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Far from leading the carefree lives portrayed in the dairy industry's "happy cow" commercials, the vast majority of cows used for dairy production today lead lives of deprivation, confinement, painful mutilations and cruel handling. These curious and intelligent animals are denied access to open pasture and treated as mere milk-producing machines — forced to live on manure-coated concrete floors in overcrowded sheds.

A new Mercy For Animals investigation is pulling back the curtains on the largest dairy factory farm in New York State — Willet Dairy in Locke. In early 2009 an MFA undercover investigator worked at the mega-dairy, secretly documenting egregious acts of animal cruelty, including neglect, with a hidden camera.

Evidence gathered during the investigation reveals:

  • Cows with bloody open wounds, prolapsed uteruses, pus-filled infections, and swollen joints, apparently left to suffer without veterinary care
  • "Downed" cows — those too sick or injured to even stand — left to suffer for weeks before dying or being killed
  • Workers hitting, kicking, punching, and electric-shocking cows and calves
  • Calves having their horns burned off without painkillers, as a worker shoved his fingers into the calves' eyes to restrain them
  • Calves having their tails cut off — a painful practice opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association
  • Newborn calves forcibly dragged away from their mothers by their legs, causing emotional distress to both mother and calf
  • Cows living in overcrowded sheds on manure-coated concrete flooring
  • Workers injecting cows with a controversial bovine growth hormone, used to increase milk production

In a joint statement, internationally renowned experts, including Dr. Bernard Rollin, an expert witness on animal welfare issues in the U.S. and abroad, and Dr. Temple Grandin, a world-renowned cattle welfare expert and advisor to the USDA, compared the conditions documented at Willet to the infamous Hallmark slaughterhouse, where undercover video exposing abuse of downed cows resulted in the largest beef recall in US history. They state, "This dairy presents at least as bad a picture of the industry as does Hallmark."

New York veterinarian Dr. Holly Cheever bluntly stated, "[I]t is my professional opinion that the environment that this dairy provides as well as its cattle-handling techniques are improper, unhygienic, dangerous, and inhumane."

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the dairy operation repeatedly violated New York's animal cruelty laws, which was meticulously compiled by Mercy For Animals and presented to the Cayuga County District Attorney, the law enforcement agency refuses to uphold the state's laws to protect animals — allowing abuse to continue at Willet, unchecked.

Sadly, the inhumane conditions uncovered at this factory farm are not isolated. Whether raised for meat, dairy or eggs, animals used in food production are frequently subjected to appalling confinement, mutilations, brutal handling and slaughter. Because agribusiness values profit over ethical principles, cruelty to animals continues to run rampant on factory farms.

Thankfully, compassionate consumers can choose to withdraw their support of these abusive industries by adopting a vegan diet. Each time we eat we can choose kindness over cruelty.

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