Four dairy workers at a Wisconsin farm linked to Nestle were charged with animal cruelty after being caught on hidden camera beating, whipping and cutting animals.
Abelardo Jaimes, Crescencio Pineda, Lucia Martinez and Misael Monge-Minero were charged with 11 counts of animal cruelty. The workers belonged to Wiese Brothers Farms in Greenleaf – a dairy that supplied a cooperative named Foremost Farms.
Foremost Farms is a cheese supplier to Nestle's pizza division, which makes the DiGiorno brand. The cooperative no longer works with Wiese Brothers Farms, a spokeswoman for Nestle said.
The surreptitious video was shot by an investigator for Mercy for Animals, a Los Angeles-headquartered animals rights group. The footage shows the workers violently beating the animals and dragging sick cows by the neck with loaders.
"These criminal charges should be a wake-up call that heartbreaking animal abuse runs rampant at DiGiorno cheese suppliers," said Nathan Runkle, Mercy for Animals' executive director. "Swift action must be taken to end this unspeakable cruelty. Nestle has the power and responsibility to implement meaningful policies to end some of the worst forms of animal abuse in the dairy industry."
Nestle said it deplored the abuse and in January introduced an independent auditing system that now scrutinizes suppliers to its partner dairy cooperatives.
"Nestle believes that animal cruelty is never acceptable – and we recognize our responsibility to do what it takes to eliminate it from our supply chain," the company said in a prepared statement. "We will not do business with companies that do not adhere to our strict standards, and we are always looking for ways to do better."