“Supervisors and staff use violence as a daily management tool,” the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s lawsuit against the Dick Van Dam Dairy reads in part. Cows are motivated by “kicking them in the face and in their sensitive udders, repeatedly jabbing their faces, legs and udders with splintered wooden canes and metal pipes, twisting their tails, poking fingers in their eyes, and other painful methods.”
On Thursday, Oct. 8, Los Angeles attorney Stephen Larson, the lawyer for Glen Van Dam, who operates the dairy that bears his father’s name, “categorically” rejected the allegations.
“The Van Dam family has been in the dairy business not just for generations, but reaching back to Holland for centuries,” Larson said. “They care deeply about their animals. … Their livelihood, frankly, their family relies on those cows. For generations, they have imposed the highest standards of care for the animals with whom they have worked.”
The dairy supplies Dairy Farmers of America, which in turn produces Alta Dena Dairy and other brands, including Target’s DairyPure and TruMoo.
“While this is not a farmer-owner of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), we are committed to tirelessly advocating and championing best practices in the areas of animal care and wellness, environmental stewardship, employee training and milk safety and quality across the industry. We do not tolerate animal abuse of any kind,” a Dairy Farmers of America statement released Thursday reads in part. “Effective immediately, the farm in question is not part of our current milk supply, nor used in our products, including DairyPure and TruMoo.”
According to Dairy Farmers of America, a third-party audit is being conducted at Dick Van Dam Dairy to see if it’s in compliance with the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management program, which “works with dairy farmers, the producer community and industry partners to show customers and consumers that the dairy industry is taking the very best care of cows and the environment, producing safe, wholesome milk and adhering to the highest standards of workforce development.”
The Sonoma County-based Animal Legal Defense Fund filed the suit in Riverside County Superior Court on Sept. 30, in conjunction with the Riverside-based Talkov Law Corp. The suit was announced Thursday. The ALDF has previously gone after dairies, zoos, pet stores and puppy mills, according to Kelsey Eberly, a senior staff attorney with the organization.
“This lawsuit is seeking for this dairy to be shut down,” she said. “The depth and the breadth of the cruelty shown in this investigation shows no bounds.”
The lawsuit follows an undercover investigation late last year by Animal Outlook activists who allegedly found violations of state animal cruelty laws at the dairy.
Photos and videos released by the Washington, D.C.-based animal rights group show the corpses of newborn calves rotting in the pens where their mothers still lived. Pink, blood-tainted milk is squirted into milk cans — the result, according to the group, of injured and infected cow udders. Workers are seen striking animals with metal poles. Cows, unable to walk, are blasted with hoses, struck and walked on by workers attempting to move them, and lifted by heavy equipment.
Larson expressed skepticism about the video.
“This is not the first instance in which this organization has engaged in, essentially, a set-up,” he said of Animal Outlook. “We want the truth to come out on this. This is entirely inconsistent with the standards (the Van Dam family) has imposed, not just for years, but for generations.”
Animal Outlook explicitly wants the dairy industry shut down and replaced with vegan products.
“It’s time for consumers to ditch dairy,” the organization’s web page about the investigation reads in part, “and for companies … to pivot to vegan products.”
Eberly didn’t go quite that far on Thursday afternoon.
“We are really eager to get going with this lawsuit and hold the dairy responsible for what it just egregious cruelty,” she said. “The conduct revealed in this investigation violates every principle of the dairy industry.”
The ALDF is still serving defendants named in the suit, including three members of the Van Dam family. A hearing in the case is set for March.
In addition to filing the lawsuit, the ADLF is calling out Target, which sells DairyPure milk made from DFA suppliers, and demanding they investigate whether its suppliers comply with industry standards.
“How many Dick Van Dams are in its supply chains?” Eberly said.