November 21, 2006
Group alleges cow mistreatment
AN ANIMAL RIGHTS ORGANIZATION QUESTIONS PRACTICES IN UF'S DAIRY
By CHAD SMITH
Every day for two and a half years, Patricia Cacace petted her cows at
UF's Dairy Research Unit to prove they were worth more than milk to
her. But Cacace had never before stroked a cow while its brains oozed
out of its head.
Cacace, who worked at the unit as an animal caretaker, did just that
one day after a hunter's errant bullet pierced Ruby the cow's skull.
Ruby, the gentlest of the group, was left unattended for two days
before she received veterinary help, Cacace said.
Now an animal rights group may sue UF's dairy unit to protest what they
call the poor treatment of its cows.
The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida sent a series of complaints to
the unit's coordinator, David Armstrong, and two other UF officials on
Monday. The complaints said the unit has allowed hunters too close to
cows, failed to provide a safe environment for animals and employed
cruel euthanasia practices.
Some cows that were euthanized by being shot to death were shot several
times before finally dying, Cacace said. She was fired from her job
Oct. 20 after employers said she wasn't working enough.
In a letter to the unit, ARFF wrote, "Although gunshot is an
industry-accepted method of euthanasia, we are concerned that current
practices add to the stress and suffering of the animal."
Armstrong declined to comment Monday. Joel Brendemuhl, undergraduate
coordinator for UF's Department of Animal Sciences, and R. Kirby
Barrick, dean of UF's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, also
were sent the letter but could not be reached for comment.
Cacace said she approached ARFF after she was fired because she worried
about the cows' well-being and because many died unnaturally while she
"I've watched so many of them die in the past two years, it's not even
funny," Cacace said.
She described the filth some cows endure on a daily basis and said some
have to stand for up to 10 hours a day in their own waste before their
quarters are washed.
"As high as the boots would go, sometimes that's how high (the waste)
goes," she said.
She described the "please-kill-me" looks that some cows wear on their
faces because of the "horrible" conditions.
The letter says that though some of the practices at UF's dairy unit
are technically legal, they are subpar for what's expected from UF.
Cacace gave ARFF volunteer Nick Atwood a tour of the farm, which she
said is a public facility, earlier this month after she had been fired.
Atwood, who is a vegan, said the way most dairy farms treat their cows
marks a far cry from the way cows used to be raised.
"Dairy isn't happy cows in a field anymore," he said. "It's a very
unnatural environment for them."
He said he carried his video camera with him in plain view during the
tour of the facility to document his trip and even met Armstrong.
Atwood didn't tell Armstrong he was affiliated with an animal rights
group, he said.
"I was kind of surprised he didn't question why I was filming or even
why I was there," he said.
The video of Atwood's tour will be posted on ARFF's Web site if UF
doesn't respond to the complaints within a few weeks, he said.
"Our aim is to have the university make changes to the management of
the Dairy Research Unit that will benefit animals," he said.
For now, Cacace is still worried about the cows - particularly Ruby,
who survived her gunshot wound.
But Cacace isn't optimistic about her chances for a normal life.
"She'll wind up dying like the rest of them," she said.