A vegan undercover investigation of a dairy farm supplying an ice-cream brand owned by Nestlé has revealed what campaigners describe as 'senseless and violent abuse of mother cows and their defenseless calves'.
The footage, from Martin Farms in Pennsylvania, was captured by Compassion Over Killing (COK).
According to COK, it shows practices representative of what life is like for animals on a typical dairy farm, as well some of the worst abuse the organization has ever documented.
Abuse on dairy farm
The video shows 'downed cows', who are unable to stand, being hoisted by their hips with metal clamps, to be moved or chained and dragged by tractor, as well as a manager shooting a downed cow in the head. The animal remains conscious for around a minute before a final, fatal shot is administered.
It also shows cows being sprayed in the face with scalding hot water by workers who are trying to force them to move faster.
One disturbing incident shows a farm manager stabbing a cow with a sharp instrument in what COK describes as 'a botched attempt to supposedly treat a stomach ailment'. The cow bleeds heavily and receives no pain relief or veterinary care. It also shows animals being beaten and stomped on by workers.
Footage shows abuse on thedairy farm (Video: Compassion Over Killing)
'Unacceptable abuse and exploitation'
"Behind every sip of milk or scoop of ice cream that comes from a cow, there is unacceptable abuse and exploitation," Cheryl Leahy, General Counsel, Compassion Over Killing, said in a statement sent to Plant Based News.
"We're calling for criminal prosecution for the most egregious cruelty in this case, but this investigation also shows practices that are commonplace throughout the dairy industry yet so severely abusive that they'd result in criminal cruelty charges if inflicted on the dogs and cats in our homes.
"As a mother myself, I often think about this violence and the shattering of the mother-infant bond the dairy industry relies upon to exist."
Martin Farms released a statement in response to the footage, saying it was 'appalled' that the incidents took place on the farm. "We take full responsibility for the activities on our dairy," it added. "We are disappointed that these actions were not immediately brought to our attention.
"All employees shown in the video mishandling animals and not following our established Martin Farms animal care protocols have been terminated. We do not tolerate any animal mistreatment on our farm. We take great pride in our family farm and we are shocked that these incidents took place on our farm."
Nestlé says it immediately severed ties with Martin Farms as a result of the investigation - though COK says this 'fails to address the systemic nature of the issues the investigation uncovered'.
COK has submitted its evidence to the Pennsylvania State Police and the Franklin County District Attorney and is 'calling for prompt enforcement action'.