A major Florida dairy farm is under police investigation after an undercover report led to allegations that employees regularly abused cows.
According to the Associated Press, Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen confirmed his department is looking into images contained in the video filmed at Larson Dairy.
Animal Recovery Mission was reportedly behind the undercover footage, which was filmed by a member of the group who was hired by the dairy in August.
According to the charges leveled in the video, Larson Dairy employees, including supervisors, “beat, stab and torment dairy cows with steel construction rebar.”
The animals are “kept hidden from tours” to avoid exposing the physical abuse, the group alleges in the video.
At least one retailer has already publicly distanced itself from the supplier, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Publix, a Florida-based supermarket chain, said in its statement it was “disturbed by the images and shocked by the cruelty toward animals” depicted in the video.
The following footage includes a segment of the video and contains some graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.
Absolutely brutal video of what an animal rights group says is abuse at one of Florida's biggest dairy farms, Larson Dairy Farm in Okeechobee.
— Chris Stewart (@CStewartWPTV) November 10, 2017
Stephen said the investigation thus far indicates three employees were involved in the abuse. He said it does not appear the Larson family, which he has known for years, was involved in or aware of the behavior.
“Had they known about it, they would have fired them on the spot,” the sheriff said.
Jacob Larson issued a statement on behalf of his family’s business, citing “strict protocols” implemented by the dairy to ensure animals are treated humanely and noting that the “employee involved and featured in the video has been terminated.”
Larson went on to criticize the Animal Recovery Mission associate who obtained the footage.
“Had the ‘undercover’ employee brought this to our attention when it occurred, we may have been able to prevent it earlier,” he said.
“Very disappointing to me.” Larson Dairy Inc. responds to allegations of animal abuse. Animal Recovery Mission says they went undercover and uncovered abuse of cows at dairy farm. pic.twitter.com/XpohrViAIo
— Alex Hagan (@AlexHagan_WPTV) November 10, 2017
The animal rights group’s founder, Richard Couto, said Larson Dairy was chosen because of its size and location, not because of any prior complaints of animal abuse.
“We wanted to see what was happening in a typical, larger scale dairy setting in the state of Florida,” he said.
About an hour after the individual who captured the footage started working at the dairy, Couto said the group reported “strong sounds of animal abuse.”
[Featured image: WPTV (video screenshot)]