Over the past few years, consumers have become increasingly aware of the abuse that takes place in the industrial food system. Public outrage has reached a fever-pitch. Due to consumer demand, many corporations and state governments (including Florida) have even begun banning gestation crates--those tiny containers used to hold female pigs during pregnancy--which is cited as one of the most inhumane practices in factory farming. Miami-based Burger King is one of those businesses that complied with consumer demand. Earlier this year, the company pledged that by 2017, all of its pork and even eggs will come from free-range animals. Score one for the animals. Right?
Well, maybe not. The fast food giant is now under scrutiny again for an undercover video recorded by Mercy For Animals: regarding dairy cows.
- Cracker Barrel Announces Plans to Ban Gestation Crates From Supply Chain
- California Ban on Foie Gras: No More Fatty Duck Livers Allowed (Floridians, However, Feel Free to Eat Up)
- Supermarket Eggs: Organic, Cage Free, Free Range, and Whatever All That Means
The video, was secretly recorded at Burger King cheese supplier, Bettencourt Dairies in Murtaugh, Twin Falls County, Idaho. It documents workers beating, kicking, jumping on, shocking, and even cruelly twisting tails to intentionally inflict pain. Sick and injured cows were recorded suffering with open wounds and broken bones. One downed cow was even videoed being dragged by a tractor.
The recording has led to criminal animal cruelty charges against three employees: including a manager. Farmworker Jose Garza's pre-trial date has been set for Tuesday October, 16. The manager Jose Acensio and the other employee, Javier Rojas-Loayza have yet to be caught.
After reviewing the footage, animal welfare expert, Dr. Temple Grandin stated, "The abuse of the downed cow with electric prods and dragging with the tractor was horrific animal abuse. If this abusive treatment had occurred at a slaughter plant, the plant would have been shut down by the USDA. The atrocious treatment of cows at this dairy is an indicator of a total lack of management supervision."
In response, Mercy For Animals is urging Burger King to end it's relationship with Bettencourt Dairies and adopt more stringent animal welfare guidelines including zero tolerance for any actions that deliberately cause pain and requirements for a safe, clean environment for all cattle. MFA is also urging Wendy's and Kraft food to stop buying products from the supplier.
Burger King officials said the company does not tolerate or condone cruelty to animals.
"Due to its complete lack of meaningful animal welfare standards, Burger King has allowed a culture of cruelty to fester at the factory farms supplying cheese for its burgers. No socially responsible corporation should support dairy operations that beat, kick, mutilate, confine, and neglect animals. Burger King must take immediate actions to prevent further abuse at its suppliers," said MFA's executive director Nathan Runkle.
Will this leaked video lead to higher welfare standards for dairy cows? If public outrage mimics the course of the gestation crate ban, it could be the start of another national trend.