By Tim Morrissey
BIRNAMWOOD, Wis. - An undercover video which graphically captures alleged animal abuse at the Andrus Dairy Farm in Birnamwood has drawn sharp reaction in many quarters. The Ohio-based cheese company, which had been using milk from the farm to produce cheese, has cut ties with the Andrus farm and animal activists say the video points to the need for better practices to prevent animal abuse.
Shelly Mayer, executive director of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, says animal abuse is not the norm on Wisconsin dairy farms and decries any form of animal abuse.
"Working with animals calmly and handling them calmly and having that animal interact with you without fear - that's what's going to be successful and rewarding for you and the animal," she says.
The video shows farm workers kicking and punching cows and using pruning shears to cut the cow's tail off, a practice known as "tail docking." Vets do anesthetize a cow’s tail prior to the procedure and although cow tail-docking is unlawful in four states, Wisconsin is not one of them.
Farm owner Alan Andrus says the use of gardening shears to cut cows' tails off is the most humane way to do it, but the American Veterinary Medical Association says tail docking, which is unlawful in several states, provides no benefit to the animal.
Mayer, who also owns and operates a dairy farm south of Fond du Lac with her husband, says humane treatment of animals is beneficial to all parties.
"So as someone who works with cows every day, we know cows that are handled by people are well-trained and are calm and are comfortable, those are going to be cows that produce the most milk and are the most rewarding for the people in that atmosphere to be working with," she says.
The Shawano County District Attorney's office will not be filing charges in the case, which is disappointing to Matt Rice, director of investigations for the group which made the video, Mercy for Animals.
"All of our other dairy investigations have led to criminal prosecutions and convictions of workers and owners who are caught on video abusing animals," says Rice. "We are disappointed but I think that highlights the need for the industry to implement policies and oversight to prevent these abuses in the first place." Audiofile.