Tuesday morning, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a video depicting mistreatment of livestock at a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. PETA used an “undercover investigator” to gather the footage which includes images of poor living conditions and animal care. The release conveniently coincided with the first day of World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.

According to an e-mail from the animal-rights group, “This blatant disregard for animal welfare is routine in the dairy industry. Cows are kept constantly pregnant in order to make them continue to produce milk, and they are hooked up at least twice a day to machines that extract the milk intended for their own calves. When their exhausted bodies are ‘spent’ and can no longer provide enough milk, they are sent to slaughter, usually for hamburger meat.”

PETA also encourages viewers to contact Land O’Lakes, the cooperative to which the accused dairy belongs, and demands that company executives watch the video. The group also insists that the organization adopt a 12-point animal-welfare standard, and strongly suggests that people adopt a vegan lifestyle, which, it claims, will “prevent cows from enduring this kind of abuse.”

As usual, the group is trying the paint the livestock industry with the same tainted brush. That means you will need to be on your guard once again to defend your livelihood. The video release also gives you an opportunity to present the true facts about animal care on today’s dairy farms. Use the following points from Dairy Management Inc., to help effectively communicate your animal-welfare stance with your friends and neighbors.
For example, respond to any online conversations about the video based on the key messages below and your personal experiences.

  • Encourage your friends and followers to learn about the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program.
  • Contact DMI if you have any questions and/or receive any media inquiries.

Meanwhile, here are some points you can incorporate in any online or offline conversations to let people know about your dedication to animal care. As always, it’s important to personalize these points.

  • The activities depicted in this video are not accepted industry practices. We reject ill treatment of animals as both deplorable and a bad business practice.
  • Dairy farmers’ commitment to providing high-quality milk begins with top-notch animal care. Nutritious diets, healthy living conditions and good medical care are among the many animal-welfare practices routinely used by dairy farmers. (Give examples from your farm.)
  • A cow’s health is of the utmost importance to dairy farmers, because proper animal care leads to the production of high-quality milk.  
  • On Thursday, Oct. 1, the dairy industry is unveiling a comprehensive, science-based animal-care program called the National Dairy FARM. The FARM program offers a nationwide, verifiable animal well-being program that demonstrates U.S. milk producers are committed to the highest quality standards. 

Also, check out this video response by Michele Payn-Knoper.

Having seen it, this video is painful to watch. There is no room in our industry for deliberate animal mistreatment or abuse. However, I find it reprehensible that the “undercover investigator,” who now claims to be outraged by the actions — or inactions — on this particular dairy, wasn’t sufficiently concerned to stop the alleged abuse at the time. It apparently was more convenient to hide behind a camera and pursue an agenda rather than provide a timely solution. As for PETA, which claims to be an animal advocate, isn’t it interesting that the group will profit off the back of animal suffering with an increase in fundraising. That is repulsive. — Shannon Linderoth, associate editor.