More than 40 animal rights activists protested alleged animal abuse at a dairy farm in Fresno County on Tuesday following the release of a video showing activists removing a calf at night from the ranch in what it said was a rescue operation.
The dairy said the protesters have the right to free speech but rejected the allegations of abuse.
“I have statements from five veterinarians” attesting to the health of cows at the dairy, said dairyman Andy Zonneveld, whose grandfather started the farm in 1968. “I have veterinary care staff walking the dairy every day.”
These calves are basically wrested from their mothers as soon as they are born.
Alexandra Paul, activist
The dairy also issued a statement saying, “(W)e use a science-based approach along with a professional veterinarian and nutritionist to ensure we are adhering to the highest industry standards.”
As part of the protest, three activists, including former “Baywatch” actress Alexandra Paul, walked onto the dairy property to videotape calf hutches and show them on Facebook Live but then were asked to leave by sheriff’s deputies.
The activists also set up a calf hutch and put a person inside it, and sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” to include the words “imagine all the animals living left in peace.”
“This is a typical dairy farm,” Paul said. “There are not happy cows behind your butter and your milk. These calves are basically wrested from their mothers as soon as they are born.” The calves don’t get milk from their mothers because the farm milks the cows and sells the milk, she said.
I have veterinary care staff walking the dairy every day.
Andy Zonneveld, dairyman
The activist group released a video last week that it says shows group members rescuing a calf from inhumane conditions at the dairy. The calf had maggots on its umbilical cord and hindquarters where it had had diarrhea, and needed medical treatment for pneumonia, the group said.
“It’s like a dog in a hot car at a parking lot,” said spokesman Matt Johnson. “Everyone wants to save the dog. We’re here to extend that compassion to all sentient life on the planet.”
The calf, named Roselynn by the group, is now at a sanctuary farm. One goal of the protest Tuesday was to get Zonneveld dairy to release the calf’s mother, said organizer Connie King.
“We felt morally and legally compelled to rescue Roselynn,” King said. “Roselynn was on the brink of death.” She said “the doctrine of legal necessity” permits such action.
The Sheriff’s Office received a report of a calf being removed from the property in July, spokesman Tony Botti said. The calf was valued at $400 to $500, which would make it a misdemeanor theft, but the Zonneveld family isn’t pressing charges, he said.
The National Milk Producers Federation said Zonneveld Dairies was inspected in June under its Farmers Assuring Responsible Management program and was found to be “appropriately caring for calves and sick animals.”
Additionally, three experts reviewed the video and “concluded definitively that the calf in question was under proper veterinary care and receiving all necessary treatment. The panel did recommend that additional cushion or bedding could be used in the pens during adverse weather conditions.”