by Andrew Crisp
UPDATE: Oct. 11 2 p.m.
Saying they "take this matter very seriously," Burger King announced October 11 that they were suspending its indirect relationship with Bettencourt Dairies, linked to allegations of animal abuse at its Murtaugh farm. Burger King said it would launch its own "immediate investigation" into the matter.
In-N-Out Burger also called the actions in an undercover video released by Mercy For Animals "shocking and completely unacceptable," but the company had no contractual relationship with Bettencourt, instead buying cheese from a supplier which, in turn, buys from a manufacturer that uses milk from Bettencourt.
“We will take appropriate action, up to and including termination of a supplier if we determine that any business in our chain of supply has failed to meet our requirements,” the In-N-Out statement said.
Additionally, Wendy's said it had a relationship with Bettencourt to that of In-N-Out's.
"We have instructed Wendy's supplier to disassociate with Bettencourt immediately," said a statement from Wendy's.
ORIGINAL POST: Oct. 10 1:40 p.m.
The owner of Bettencourt Dairies told Citydesk today that five employees, three of which face Idaho state animal cruelty charges, have been terminated for poor treatment of dairy cows.
An investigation of the Bettencourt's Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen, Idaho, produced undercover shows workers kicking, beating and stomping cows inside a milking barn.
The video, filmed by a member of Los Angeles, Calif.-based Mercy for Animals who gained employment at the dairy, was shot over three weeks beginning in July of this year.
That footage showed a company which allowed a "culture of cruelty and neglect," according to MFA spokesman Matt Rice. He said the treatment was consistent with mistreatment revealed in other dairy operations in the United States, which also led to animal cruelty charges.
Rice described treatment of the cows, which included allowing broken bones to go untended, beating the animals with a pink cane and other treatment from the facility's staff.
MFA has called on Burger King to drop Bettencourt Dairies, which supplies the fast-food chain with its cheese products.
"This footage shows blatant animal abuse that Burger King should not be supporting," said Rice.
MFA brought an official complaint to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, which quickly launched its own investigation into the facility. In late August, Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs filed misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against Jesus Garza, Jose Acensio and Javier Victor Rojas Loayza.
If convicted, the men each face fines up to $5,000, and six months of jail time.
"When we were alerted by the [state] Ag department, we let the five people go," said dairy owner Luis Bettencourt. "We fired all five employees, we put video cameras in the barns to monitor activity 24 hours a day, and hired an extra supervisor. We showed the video to all the other help who work in the facilities. We're taking the steps necessary to make sure it doesn't happen again."
A statement released by the United Dairymen of Idaho said the video was not indicative of the state's dairy industry as a whole, and that Idaho dairies care for their animals.
MFA has launched 20 other investigations into U.S. animal products industry. That includes three other investigations into U.S. dairy operations, with Idaho's Dry Creek Dairy as the fourth "and most severe," according to Rice.
The video below contains graphic footage. Viewer discretion is advised.