Last winter, an undercover investigator from the animal rights group Animal Equality filmed horrific abuses at Summit Calf Ranch in Nebraska, a facility housing 11,000 calves ranging from one to 150 days old. The ranch is owned by Tuls Dairies, a supplier of Baybel producer Bel Brands.
The investigator documented calves routinely separated from their mothers within as little as 30 minutes of being born. Their bodies still wet from birth and shaking from cold, the calves await transport to Summit Calf Ranch as the mothers cry out over and over for their babies. The calves are soon shoved and dragged onto the transport trailer, their mothers left behind to never see them again.
Once at the ranch, the day-old calves are harshly separated from one another by age and sex as they call out for mothers who are long gone. The transport driver deems a calf who is too weak to stand “close to death.” The calf is removed from the truck and left to suffer for days without veterinary care.
Workers process hundreds of calves daily and grow frustrated quickly. The investigator filmed calves being cruelly shoved, jabbed, and hit with sorting sticks, as well as being lunged at and bitten by the manager’s dog. The babies were routinely disbudded, which involves restraining them and painfully burning the horn buds out of their heads.
While temperatures approached near-record lows of −20 degrees with the windchill factor, calves were left outdoors with little shelter. Their water froze over, making it impossible for the babies to drink. Just days old, calves suffered painful scours, pneumonia, and frozen legs, as well as their hooves separating from their legs.
Sick calves were left to die in agony next to the bodies of calves who had already passed. Sean Thomas, international director of investigations for Animal Equality, stated:
Our investigation into Summit Calf Ranch revealed a shocking lack of meaningful care provided to baby calves. We documented sick newborns surrounded by their already dead pen mates in an area referred to as the “hospital” where they were left to suffer for days and in many cases finally die.
This horrifying investigation comes on the heels of another recent dairy exposé by the animal rights group Animal Recovery Mission. In the biggest undercover investigation into a dairy farm, the investigator spent three months between August and November 2018 at Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana as a calf care employee.
Using surveillance equipment to capture the daily routine of workers and managers, the investigator assisted in bottle-feeding newborn calves, loading transport trucks, and disposing of the dead. The investigator described what he saw as “by far the worst abuse to baby animals” that he had seen “in any investigation in the world.”
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