horn bud of the animal without the benefit of pain medication. Pressure applied to the eye in this fashion is extremely painful."

"The separation of cow and calf involves employees dragging the newborn calf out of the birthing arena by one or two legs as the mother chases and vocalizes loudly in distress ... These outward signs of distress suggest an extreme psychologically traumatic experience for the mothers."

"There is no doubt that these cows are physically and emotionally suffering as there is total disregard for their safety, comfort and medical condition. The cows are also denied the ability to graze on pasture, which is considered by many to be a natural behavior that needs to be expressed."

"The conditions at this dairy create both mental and physical suffering for the cows. Even the bare necessities of a suitable environment, comfortable resting area, humane treatment, and basic medical care are withheld."

 


Marc Bekoff, PhD

Dr. Bekoff is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and an expert in animal behavior, cognitive ethology and behavioral ecology. He is regularly sought after by major media and well-respected publications due to his extensive knowledge on animal minds.

"The cows ... are suffering both physically and emotionally. Anyone who has any sensibility can see this."

"These animals are being unrelentingly and intentionally tortured with no regard for their pain and suffering—none at all. The workers...should absolutely not be working with animals as they're showing no concern at all for the well being of the animals. The workers' behavior is inexcusable and reprehensible. "

"It's clear that these animals are being tortured and this facility should be closed down immediately. These animals don't like what's happening to them and they suffer enduring pain and indignity. People wouldn't treat their companion animals in this way. The overall treatment is reprehensible and impossible to rationalize/justify."

 


Five experts co-authored a written statement, which reflects the consensus of the group. The authors are:

Bernard E. Rollin, PhD

Dr. Rollin is a distinguished professor of animal science at Colorado State University and is well known internationally for his over 30 years of work in animal welfare. He was a major architect of federal laws protecting laboratory animals, and written two books on farmed animal welfare. He serves on the Pew Commission examining confined animal feeding operations and is an expert witness on animal welfare issues in the U.S. and abroad.

Temple Grandin, PhD, PAS

Dr. Grandin is considered the world's leading expert on farmed-animal welfare. She is an associate professor of livestock behavior at Colorado State University and an animal welfare advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the meat industry.

William Wailes, BS

Mr. Wailes is an extension dairy specialist for the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University, is an internationally renowned dairy expert, and has owned and been involved with dairy farms all of his life.

Terry Engle, PhD

Dr. Engle is an associate professor at Colorado State University and beef cattle authority.

Kurt Vogel, PhD Candidate

Mr. Vogel, PhD candidate in animal welfare and behavior specializing in dairy, grew up on a dairy farm.

These five experts reviewed the video documenting conditions at Willet Dairy. They state:

"From the callous mishandling of the older [calves] being dehorned, to the overtly sadistic worker bragging about abusing and striking animals, the clear message is that these workers are at best unforgivably ignorant, or at worst and most likely mean bullies who derive pleasure from hurting the animals ... These workers clearly enjoy cruelty."

"The condition of some of the cows was appalling, and certainly causing major pain and distress. The severe abscesses were clearly of long duration and untreated."

"In general, handling is far too aggressive for these gentle animals. The use of electric prods is far too common; presumably substituting for lack of knowledge and feelings of inadequacy."

"This dairy presents at least as bad a picture of the industry as does Hallmark."

 

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