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Animal Abuse At Bettencourt Dairies Prompts State To Take Action
Twin Falls, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KTWT-TV ) Local dairy farmers are tasked with rebuilding consumer confidence after disturbing footage recorded from a hidden camera revealed animal abuse at Bettencourt Dairies in Hansen.
The footage was released in August of 2012. Now, six months later, local dairy farmers are still feeling the effects of the crime.
The hidden camera footage drew criticism from across the nation, and left families in Southern Idaho wondering how this happened in our own backyard.
Tony VanderHulst is President of Idaho Dairymen's Association. When Idaho's First News asked him what his reaction to the video was, he responded, "I was just appalled by it. It was just not right to see someone do that."
Idaho's First News also spoke with Bob Naerebout, Executive Director of Idaho Dairymen's Association. He says Luis Bettencourt, owner of Bettencourt Dairies, is a great cow man. Naerebout goes on to say, "He understands what you have to do to get milk out of a cow. And abusing them is not what you do to get milk out of a cow."
Naerebout says he was in the room with Bettencourt the first time he saw the video. Here's how he describes Bettencourt's reaction, "You could see that it was a real gut chuck to him. Those were his animals that he was responsible for. And he had employees that he was paying that were abusing his animals. And he really took it hard."
The animal abuse prompted the group Mercy for Animals to call for action; they urged Kraft Foods and other major companies to stop using milk from Bettencourt Dairies. The processor then required Bettencourt to go through a third party audit to ensure buyers everything was being done by the book.
Naerebout explains, "And so that was a way to provide assurances for the Krafts, the Shrivers, the Burger Kings of the world."
Bettencourt may have passed the audit, but effects of the video soured the reputation of his dairies.
Meanwhile, VanderHulst says the video opened the industry's eyes. He explains the task our local dairy farmers are now faced with, "As dairy farmers, to reassure the public that we are totally against dairy abuse and we do not tolerate it at all."
Naerebout says, "I think there's always going to be some issues with consumers, as yourself, saying 'Is this the way animals are handled?' And our biggest goal is to try and provide the confidence that this isn't a normal practice on the dairies."
Idaho's First News made multiple attempts to reach Luis Bettencourt, but he was unavailable to comment.
The release of the undercover video has prompted the state's dairy industry to take action of its own. They're finalizing a Farmer's Assuring Responsible Management, or FARM, program that's been in the works for three years. They're also working with the College of Southern Idaho and the University of Idaho Extension Office to certify dairy employees for work; this includes the addition of an animal care portion of the program.