The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has placed Larson Dairy Farms, Okeechobee, Fla., on probation for possible violation of its FARM policy following the release of an animal abuse video last week.
The farm will undergo an in-depth animal welfare audit this week. Depending on the findings of the audit and what corrective actions are mandated, the probationary period could last up to a year, says Jamie Jonkers, NMPF Vice President of Sustainability & Scientific Affairs.
Animal Recovery Mission, an animal rights group, released the video allegedly showing cows being abused last week. Larson Dairy Farms, one of Florida’s largest, milks about 15,000 cows.
The Okeechobee Sheriff’s department continues to investigate the incident, and according to one source, has issued an all-points-bulletin for one of three employees allegedly involved the incident. Sheriff Noel Stephen also released this statement:
“As I said last week, I’ve known the Larson family for years and they would not condone such behavior. I was in contact with two of the farm's owners, Woody and Jacob Larson. The Larsons welcomed the investigation. Had they known about it (alleged abuse), they would have fired them on the spot. One of the employees in the pictures was fired and two more were suspended pending an investigation by the dairy farm. In my thirty years working at the Sheriff’s Office we have never received any innuendos, complaints or allegations in regards to the Larsons themselves. The dairy operations will continue because these cattle have to be milked twice a day or they will get sick. I had not seen the video prior to last week’s press conference. I have since watched the video. As I stated last week, I really wish the individuals who recorded the video would have given the video to OCSO at the time, because the abuse probably continued, unnecessarily, up until that time. It was unfortunately publicized before it was ever reported. According to what has been reported, the Animal Recovery Mission had three weeks of undercover investigating they conducted. Had this alleged abuse been brought to our attention, my deputies and detectives could have resolved this issue then. The case is being investigated by Detective Lt. Brad Stark. There is no further information to be released at this time.”
Several Animal Recovery Mission under-cover investigators applied for employment several months ago at Larson Dairies, and all of them signed animal welfare forms stating they would immediately notify the Dairy’s management if they saw animal abuse occurring. As noted in the sheriff’s statement, they failed to do so and then waited several weeks to release the video.