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Her hidden camera showed workers stomping birds and bashing their heads with pipes. “We don’t need to torture our food before we eat it,” she says.

MFA offered the tape to police. The cops responded by raiding the place with arrest warrants.

They would end up with five convictions. The case also showed why activists are leery of handing over footage before their investigations are complete.

Cody Carlson said of his undercover experience at New York’s largest dairy farm: “It’s incredibly overwhelming. Your brain can’t process seeing this many animals crammed together in one place”
Sam Zide
Cody Carlson said of his undercover experience at New York’s largest dairy farm: “It’s incredibly overwhelming. Your brain can’t process seeing this many animals crammed together in one place”

Among the convicted was Dr. Sarah Jean Mason, director of North Carolina’s Animal Health Programs, who had seen the tape after police went to the state seeking advice about how to proceed. Mason pleaded guilty to leaking word of the impending raid to Butterball a week before it took place.

”Pete” encountered the same sort of governmental duplicity while undercover at a Vermont veal slaughterhouse. Workers kicked and prodded downed calves with electric probes, pouring water on them to heighten their pain.

Also featured on the tape: a USDA inspector warning Pete not to tell him about the most egregious violations, since it would force him to shutter the plant.

Both cases reflect the reluctance of some authorities to fight animal abuse. Meanwhile, Big Ag still hopes to criminalize the few people willing to expose it.

In February, it bagged its first catch.

Twenty-five-year-old Amy Meyer was standing on a public road in Draper City, Utah, watching the cows at the Dale Smith & Sons Meat Packing Company.

As she would later tell independent journalist Will Potter, she noticed “a live cow who appeared to be sick or injured being carried away from the building in a tractor as though she were nothing more than rubble.”

Meyer took out her cell phone and started recording. A Smith manager called the police, claiming Meyer had trespassed. But a Draper City officer allowed her to leave, believing she had remained on public land.

Two weeks later, city prosecutor Ben Rasmussen charged Meyer with “agricultural operation interference,” a crime under Utah’s new ag-gag law. She became the first person in American history to be ensnared for the crime of filming cows.

In April, Potter posted the tale of Meyer’s travails on his website, Green Is the New Red (greenisthenewred.com). The story went viral, attracting hundreds of thousands of readers before the site crashed from the volume.

Within a day, Rasmussen decided Meyer didn’t make a very good criminal after all and dropped the charges.

E-mail Pete Kotz

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