An Idaho dairy responded Wednesday to an animal rights group's latest video showing the abuse of cows, saying the renewed attention is likely to spur more threats to its staff.
"We are the ones who will pay for what happens to our animals," family-owned Bettencourt Dairies said in a statement. "Yet the things in this world that take place every day, who will stop that, the bullying of our child when he steps foot in the public school, he had nothing to do with this."
Mercy for Animals on Tuesday released a clip from 2012 of a worker, who was eventually sentenced to jail, sexually abusing a cow. The video is being used to help fight legislation in Idaho that would punish people who go undercover to film at farms.
"We make sure all employees … are suitable to be around our cows, but then again people can lie on their applications and their last employer may not know they beat animals or have a record," the company said. "We were sick when we too were showed the video; they are harmless animals."
The dairy complained about the activists not following up to see measures, including security cameras, put in place to prevent a repeat of the abusive incidents documented in 2012.
"Do they really care about the animal???" Bettencourt wrote. "We have been in business for 30 years; you don't make it 30 years by beating animals, especially at the cost of the average cow."
Mercy for Animals Executive Director Nathan Runkle said the organization was never invited and that hidden cameras were the best way to spot abuse anyway.
"We're interested in uncovering the reality, and it's only with hidden cameras that we can document the true culture, Runkle told the Los Angeles Times. He added that Bettencourt's security camera feeds should be publicly accessible online.
"A camera is only as good as those who are viewing it," Runkle said. The dairy noted that cameras are "viewed daily."
Animal rights groups face an uphill battle in defeating the "ag-gag" legislation that would ban undercover filming on farms. The dairy industry has broad support among state lawmakers, Runkle said.
"We hope they will listen to their constituency that wants more transparency of food production than less," he said.
Bettencourt concluded, "We are for the bill and for the protection of our animals."