An undercover investigation spanning ten years has shocked America. Using hidden cameras, animal rights investigators have documented illegal, unsafe and cruel practices in farms and processing plants across the US.
So comprehensive has been the investigation that it has prompted American lawmakers to do what they do best – they’ve made undercover investigations illegal.
Dedicated investigators sponsored by animal rights groups such as Mercy for Animals have spent 11 years working in farms and slaughterhouses and providing their material to animal rights groups, police and the press. Democracy Now carried a full interview with an investigator who concealed his identity (to facilitate further undercover investigations) and then carried a debate on the press restrictions, called the Ag-Gag, whereby it will be illegal to investigate or even photograph farms or any food producers.
You may find some scenes upsetting:
Partial transcript follows between Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman & Aaron Maté with undercover investigator ‘Pete’:
AARON MATÉ: Pete, I just want to clarify, you said earlier that you find cruelty 100 percent of the time?
PETE: One hundred percent of the time. You know, I mean, it would stand to reason that there has to be a farm out there, at least one, that’s not breaking the law. That would stand to reason. The only thing I can tell you is that I have not found it yet.
So, I have worked at a—for example, just with the dairies alone, I’ve worked at Bettencourt Dairy in Idaho, which at the one site that I was at, one of their numerous sites, there were about 6,000 cows, and, you know, people were breaking the law every day there. I’ve worked at the Conklin Dairy Farm in Ohio. It was a family-owned farm, had about 200 cows, the most sadistic animal abuse that I’ve ever seen. And I’ve worked at the E6 Cattle Ranch in Texas, also family-owned, and the owner was convicted for cruelty to animals. Another MFA investigator worked at a large dairy in New York, and he worked alongside a mechanic. And it just so happened that the one worker that he was working alongside was also convicted for breaking the law for cruelty to animals.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about one of the dairies, Pete. You recently infiltrated Bettencourt Dairies in Idaho and released some shocking footage. The video shows a cow being dragged on the floor by a chain attached from her neck to a moving tractor. It also shows dairy workers viciously beating and shocking cows and violently twisting their tails. Additionally, your hidden camera captured unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including feces-covered floors that cause cows to regularly slip, fall and injure themselves. There were also sick and injured cows suffering from open wounds, broken bones and infected udders left to suffer without veterinary care. Now, Bettencourt Dairies is Idaho’s largest dairy operation and cheese supplier for Kraft and Burger King. Three of the dairy workers were charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty due to your investigation. Tell us exactly what happened, how you got the video out, how you made it public, and who these people were who were convicted.
PETE: Absolutely. So, the entire purpose behind the Bettencourt investigation was that—I guess I should start by saying that my identity has been made public by the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and they’ve been trying to prevent me from getting undercover at farms and slaughterhouses. So the whole reason that I went to Idaho is specifically because Mercy for Animals hired me to just work at any facility that I could. And so I went to Idaho because I’ve never been there, and I chose the dairy industry because I hadn’t worked at a dairy in over two years. On that alone, I decided to go apply at Bettencourt. They were the first place to hire me.
And within 45 minutes of arriving on my first day, there was the—I filmed the incident that you discussed of someone putting a chain around a downed cow’s neck and dragging her out of a stall. The manager, Felipe, of that site, the Dry Creek Dairy site, he shocked the downed cow about 50 times with a hand-held device. He was the one who put the chain around her neck. I still don’t understand why he was not charged for that crime. But there it was, on my first day, that management was involved in the most hideous act of abuse that I saw while I was there.
The investigation lasted three weeks, and there were acts of unnecessary cruelty, of people beating and punching cows in the face and punching them in the eyes, and so forth, throughout that time. Once we felt that we had established a pattern of abuse and showed everyone who was involved in it, though no cow during that time had an imminent threat to their so that we felt we needed to cut the case immediately, we then went to law enforcement.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened to these people? Are they still working in the plant, though they were charged with misdemeanor? And the companies that use Bettencourt, the largest plant in the state?
PETE: Right. So, I guess first I should say Felipe, to my knowledge, is still running that site. He was not charged. There were three workers that were charged. Two fled. One was convicted. And the company itself was not charged.