New Drone Investigation: Wisconsin Cheese Industry’s Dirty Secret

Mercy For Animals drones just revealed the Wisconsin cheese industry’s dirty secret. Our pilot flew his drones over several mega dairies in Wisconsin, capturing disturbing footage of massive open-air pits of liquified cow feces. 

Despite the idyllic farm imagery in promotional materials, the Wisconsin dairy industry relies heavily on industrial-scale factory farms with hundreds or thousands of cows crammed into their facilities—and millions of gallons of manure.

Nearly half of Wisconsin’s cows live in facilities with over 500 animals. This means that huge amounts of waste are concentrated in small areas.

In the video, the camera pans to show just how close these pits are to residential communities. Not only is this disgusting, but it has alarming health consequences for local residents. Factory-farm-heavy Kewaunee County alone sees hundreds of cases of acute gastrointestinal illness every year. Many are traced to bovine fecal contamination of drinking water. 

Our pilot spoke to a local couple, Arlin and Mary Lou Karnopp, to discuss how living close to pits of feces has negatively impacted them. Arlin held up samples of water he had taken from the sink—they were a murky brown. The dairy waste had contaminated their well. After raising a family and building a life in the community, the couple shared their heartbreak in seeing their home poisoned by nearby factory farms:

It makes me very angry that for what we did to make our home a nice place for the family, … it’s being destroyed.

Not only are these mega dairies devastating for local communities, but they are unbearable for the animals living in them. The drone footage shows rows and rows of hutches where many calves are kept after being taken from their mothers. The calves are fed an artificial milk replacer and denied the opportunity to run, play, or bond with other calves.

Americans deserve the truth about Wisconsin cheese. Want to learn more dairy industry secrets? Click here.

Join us in working towards a kinder, more sustainable food system by choosing more plant-based meals. Get started today with these delicious vegan cheese ball recipes!