Animal abuse at dairy farm documented by hidden cameras

GREENLEAF, Wis. (WITI) – Four dairy farm workers have been charged with criminal animal cruelty following the release of hidden camera video by Mercy for Animals last year.

The workers are from Wiese Brothers Farms in Greenleaf, Wisconsin.

The California-based vegetarian group Mercy for Animals says the farm hired the group’s investigator in the fall of 2013.

“We ask these investigators to apply for jobs across the country, go to work at the facility that hires them and document the conditions that they see while they are there,” Matt Rice with Mercy for Animals said.

That investigator allegedly caught acts of abuse on a hidden camera — prompting an investigation by local authorities.

“This is video allegedly showing dairy cows being dragged, poked, lifted by their hips, barely able to get their feet under them. We feel that Americans have a right to know where their food comes from. Unfortunately, these factory farms thrive in secrecy,” Rice said. "Sick and injured cows suffering from open wounds injuries and untreated infections, left to suffer without proper veterinary care. Workers dragging cows by their fragile legs and their necks, with chains attached to tractors and filthy conditions including feces covered floors which caused the cows to regularly slip fall and injure themselves."

The four charged are being charged with a total of 11 counts of criminal animal cruelty.

Those charged are: Abelardo Jaimes, Crescencio Pineda, Lucia Martinez and Misael Monge-Minero.

"Unfortunately there are no federal laws protecting animals during their lives on the farm, so we think that needs to change. We think consumers have the right to know where their food comes from and how animals in these factory farms are treated so they can make informed choices," Rice said.

At the time of the investigation, Wiese Brothers Farms was a cheese supplier for DiGiorno Pizza-the nation’s largest frozen pizza manufacturer. Following the release of the video, the DiGiorno/Nestle Pizza Division dropped Wiese Brothers Farms in Greenleaf as a supplier.

“We do not tolerate animal cruelty and we immediately called our cheese supplier Foremost Farms to ensure that we would not continue with any farm that was mistreating animals,” VP of Nestle Hannah Coan said in December of 2013.

Mercy for Animals is looking for the company to take things a step further.

"We are calling on DiGiorno to implement meaningful animal welfare policies and guidelines to ensure these types of abuses aren't happening at any of its other dairy suppliers in the future," said Rice.

Back in December, Wiese Brothers Farms released the following statement to the media: “We are shocked and saddened to see a few of our employees not following farm animal care policies. We have zero tolerance for animal abuse.”

In December, the farm said it fired two employees and reassigned a third, away from the daily care of its animals.

The farm said it also revised its animal care and employee oversight policies.

"We think the facility should be held responsible for lack of oversight," said Rice.

Following the investigation by Mercy for Animals’ investigators, Mercy for Animals immediately contacted Brown Country law enforcement authorities and presented them with a detailed legal complaint and the undercover video footage. MFA praises the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and district attorney’s office for taking swift and decisive action in pursuing justice for these abused and exploited animals.

WARNING: Some people may be disturbed by the video in this story.