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Should Animal Rights Activists Be Held Accountable For Abuse Videos?

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An animal rights activist is charged with animal abuse for not reporting incidents of animal abuse as they occurred. 

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 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. 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 addressed this issue recently with a piece entitled, “What Do We Do About The .01 Percent Of Producers Who Actually Abuse Animals?” 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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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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Discuss this Blog Entry 20

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 25, 2013

Anyone who hires on to find abuse will find abuse.. If you hire on under fraudulent motives you should be prosecuted to fullest extent of the law

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2013

It should be mandatory that video cameras are iinstalled where ever all animals are most importantly at at slaughter houses.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 27, 2013

Yeah slaughterhouses already have some cameras....

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2013

The other question that never seems to be asked is how much of the result of actions by the activist himself? It must be very frustrating to spend all that time on a hog farm or cattle ranch and never witness anything adverse to the welfare of the animals. So you just manufacture the evidence or talk a co-worker into doing something negative that you just happen to be on the spot to video.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2013

Shame on Radig! If you see blatant abuse and do not immediately report it then you are condoning those actions. You are a participant in those actions. If you are not there to stop the abuse then why are you there. If abuse is routine then you would see it within a week or less. Just report it and move on.

Diane Finney (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2013

Surprisingly, I found your article fair. I wonder at the comment section however, when the opinions aired seem to condone the actions of the abuser and condemn the actions of the whistleblower. If the young lady in question would have went to the authorities after the first incident, they would have pooh-poohed her concern and said "You better just mind your own business, Little Lady." As a lifelong rancher, I know as well as anyone that responsible ranchers go to great lengths to protect and care for their livestock in all kinds of weather. But also as a lifelong rancher, we have all witnessed those people who have crossed the line and sadly, many of us have stood by and never said anything publicly, but talked about it later in the privacy of our own home, feeling ashamed that we had never said anything, but not brave enough to stand up the animals that provide our livlihood, but don't mean enough for us to come to their defense against what amounts to bullying and cruelty. I guess my philosophy is if someone will abuse or torture an animal, what are they capable of with respect to their family, their wife or children. As I got older, I realized that standing up against that kind of stupidity was my duty as a "rancher", a caretaker of animals who could not take care of themselves. By punishing the videographer, ranchers have just confirmed to the animal activists that their claim is true, that agriculture producers abuse their animals and cover it up at all costs to protect their "own", and it makes me sad.

Last point. The people who hide under the "anonymous" opinions are the kind who witness crap like this and then spout off about how the activist was at fault for videoing, for Pete's sake. Man up and take some responsibility for your opinion at least.

chenhalljr (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2013

I agree with Dianne , if you're gonna comment be responsible enough to put your name on it. I have lost my temper with stock before but I held myself in check cause I knew their reactions were normal blatant abuse is unethical and uncalled for .

on Nov 26, 2013

When you realize that animal terrorists really don't care about the animals, they cares about controlling human choices in order to eliminate animals, then their actions appear more rational. By creating these images (sometimes the participants are paid to do these things in order to make the videos) the images are used as powerful marketing tools to sway public opinion and to drive efforts to change laws. By changing laws and making production more expensive, they can control, via the market pressures, people's diets. Sadly this translates into less good quality protein for poorer people.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2013

The main thing I wondered was why the baby pigs were being killed? They looked active and healthy, and like baby pigs that would be raised up to slaughter size. It just did not make business sense that they were being killed, and makes me wonder if it was all staged. Most of the pig video just showed uncooperative pigs being moved, and sqealing just sounds distressed.

Sheep can be very aggressive when fed grain (but not hay). If our cows with their larger size acted like that, I would be afraid to go in with them to feed grain. My grandmother was injured and I have been knocked down more than once feeding sheep corn. So I have cracked plastic buckets from hitting them while feeding, which would probably look bad on a video. One needs to look at context.

on Nov 26, 2013

Diane, the person shooting the video should go through the proper channels upon seeing abuse. If the manager disregards, then go thru the state or association channels in place. Instead they go directly to animal rights groups and post the videos online. That shows that the main focus is not on stopping abuse, it is on ending animal agriculture. And we've all heard of how these groups doctor video by changing lighting, adding noise, false angles to make things look worse. Many times these videos are debunked by animal health and welfare experts.
Echoing what another poster wrote, I think that every animal ag. manager should require employees to sign a contract stating they will not video or photograph on site, and that violations will result in termination and prosecution. Misrepresenting oneself on an employment application is fraud and should be treated as such.

Ed Fowler (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2013

Trying to convince others is tough when they see it happen.

The way to work on PETA is to publicize the economics of their operation. Who gets paid how much and what % of the contributors dollar actually goes to save an animal?

When it comes to cruelty, when we witness it, it is our responsibility to act. Many times it only takes a few lessons on animal behavior and how to work them.

anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2013

True compassion for animals begins at the moment of the abuse. Instead of a camera, giving a helping hand is true concern. If activists really were on an operation to help animals they would be working alongside the other workers to show everyone the safe way to handle all these situations that come up in working with livestock. If they are there only to find publicity for the actions they believe that are happening then that is not protecting animal rights. If the mishandling of an animal is not stopped at the exact moment of the action or perceived action, then no one benefits, animal or handler.
I am glad to finally see law enforcement step up and include the observer as negligent and being a participant in these incidents. As a livestock producer I am always watching to see that we do the right thing with our animals because quality products happen at every step of the production chain and unhealthy animals are an expense we cannot afford to have.
As for anonymous - in todays world of instant contact around the world, most of us cannot deal with the barrage of stupid and vicious input that you are hit with and with google search anyone can find you instantly and make you a public contact taking away your ability to handle your real business and personal life using your internet and cell phone. Have you ever been hacked? It is not a pleasant experience for you or your contacts.

California ranch native (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2013

It's absolutely a fact that these animal rights terrorits(PETA & HSUS specifically)don't give two hoots about animals. We had a neighbor here in Northern California that became a target for a person with extensive political connections who had this neighbors animals violated by his workers (paid them off to do it) ,then contacted the local HSUS group who got the Sheriff involved, who ended up taking the neighbors animals under false pretenses. Then the Sheriff violated the animals for 2 years and ended up transfering possesion of a majority of the animals to a rescue that then euthanized the animals since most were suppossedly unmanageable by that time. Oh and mean time they dismissed all charges against the owner after he spent his whole life savings proving he was innocent of any wrong doing.Mean time the Assitant DA that prosecuted the owner went to work for a HSUS related group and the courts dismissed all legal claims the owner brought against the County as being beyond the time allowed to bring a claim. All the animals ended up dying while in possession by the Sheriff , being euthanized by the "rescue", or mysteriously ending up in the possession of County employees and their relatives. So these Animal Rights Terrorits got away with murder of the animals and destroyed the owners livelyhood of agricultural production.

Adam Miller (not verified)
on Nov 26, 2013

While it’s morally wrong to witness abuse like this for months and not say anything, it might only help their cause by spinning it to look like agriculture is insensitive to the real problem which is the abuse. I think it would only do more harm than good. The right thing to do is to continue to condone the actions of a few bad apples and show that this is not the way things are done on most farms.

Diane Finney (not verified)
on Nov 27, 2013

It appears that the point is still being missed. Ethical ranchers need to step up and make sure this abuse doesn't happen, or if it does, report it. Don't wait for the outside groups to do something. It doesn't matter if they are your relative, your friend, your neighbor, etc. If they are crossing the line, we have a moral obligation to step in. People might believe they are upstanding members of the community, but if they are involved in, or allowing, the things we have all see on some of these videos, they certainly have a dark side. People that comment that the PETA or HSUS people "don't care about the animals", are again missing the point. That is not the issue. The issue is the initial abuse, and people who ramble on about the activists are channeling their anger towards them instead of the people who are really responsible for the videos, the abusers.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 27, 2013

Diane- No one said the abusers were in the right to be clear but one instance doesn't mean 99.9% of the other time they are treating their animals with care and rescept. I have seen too many videos where the owners weren't even present because they trusted their workers to handle animals properly and the workers didn't take that responsibly serious. If I have to watch my workers every minute of everyday than I might as well save the money and just do everything myself. At what time do you actually start to trust people? I have spoken up when I saw people getting ready to cross the line or did cross the line, so speak for yourself before you start to think we all keep our mouths shut when one of our own does something wrong.

on Nov 28, 2013

Animal Rights wacko's love abuse (real, or FAKE) because that is how they get most of their money, and supporters.
I think the one's taking the video should be thrown in jail for not reporting it, or intervening.

rachael bannister (not verified)
on Nov 29, 2013

But,if you cannot prove a continuous stream of abuse it cpuld be construed as as the writter state an emplyee having a bad day.
Why does the industry itself not have monitors of the actions in house 24/7 with camera's in every nook and cranny.
Why do they not care about the welfare and suffering of the animals themselves?If the abuse is taking place over weeks and months then why has the industry not seen it themselves?

on Nov 29, 2013

Employees are suppose to report or intervene of acts of abuse under PQA, and BQA guidelines, so there isn't suppose to be any need for cameras, but the problem is these employees are mostly city-slickers that don't care a bit anyways, or anti's just looking for more footage.

dwest (not verified)
on Dec 4, 2013

The FBI as standard practice collects undercover recordings, Videos, informant information for years before filing a case. Many news organizations may work a year or more on a story. If a prosecutor should win a case like this then everyone who protects the public is open to the same prosecution. This story is about animal abuse. What if the next one is about a nursing home or a day care?
In regards to the article it seemed to want to be fair in tone but when you open with "animal rights extremist groups" it implies that you don't think anyone has a right to protect what we eat or expose people doing horrible things. Maybe only 1% of the police in the world are bad. Are all people who expose them "extremist" for protecting society against them?

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A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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