An animal rights group wants Burger King to sever its ties with Idaho’s Bettencourt Dairies, and force the rest of its suppliers to implement strict animal welfare guidelines.
The demands from the group Mercy for Animals came Wednesday as it released a disturbing video of animal abuse shot inside one of the Bettencourt dairies near Hansen, in Twin Falls County.
The video shows workers stomping, kicking, punching and dragging cows.
Matt Rice is in charge of investigations at Mercy for Animals. He says the Bettencourt Dairy is the fourth the organization has looked at, and the fourth where problems were discovered.
“Every time we point a camera inside a dairy factory farm we emerge with images that shock and horrify most Americans,” he says, “which leads us to believe that cruelty and violence runs rampant in the dairy industry. Which is why we’re asking Burger King to implement meaningful animal welfare guidelines to prevent these types of abuses in the future.”
Burger King has not accepted the demands laid out by Mercy for Animals. In a statement, the fast food chain's director of global communications Bryson Thornton says the company gets less than 1 percent of its cheese from Bettencourt Dairies. The full statement below touts the company's emphasis on animal welfare and says the group tying its current campaign to Burger King amounts to an irresponsible attack.
"Burger King Worldwide has become aware of a video that depicts inhumane treatment of dairy cows. The Bettencourt Dairies farm where the video was allegedly filmed may be an indirect supplier of a small percentage of cheese products to BURGER KING® restaurants in the U.S. The claim by Mercy For Animals that Bettencourt Dairies is a major supplier to Burger King Worldwide is false and irresponsible. Burger King Worldwide does not have a direct relationship with Bettencourt Dairies. Burger King Worldwide estimates that a fraction of our dairy products, less than 1 percent, could have originated at the Bettencourt facility where the video that depicts inhumane treatment of dairy cows was allegedly filmed.
"We take this matter very seriously. Burger King Worldwide does not tolerate or condone cruelty to animals. As a part of our animal welfare commitment, we require that all suppliers and their vendors adhere to our vendor code of ethics. Burger King Worldwide has launched an immediate investigation into this serious allegation and will take swift action if there is evidence of systemic violations to our animal welfare policies or vendor code of ethics.
"The portrayal of the BURGER KING® brand in this attack is irresponsible and does not accurately reflect the company’s commitment and actions on issues relating to animal welfare.
"For more than a decade, Burger King Worldwide has been a leader in the QSR industry, working with influential animal welfare organizations on industry-changing issues such as cage-free eggs and gestation-stalls. Burger King Worldwide has received several awards for its animal welfare efforts. In 2011, we were recognized with the Corporate Progress Award by The Humane Society of the United States for our industry-leading animal welfare practices. In 2008, PETA applauded the BURGER KING® system globally for its progress in the area of animal welfare and named us the “Most Improved National Food Chain” in their fifth annual Proggy Awards, which recognizes companies for their progress in the treatment of animals."
Bob Naerebout, the head of Idaho’s Dairymen Association, says he’s confident the abuses shown in the video are rare.
“When you invest all the money you invest into those operations, and you invest in proper care, you invest in veterinarians, and you invest in nutritionists, you can’t go around and allow that type of to occur,” he says.
Naerebout says the controversy is a learning opportunity for the state’s dairy farms. One area in particular is background checks for employees.
You can read more about Idaho's dairy industry and about Bettencourt Dairies here.
Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio