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Animal Equality Urges Criminal Charges for Babyhell Cruelty

February 20, 2020 Updated: August 20, 2023
Dog breed,Liver,Whiskers,Companion dog,Rabbits and Hares,Snout Head,Dog breed,Human body,Whiskers,Dairy cow

Last week, based on the findings of our 2019 Babyhell investigation, a letter was sent to the local prosecutor’s office in Butler County, Nebraska, on behalf of Animal Equality, urging prosecutors to launch a criminal investigation into the atrocities that were uncovered at Summit Calf Ranch last year.

THE DETAILS: After months of carefully analyzing footage from our undercover investigation, criminal law experts recently sent a letter to the Butler County authorities urging them to investigate the egregious cruelty documented at Summit Calf Ranch. Specifically, the letter identifies violations of Nebraska’s Livestock Animal Welfare Act, which imposes a duty on farmed-animal custodians to provide every animal in their care with adequate food, water, and veterinary care as necessary to protect the animals’ health. These are extremely simple, common-sense legal obligations. Yet, as our investigation revealed, the workers at Summit Calf Ranch systematically failed to provide even the most basic care to the calves at its facility.

BABYBEL? MORE LIKE BABYHELL: In shocking scenes filmed in the winter of 2018, our investigation revealed a pattern of neglect at Summit Calf Ranch, a facility housing 11,000 calves and owned by Tuls Dairy a supplier of Bel Brands, producer of Babybel. The footage documented the prolonged suffering of dozens of calves, whose ages range from one up to 150 days old, freezing to death in temperatures that dropped to -20 with the wind chill. Repeated exposure to extreme temperatures resulted in frozen limbs, and the separation of the hoof from the leg of several calves. Some even died in agony.

KEY FINDINGS: Among the cruelty witnessed, our investigator found:

  • Workers shoving, jabbing and hitting calves with sorting sticks and hut rods as the manager’s dog lunged and bit the backs of their legs
  • Painful disbudding of calves using hot irons
  • Calves dying of scours and pneumonia after being left outdoors in freezing temperatures
  • Sick cows, left with dead cows, receiving no veterinary care
  • Hernia repair, banding (castration) and other painful procedures without pain medication

FAILURE TO PROVIDE EVEN BASIC CARE: Although farmed animals do not receive many of the legal protections that animals like dogs and cats do, the exemptions in Nebraska only include practices that are considered “commonly accepted” in the agriculture industry. And so, while many terribly cruel practices like branding and tail docking are considered legally acceptable (and thus are exempt from the state cruelty law), one’s utter failure to provide animals with sufficient food, water, and basic veterinary care is not acceptable by any legal measure. Even the University of Nebraska Dairy Extension, which is very friendly to farmers, directs that during cold winter months, it is important for calves to be kept dry and warm at all times, and if outside hutches are used (as they are at Summit Calf Ranch), the calves should be given blankets and blocked from the wind to help them maintain their body temperature. Allowing calves to freeze to death and go without water is a criminal offense, especially when done on a regular basis, as Animal Equality documented. The fact that Summit Calf Ranch violated even the meager standards set forth by the Dairy Extension program proves its practice of allowing calves to freeze to death is not acceptable.

UNACCEPTABLE MISTREATMENT: “Commonly accepted” farming practices would not include allowing farmed animals to suffer and die from untreated diseases, which was the horrible fate of many of the calves at Summit Calf Ranch. Animal Equality’s investigator documented numerous calves suffering horribly from open fracture-type wounds, excruciating intestinal disorders including severe diarrhoea, and other serious ailments—and yet they were not euthanised or even given any ameliorative veterinary care, as the law requires. 

WHAT WE’RE SAYING: “Farmed animals receive very few protections under the law,” noted Sarah Hanneken, Legal Counsel for Animal Equality, “yet even in states like Nebraska, where animal agriculture is a major industry, the type of cruelty and neglect documented at Summit Calf Ranch is a crime. Butler County authorities should show the world they stand by the law and are as outraged by this cruelty as we are.”

WHAT COMES NEXT: We hope the Butler County authorities investigate Summit Calf Ranch and bring criminal charges against the company for allowing—and even encouraging—these horrific practices. In the meantime, we will continue to expose the dark secrets of animal agriculture and hold companies like Bel Brands accountable for the cruelty they are allowing. 


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