An undercover video that purports to show workers kicking cows in the head and hitting them with metal rods has prompted authorities to open a criminal investigation at one of Florida’s largest dairy farms.
The video, which was taken by an investigator with the animal rights group Animal Recovery Mission, shows workers kicking and beating cows at Larson Dairy Farm.
“Dairy supervisors and milkers beat, stab and torment dairy cows with steel construction rebar,” the video says. “The sharp metal rods pierce and penetrate the cows’ bodies. Kept hidden from tours and visitors to the dairy, the cows are brutalized.”
Steel rebar is allegedly used as a weapon to force cows into their milking stations. Employees and managers allegedly used rebar to spear and beat dairy cows repeatedly in the torso and head. The organization claims the cows were also punched and kicked by employees.
In a statement, Jacob Larson said an employee seen in the video hitting cows has been fired, adding that the “unusual use of force is simply unacceptable on our dairy or on any other farm.”
Larson, who is the owner and supervisor at Larson Dairy, whose family has been in the dairy business since 1947 and in Okeechobee County since 1971, questioned the tactics of the animal rights group.
“We have strict protocols involving animal care and clearly the behavior shown in this video goes against everything we stand for and will not be tolerated,” Larson said. “The employee involved and featured in the video has been terminated. Further corrective action will be taken if necessary as we continue to analyze the video and conduct an on-farm investigation.”
Florida-based Publix has since suspended its milk deliveries from the farm and Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen said the department has opened an investigation into the farm.
Richard Couto, the founder and lead investigator for the animal rights group, said members didn't choose the Larson dairy because of any cruelty reports but within an hour of starting the undercover operation found "strong sounds of animal abuse."
“We wanted to see what was happening in a typical, larger scale dairy setting in the state of Florida,” he said.
The sheriff said the material received by his office included still photos, but no video. It indicated three workers were involved. He said he’s known the Larson family for years and said they wouldn’t condone such behavior.
“These gentlemen would not condone this activity,” he said. “Had they known about it, they would have fired them on the spot.”
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