The Larson Dairy Farm is continuing its milk production after an animal rights group released a graphic video. Animal Recovery Mission claims the video shows cows getting abused at the Okeechobee farm. Since the video went viral, Publix has dropped the dairy farm as a milk provider.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has also placed the farm on probation. NMPF decided to put the farm on probation because it believes the farm does not meet the criteria for its national dairy farm program, which focuses on animal welfare standards.
“We used information from conversations with the farm owner, with a cooperative and information that was presented in the video,” said Jamie Jonker, NMPF Vice President of Sustainability and Scientific Affairs. Despite the probation, according to Jonker, the milk can still be distributed.
“The sale of milk is a food safety issue that is regulated by the state," Jonker said. "So as long as they have a market place that will accept their can continue to sell their milk."
The probation period could last a year depending on this week’s in-depth audit. If the third-party auditor finds deficiencies with the current state of animal care on the farm, they will put together an animal care improvement plan for the farm.
It’s up to the farm to address the issues before being reinstated into the program a year later. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released this statement:
"Our department conducts onsite inspections of dairy farms to ensure the safety and quality of milk products."
In the meantime, the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office continues its ongoing criminal investigation. On Monday, Sheriff Noel Stephen said he received photos of and the video on the day ARM unveiled the video.
He went also released the following:
"As I said last week, I’ve known the Larson family for years and they would not condone such behavior. I was in contact with two of the farm's owners, Woody and Jacob Larson. The Larsons welcomed the investigation. Had they known about it (alleged abuse), they would have fired them on the spot. One of the employees in the pictures was fired and two more were suspended pending an investigation by the dairy farm. In my thirty years working at the Sheriff’s Office we have never received any innuendos, complaints or allegations in regards to the Larsons themselves. The dairy operations will continue because these cattle have to be milked twice a day or they will get sick. I had not seen the video prior to last week’s press conference. I have since watched the video. As I stated last week, I really wish the individuals who recorded the video would have given the video to OCSO at the time, because the abuse probably continued, unnecessarily, up until that time. It was unfortunately publicized before it was ever reported. According to what has been reported, the Animal Recovery Mission had three weeks of undercover investigating they conducted. Had this alleged abuse been brought to our attention, my deputies and detectives could have resolved this issue then. The case is being investigated by Detective Lt. Brad Stark. There is no further information to be released at this time."
Jacob Larson couldn't be reached for comment.
(WARNING: This story contains graphic content)
The National Milk Producers Federation has placed Okeechobee, Florida's Larson Dairy Farm on probationary status. It comes on the heels of this video, released by an animal rights group, who claimed dairy workers can be seen kicking and punching cows.
Larson Dairy Farm @FloridaMilk shows photos of happy cows & says that "Treating animals with respect & compassion is part of every dairy farmer’s heritage." This is the REALITY. #DitchDairy & view the full video here via @ARMInvestigatio: https://t.co/6wQw6F7BEP pic.twitter.com/WjXZzX6zeM— FARM Animal Rights (@FARMUSA) November 9, 2017
Protesters took their outrage straight to the dairy farm on Sunday. Animal right activists chanted, showing disgust over the dairy farm at the center of a shocking video. We want to warn you the video released by animal rights group called Animal Recovery Mission or ARM, may be difficult to watch.
The group said it shows dairy workers at Larson dairy farm mistreating cows by kicking and hitting them. Sometimes even with steel bars.
Leaming, with a group called Okeechobee Animal Save, drove from Orlando to protest against the animal abuse allegations at Larson Dairy Farm. The protest got heated when Okeechobee County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper showed up to support his longtime time friends, the Larson family.
Culpepper spoke with CBS12. He believes the Larson family was targeted and set up. “Somebody got paid off to do this because Mr. Larson and his family have built an empire in the dairy industry. They’ve been credible stewards of these animals because they know their life and animals abused to not produce milk like animals that are cared for,” Culpepper said.
But for Leaming there’s no explanation.
“If these people actually care about their animals they would keep better tabs on what’s going on. There wouldn’t be a chance for these cows to be beaten like that.”
A criminal Investigation is underway. Larson tells CBS12 he fired one employee, and suspended two others following release of the video.
Our affiliate CBS12 in West Palm Beach, Florida contributed to this story.