Officials Issue Clean Bill of Health To Willet Dairy


The report declines to offer an opinion on whether a farm worker who appeared to be sticking his fingers into a cow's eye socket was guilty of cruelty. It suggests that the worker may not actually have been doing so, and states that the SPCA will not take a position on whether the worker should be charged, since he was an illegal immigrant using false papers who fled the country after the Nightline piece aired.

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On September 1, however, Crane arrested a worker seen on the Mercy for Animals video striking an animal over the head and heard recounting earlier incidents of abuse. Phil Niles pled guilty to animal cruelty, a misdemeanor, and was ordered to pay $555 and not to have contact with animals for one year. Niles had worked at Willet for 19 years prior to his suspension and firing.

The report also states that as of January 26, 2010 -- the date of the Nightline broadcast -- Willet Dairy had already started using lidocaine, a local anesthetic, when performing tail docking and dehorning.

District Attorney: Willet 'A Model Commercial Dairy Operation'

A third and separate report on Willet Dairy was authored by Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann. The DA's report was based on Crane's report and completed one week later, and echoed the positive assessments of Willet offered by both Crane and the New York state experts.

Budelmann wrote that Willet had stopped tail docking altogether, "having voluntarily ceased utilizing this procedure." In addition, Willet has changed its approach to dehorning, "doing it at the youngest possible age and . . . utilizing topical anesthesia, procedures which the employees apparently prefer."

A Willet Dairy employee confirmed to ABC News that the dairy no longer practices tail docking.

CLICK HERE to watch a video about tail docking, and CLICK HERE to watch a video about dehorning.

Like the SPCA and state reports, Budelmann's report concluded that "the conditions at Willet Dairy far exceed expectations for a farming operation."

"Anecdotally," added Budelmann, "this Office has received information from a number of reliable sources familiar with dairy farming operations, who indicated Willet Dairy was held out as a model commercial dairy operation for others to emulate."

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Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals, said his organization's concern was not whether Willet Dairy exceeded the industry standard.

"The industry standard is blatant animal abuse," said Runkle. "This case graphically illustrates that the dairy industry's acceptable standard of animal care includes blatant animal abuse and neglect."

Said Runkle, "Quite frankly, it's standard practice in the dairy industry to subject animals to a lifetime of intensive confinement, mutilate them without painkillers, deprive them of access to the outdoors or basic natural behaviors, and neglect their festering wounds."

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