BOISE • A Bettencourt Dairies worker accused of abuse has pleaded guilty to animal abuse, but animal rights group Mercy for Animals isn’t done fighting the company.
On Thursday, the group released new footage of Garza kicking, punching and whipping cows at Dry Creek Dairy, just southwest of Murtaugh. The footage showed Garza making bestiality remarks, dragging writhing cows by the neck with a tractor and twisting cows’ tails as the animals bellowed. The video also showed heifers limping and unable to walk.
On Wednesday, Garza pleaded guilty to one count of cruelty to animals. He faces up to six months in jail.
Matt Rice, director of investigations for Mercy for Animals, said despite Garza’s guilty plea, it was important for the public to see the new footage. Rice said Mercy for Animals believes the abuse isn’t an isolated incident, but widespread in dairies across the United States. He also said the group believes abuse still occurs at Bettencourt Dairies.
The group is calling on companies who use Bettencourt Dairies’ milk, like Burger King, to drop the company as one of its suppliers.
“No socially responsible company should support dairy operations that beat, kick, mutilate and confine animals,” Rice said.
Rice said he thinks Idaho should tighten its animal cruelty laws, though didn’t have specific suggestions on how to do that.
Though the investigation took place in July and August — just after Idaho’s new felony animal cruelty law went into place — Rice said the dairy and state chosen were random, and the undercover investigator applied to several dairies in multiple states.
“This simply happened to be the first place that hired them,” Rice said.
Though the video shows multiple incidents, under Idaho’s law, connected incidents are charged as one count of abuse. After three weeks, the group went to local law enforcement, Rice said.
So why take three weeks to collect the evidence and alert authorities, when the charges would be the same from a shorter period of time? Rice said the group wanted to show the widespread abuse, and that the investigator tried to alert management of the abuse and show the accused abusers proper ways to move the animals without hitting or kicking them.
Two accused abusers are still at large.