High Plains dairy facing animal cruelty allegations

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CHANNING, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Allegations of animal cruelty have been made against a dairy near Channing following an undercover investigation.

Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) claims that Natural Prairie Dairy, a certified organic dairy here on the High Plains, has subjected their dairy cows to horrible conditions.

ARM recently released footage that they claim accurately describes what their undercover investigator saw while working at the dairy.

The video purports to show clips of Natural Prairie Dairy employees at work with dairy cows.

One of ARM’s ex-military members applied to the dairy and began working there, secretly investigating and recording video, which was taken over a period of 30 days.

They say the cows were regularly subjected to abuse, torment and poor living conditions, which their two-month-long investigation uncovered.

ARM’s founder, Richard Couto, explains, “We truly didn’t know what was going on behind closed doors in an organic setting and now we do and it’s extremely sad for these poor animals. Highly abusive and you know, the dairy industry needs to change. It’s a very sad industry.”

Donald and Cheri De Jong, the owners of Natural Prairie Dairy, say they are proud to be certified organic dairy farmers who strive every day to care for their cows, land and organic farm family.

Their website says Donald serves as vice chairman of Select Milk Producers, Inc., and serves as a director on the Boards for Greater Southwest Milk Marketing Agency, Fairlife and the Texas Department of Agriculture Organic Advisory Board.

But now, the De Jongs say the video is heavily edited.

In a statement, the De Jongs say in part, “…the video fails to show our entire organic farm. It does not show our innovative facilities, our dedicated team members, all our cows, our lush, beautiful grasslands that our organic cows feed upon. That said, some of the sequences warrant additional internal and external investigation.”

But Richard Couto wants to see law enforcement take action. “That’s what I want to see, and I want to see anyone taking Natural Prairie Dairy’s products and selling it on their retails shelves to break their relationships with Donald De Jong and with Natural Prairie Dairy.”

Because of this investigation, Kroger and other grocery stores which use Natural Prairie Dairy’s products have stopped taking products from them.

Kroger has a statement on Twitter, stating:

“Since learning about the alleged animal welfare concerns in this situation, we have shared our concerns with natural prairie dairy, and have suspended the supply of raw milk from the farm for use in our products.”

Natural Prairie Dairy’s statement says one employee involved has been suspended pending internal and external investigation, and independent third-party farm auditors have visited to look at their operations and animal welfare practices.

It also said the dairy has welcomed law enforcement to visit.

Couto said ARM’s investigation into Natural Praire Dairy is the third installment of a large dairy investigation into Fairlife and Select Milk Producers, Inc.

Those investigations took place in Indiana, where the De Jongs also have plans to expand with a second Natural Prairie Dairy.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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