Three people have been arrested following the latest animal abuse video release in Florida.
The Okeechobee Co. Sheriff's Office arrested three of four McArthur Farms employees who are accused of animal abuse. Animal rights group, Animal Recovery Mission, released an undercover video on Dec. 14 depicting alleged abuse on the dairy.
Mario Hernandez, 31, was charged with a felony for allegedly causing death, pain or suffering to cattle on the farm. The assistant supervisor can be seen in the video hitting and stabbing cows in the face with PVC pipe that had a kitchen knife attached.
Fernando Lopez-Cruz, 44, faces misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals for allegedly hitting cows with a PVC pipe and breaking a cow’s tail.
Naul Dorantes-Garcia, 31, faces misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals for allegedly putting a propane torch in a cow’s face while flame trimming udders and hitting cows with a PVC pipe.
According to Sheriff Noel Stephen a warrant has been issued for a fourth person and the other arrests were made the same day the video was released.
"We are still conducting further investigation. We have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of video that has been supplied to us that we have not been able to go through. We have to go through that minute by minute so this case is ongoing," Stephen says.
Pushback was nearly immediate from retailers in Florida with Publix, the largest grocer in the state, suspending shipments from McArthur Farms.
“We are upset by the images and disturbed by the cruelty shown toward the animals,” a statement from Publix says.
Another fallout from the video was a false news release from Animal Recovery Mission saying the dairy was owned by Dean Foods.
“While we proudly own the McArthur Dairy brand in Miami, the name is coincidental and we don’t own that farm," a statement from Dean Foods says. McArthur Dairy is a brand of milk in south Florida owned by Dean Foods.
Dean Foods did note that milk from Southeast Milk, Inc., the cooperative where McArthur Farms markets its raw milk, is purchased by the company.
“Dean Foods is appalled at the behaviors shown in the released video. We believe that providing for the health and welfare of dairy cows is the right thing to do and we expect all farmers to ensure their animals are being cared for and handled according to sound animal welfare principles,” Dean Foods says.
Southeast Milk is working with members and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) to ensure dairies are following protocol of the FARM program.
“Southeast Milk, Inc. continues to take corrective action including this week, holding mandatory management and animal care trainings for all SMI member owners,” says Jim Sleper, CEO of Southeast MILK.
Practices that are to be implemented include on-farm video surveillance systems.
McArthur Farms was the third dairy to be targeted by an Animal Recovery Mission undercover video investigation in Florida this year. Larson Dairy Farms and Burnham Dairy Farm, also from Okeechobee Co. had videos released last month.
A second video was released on Dec. 13 allegedly showing Larson Dairy Farms owner Jacob Larson present during abuse at the dairy. Larson had previously denied knowing any abuse was occurring.
One of four former Larson Dairy Farms employees has been arrested. The other three are thought to have fled the country.