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Florida's largest dairy cooperative announces new practices after allegations of cow abuse

Posted at 6:27 AM, Nov 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-27 21:19:53-05

The animal right group ARM, Animal Recovery Mission, recently released undercover videos from two local dairy farms that they said show abuse of cows.

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One video was from Burnham Farm in Okeechobee County. The other was from Larson Dairy in Okeechobee County.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office says several warrants were issued in the Larson Dairy case and they are looking for suspects.

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During a 10 a.m. news conference in Zolfo Springs, Fla., CEO Jim Sleper said they are doing multiple things to prevent any further abuse at farms including.

Both farms are on probation, and Sleper said they are now launching remedial training for all farms, speeding up another training program and asking owners to put in more video monitoring.

"When I visited those farms and saw the conditions, it was totally different from what I saw and experienced in those videos. I’m totally confused. Why would any of our members truly want some incident like that occurring on their farm? It doesn't make economic sense. I doesn’t make any moral sense, as I indicated," said Sleper.

Sleper said he spoke to the owners at both Burnham and Larson Dairy farms and they were confused and saddened by the undercover video and ready to take action to remedy the problems.

ARM’s founder Richard Couto said the proposed changes by Southeast Milk are a step in the right direction. However, he says they don’t go far enough.

“Do I think that an organization and a company that is made up of dairy farmers themselves are going to do the proper job in policing themselves? Probably not,” said Couto. 

Couto said he supports the push for better video surveillance programs at all dairy farms.

That was one of Southeast Milk’s proposed changes announced during the news conference Monday morning. 

However, Couto questions whether new training requirements will make a difference. 

“Does that stop workers from abusing animals when they’re frustrated, when they want to move the cows faster to make more money? It doesn’t."

Couto said there needs to be sweeping changes in procedures and regulations.  And he believes that can only come with action at the legislative level. 

The organization has about 20 active investigations underway. However, Couto would not say whether any of them involved dairy farms in Florida.