A much anticipated—and dreaded—segment on ABC Nightline appeared Tuesday evening, showing tail docking and dehorning on a 5,000-cow New York dairy farm.
The segment was reported by Brian Ross, ABC's Nightline chief investigative correspondent, relying on undercover video taken by the animal rights group, Mercy for Animals. The video showed tail docking and dehorning without anesthetic, a dairy employee striking a heifer on the nose with a wrench, and a cow down in a manure-laden alley.
The six-minute segment also had a short segment of Chris Galen, National Milk Producers Federation spokesperson, saying housing and welfare have vastly improved compared to facilities of decades past. But the on-farm video juxtaposed against the Galen comments did not show the industry in good light.
Dairy Management, Inc. (DMI) also provided ABC with other farm sources, including another New York dairy. However, that footage did not air, perhaps due to the fact ABC led Nightline with a 10-minute segment on Toyota's suspension of sales of its most popular car models due to problems with sticky accelerators.
ABC's Ross had also questioned Galen about U.S. federal somatic cell count (SCC) standards being lower than world standards. That discussion also did not make the final cut.
DMI has updated its fact sheet on SCCs, tail-docking and animal welfare issues on its Web site.
The Center for Food Integrity also has developed a "call to action" for producers to respond via their local media to set the record straight. The call to action can be found here. It includes overall messaging for livestock producers covering their ethical commitment to animal care, why livestock production looks different today, and its importance to local communities. It also includes specific messages on tail docking and dehorning.
Jim Dickrell is editor of Dairy Today.