Last week, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) announced the completion of a third-party audit of one of its member farms, Cactus-Acre Holsteins.
This announcement came two days after the cooperative proactively released an undercover video shot by animal rights extremist group Mercy For Animals (MFA), depicting animal abuse on the farm owned by Jim and Marie Goedert in Fort Morgan, Colorado. The video can be viewed at the DFA website.
The audit, conducted by Validus, is part of the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program’s Willful Animal Mistreatment Protocol. The protocol, which sets forth a process of investigation, probation (if warranted) and corrective action, is founded on the principles of continuous improvement. Based on the results of the investigative audit, Cactus-Acres Holsteins has been placed on probationary status pending the successful completion of a corrective action plan.
DFA utilizes the FARM Program as part of the Gold Standard Dairy Program, its on-farm evaluation program. These programs, as well as DFA’s decision to publicly release the undercover video ahead of MFA, demonstrate the cooperative and industry’s ongoing commitment to the care and wellness of the nation’s dairy herd.
The Goederts, who milk approximately 2,500 cows and employ more than 30 employees, were shocked to learn of the allegations levied against them, particularly because they utilize a video monitoring system on their dairy and had already terminated several employees over concerns about poor performance and animal mistreatment in the preceding weeks.
“We couldn’t believe that someone who we hired as a milker and trusted to do the right thing and care for our cows would act so contrary to our values,” says Marie Goedert of the undercover activist, Jessica Buck. “Why not bring these concerns to our attention immediately?”
It is an ongoing tactic for animal rights extremist groups like MFA to secretly record footage on farms throughout the country for weeks, even months at a time before reporting any allegations of abuse or mistreatment. In some states, this is a crime. DFA is planning to work with the Goederts to press charges.
“It is extremely frustrating and ineffective to simply record activities that go against industry and farm practices and protocols, rather than report it immediately,” says Monica Massey, DFA’s senior vice president of corporate affairs. “For groups that claim to have animal care and welfare as their sole mission, they seem to spend a lot of time simply observing what they think is the inhumane treatment of animals instead of stopping it. Abuse should be reported, not recorded.”
Over the course of the two-month period Buck was employed at the Goederts’ dairy, she secretly recorded incidents of abuse instead of reporting them to farm management. The cooperative is encouraging anyone who witnesses animal abuse to report it immediately and has begun a social media campaign utilizing #ReportNotRecord.
“We take great pride in running a quality operation, and abuse is never tolerated,” Marie says. “We are devastated that these acts were committed by employees on our dairy. We acknowledge that there were mistakes made and take full responsibility for those. We appreciate the feedback from the audit and will work to correct those areas that need improvement immediately in order to be taken off probation.”
The Goederts, however, say they also question the role that Buck played in eliciting or inciting other employees to commit abuse and intend to work with the local sheriff to ensure that all those seen abusing animals are brought to justice for their crimes.
DFA acted proactively by not waiting for MFA to release the video, instead releasing it early last week and taking full responsibility for its member farm.
“We denounce the actions of MFA and their deceptive and manipulative tactics,” Massey says. “Animal abuse is never tolerated and should be reported immediately, not recorded.” PD
—From Dairy Farmers of America news release