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Should Animal Rights Activists Be Held Accountable For Abuse Videos?

A popular tactic of animal rights extremist groups is to send a member undercover to obtain temporary employment in a livestock operation. Once on board, they can gain the trust of coworkers, move freely about the operation, and surreptitiously shoot footage of any animal abuse [3] they might be able to depict. This surveillance often takes place over weeks while the activist collects footage, which is packaged and then released to the media. Of course, during this time of collection and production of the items for the big press splash, any animal abuse that actually might be occurring continues.

Anyone who has ever used a camera or video recorder knows that even a slight change in lighting can make a serene scene look drab and threatening. Likewise, workers having a bad day and losing their patience on a livestock operation can be depicted as being involved in routine and habitual abuse when seen on a YouTube video. I am, of course, not referring to a systematic abuse of animals [4]. And I can’t emphasize enough the responsibility of owners and managers to properly train their staff and stress to them that no abuse of animals will be tolerated whatsoever.

 

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BEEF Contributing Editor Troy Marshall [6]addressed this issue recently with a piece entitled, “What Do We Do About The .01 Percent Of Producers Who Actually Abuse Animals?” [7] He says: “While there is probably no way to ever identify or stop these rare occurrences from happening, education and surveillance are important. These 0.1% outlier incidents are something we will have to deal with, but with education and cultural pressure from within, hopefully the frequency will continue to decline."

I would never stand behind someone who actually abuses their animals [8], and I know such individuals are the exception in our industry, not the rule. But I have to admit that I am skeptical of video footage obtained by an activist under false pretenses. These are agenda-driven folks who purposely lie to get on the grounds of an animal agricultural business with the sole intention of finding something they can portray as incriminating. And there is evidence that some situations have been orchestrated.

There’s an animal abuse [9] investigation currently underway on the Quanah Cattle Company in Weld County, CO, that presents a conundrum for folks like me who love working with animals. According to a press release from Sheriff John B. Cooke’s office, “On Nov. 12, the Weld County Sheriff’s Office was presented with a video that showed alleged animal abuses at the Quanah Cattle Company located in rural Weld County near Kersey. In review of the video provided, an animal abuse [10] investigation was opened and three suspects who were shown in the video were contacted, interviewed and issued summons for Animal Cruelty (class 1 misdemeanor).

“Through continuing investigation, the person who filmed the animal abuse [11] was also contacted and interviewed by Sheriff’s detectives. It was learned that Taylor Radig was associated with an animal rights organization identified as Compassion Over Killing and referred to herself as a contractor for said organization. Radig filmed the alleged animal abuses at Quanah Cattle Company where she worked as a temporary employee from mid July through September of 2013. During her employment at Quanah, Radig compiled many hours of animal abuse footage that was collected on an ‘as needed basis.’ The video footage was eventually provided to law enforcement by representatives of Compassion Over Killing approximately two months after Radig’s employment ended with Quanah Cattle Company.

“Colorado Revised Statutes 18-9-201 and 18-9-202 outline the definitions and descriptions of the crime of Animal Cruelty. Radig’s failure to report the alleged abuse of the animals [12] in a timely manner adheres to the definition of acting with negligence and substantiates the charge Animal Cruelty. Through the ongoing investigation, Radig was cited for Animal Cruelty (class 1 misdemeanor) due to her believed participation in the cattle abuse incidents reported to the Weld County Sheriff’s Office. Additional investigation is anticipated.”

Reportedly, the video shows [13] workers pulling young dairy calves, some still with wet navels, by their ears, lifting them by their tails and dragging and throwing them off trucks. Apparently this is a legitimate abuse case, and cattle organizations, ag groups and state agencies in Colorado have responded by condemning the abuse and calling for investigation and enforcement of the laws that were broken.

This young woman who recorded the actions apparently was trying to do the right thing in protecting animals. However, if she had informed authorities or management immediately about the abuse [14] she reportedly witnessed rather than working over months to collect a body of sensational visuals, couldn’t she have attained the same thing? What do you think about this case? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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