DEXTER, NM – An investigation into Winchester Dairy based near Dexter in southern New Mexico has been launched by the New Mexico Livestock Board after an activist working with Mercy for Animals, an animal-welfare group, recorded secret video allegedly showing workers whipping cows with chains and wire cables, kicking and punching the animals, plus shocking them with electric prods, according to The Associated Press. Board officials said dairy officials have been cooperating since investigators first arrived last Friday.
On Tuesday, board officials said they were working on interviewing the activist and tracking down the workers appearing in the video.
Animal care and wellbeing are central to Winchester Dairy’s operation, the dairy said in a statement. As a result, the dairy fired all employees and referred the abusive workers to law enforcement for further review following its own internal investigation, AP relayed. The dairy also ceased its milking operations, shipments to vendors and sent thousands of cows to other dairies with strong track records in animal welfare. AP reported it was not immediately clear whether the dairy's closure was temporary or permanent.
"We remain committed to the ethical and responsible treatment of the animals and have learned from this incident," the dairy said.
Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals first sent the video footage to the livestock agency last Thursday. It released a compilation of clips that show the abuse during a news conference Wednesday in Albuquerque. The Dairy Producers of New Mexico iterated in a statement Wednesday that the industry is committed to animal well-being.
"The actions depicted in the video are unacceptable and do not reflect the daily care and comfort that New Mexico dairy farmers and dairy farmers nationwide provide their cows," the statement said. Mercy for Animals has since asked Denver-based Leprino Foods, which is supplied by the New Mexico dairy and produces cheese for major pizza chains, to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for kicking, punching and shocking cows and require suppliers to provide safe and sanitary environments for the animals.
On Wednesday, Leprino Foods responded that it terminated all shipments from Winchester Dairy and that it cares about the health and welfare of the animals on the farms that supply the company with milk.