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Undercover footage of abuse at dairy supplier released this week

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The image of happy dairy cows wandering free around a pasture is a stark contrast to the atrocities shown in undercover footage released this week from Mercy For Animals.

In August, 2012, animal welfare organization Mercy For Animals sent an undercover investigator into Bettencourt Dairies in Idaho, a dairy supplier linked to the Burger King restaurant chain in the United States. The investigator obtained disturbing footage of both the employees and management brutally abusing the cows. The horrific video shows downed cows having chains attached to their necks then dragged by tractors, injured cows trying to move, cows being beaten, kicked, jumped on and punched.

Professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, Dr. Bernard Rollin, and head of the Department of Animal Science at Colorado State University, William Wailes released a joint statement about the video.

Never have we seen such outright sadistic pleasure taken by workers in animal suffering, including gratuitous shocking of the cows (quintessentially sweet and gentle creatures); dragging them with chains; and in what is arguably the worst sequence, one worker savagely beating the cows with a cane, while laughing and screaming maniacally.

The only way to stop such outrageous behavior is to serve notice that society will not tolerate it. This means...that not only sadistic workers must be prosecuted and serve jail time, but so too the owners and managers, since they clearly demonstrated that the normal human motivations of animal productivity and economic returns do not move them.

After the investigation was complete, Mercy For Animals presented the evidence to the appropriate authorities. So far the investigation has resulted in criminal charges of cruelty to animals against two employees and one facility manager. A pre-trial date of October 16 has been set at the Twin Falls County Courthouse in Idaho for employee Jesus Garza, facility manager Jose Acensio and worker Javier Rojas-Loayza have not turned themselves in at the time of this report.

The Director of Global Communications for the Burger King Corporation, Bryson W. Thornton responded to the release of the video with the following statement:

Burger King Worldwide has become aware of a video that depicts inhumane treatment of dairy cows. The Bettencourt Dairies farm where the video was allegedly filmed may be an indirect supplier of a small percentage of cheese products to BURGER KING® restaurants in the U.S. Burger King Worldwide does not have a relationship with Bettencourt Dairies.

We take this matter very seriously. Burger King Worldwide does not tolerate or condone cruelty to animals. As a part of our animal welfare commitment, we require that all suppliers and their vendors adhere to our vendor code of ethics. Burger King Worldwide has launched an immediate investigation into this serious allegation and will take swift action if there is evidence of systemic violations to our animal welfare policies or vendor code of ethics.

The portrayal of the BURGER KING® brand in this attack is irresponsible and does not accurately reflect the company’s commitment and actions on issues relating to animal welfare.

For more than a decade, Burger King Worldwide has been a leader in the QSR industry, working with influential animal welfare organizations on industry-changing issues such as cage-free eggs and gestation-stalls. Burger King Worldwide has received several awards for its animal welfare efforts. In 2011, we were recognized with the Corporate Progress Award by The Humane Society of the United States for our industry-leading animal welfare practices. In 2008, PETA applauded the BURGER KING® system globally for its progress in the area of animal welfare and named us the “Most Improved National Food Chain” in their fifth annual Proggy Awards, which recognizes companies for their progress in the treatment of animals.

Concerned consumers are encouraged to contact Burger King and urge them to end their relationship with Bettencourt Dairies. Mercy For Animals also wants consumers to know that one of the most powerful actions they can take to prevent cruelty to farm animals is to choose a compassionate, healthy dairy-free diet.

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