By Julie Fernandez
A national animal protection organization is calling on local authorities in Kersey, Colorado to file animal cruelty charges against a calf-raising facility in which the Tulare-based J.D. Heiskell Holdings is a joint venture partner.
At a press conference held in Denver Wednesday, the non-profit Compassion over Killing said video taken by a COK investigator who was working at Quanah Cattle Co. showed workers inhumanely treating newborn male calves arriving and leaving its facility.
“The footage depicts egregious abuse including young animals – some of whom still have their umbilical cords hanging from their bodies – being violently dragged by their ears and legs, lifted by their tails, kicked, thrown, slammed and flipped,” a COK press release said.
The video, posted on the animal protection group’s website www.cok.net/quanah, was viewed with “dismay” by Scot Hillman, chairman of J.D. Heiskell Holdings.
“Animal mistreatment is a cause of great concern to us,” Hillman said in a prepared statement. “We were dismayed by many of these images.”
He said both J.D. Heiskell and Quanah Cattle expect animals at the Quanah facility to be treated properly and humanely.
“We are in the process of investigating to determine the facts of this situation,” Hillman said. “We will strengthen the training and supervision of the employees working at the facility to ensure compliance with industry standards and the law and will cooperate fully with the proper authorities to assure compliance.”
On its website, COK officials report they are “heartened” to learn that the Weld County Sheriff’s Office has initiated its own investigation of the matter.
In a statement posted on the website, Dr. Temple Grandin, an animal handling expert at Colorado State University, describes the abuse at Quanah as “severe” and said: “If this facility had been a slaughter plant, the USDA would have shut them down.”
Grandin said some of the calves in the video had been picked up from dairies when they were too young and had difficulty walking.
“Loading and unloading was bad and they need to build some portable ramps for use in both the stock trailer and the large truck [shown in the video],” she said. “Both vehicles were designed for adult animals. The dairies need to take responsibility for some of the problems on the video.”
The COK website includes comments from Dr. Bernard E. Rollin and Terry Engle, both professors of animal science at Colorado State, who said because the animals are virtually newborn Holstein baby calves, their treatment was even more “egregious.”
“These workers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows,” they said.
Quanah Cattle is the only cattle operation in which J.D. Heiskell Holdings has an interest, Hillman said. The company’s primary business is the manufacturing and distribution of dairy cattle feed.
According to the Heiskell website, the bull calf operation in Kersey was opened in 2012.