Animal rights investigator cited for animal cruelty

Nov 29, 2013

—Sheriff says delayed reporting of abuse counts as abuse

In an interesting change, an undercover animal rights activist who documented animal abuse is herself being charged with animal cruelty. Why? For failing to report the abuse in a timely manner.

In mid-November, the animal rights group Compassion Over Killing (COK) presented the Weld County Sheriff’s Office with an undercover video documenting multiple abuses of calves. The documentation was collected at the Quanah Cattle Company of Weld County, CO, which takes in newborn to very young dairy calves and backgrounds them for later sale to feedlots or back to dairies in the case of worthy heifers.

The sticking point, however, is that the video was compiled between July and September, yet only turned over November. The undercover videographer, Taylor Ridig—who called herself a “contractor” for COK; COK representatives later called her “our investigator”— has since been cited for animal cruelty, a class 1 misdemeanor, for not turning over the evidence of abuse quickly.

“Radig’s failure to report the alleged abuse of the animals in a timely manner adheres to the definition of acting with negligence and substantiates the charge Animal Cruelty,” said Weld County Sheriff John Cooke in an announcement about the investigation, referring to Colorado Revised Statutes 18-9-201 and 18-9-202.

Cooke’s announcement also mentioned the possibility that Radig participated in the “cattle abuse incidents reported,” though that is part of the on-going investigation.

The video

The undercover video in question was released Nov. 13 (reported in WLJ’s Nov. 18 issue’s Beef Bits). It depicts workers dragging, kicking, shoving, and generally roughly handling extremely young dairy calves at the Quanah Cattle Company. According to a Northern Colorado Business Report description, the facility could house up to 15,000 calves and opened the summer of 2013. Quanah Cattle Company is a subsidiary of J.D. Heiskell & Co., a California-based feed and commodity trading group.

The video was reviewed by a panel of animal handling experts, including Dr. Temple Grandin. The panel agreed that the handling depicted in the video was indeed abusive.

“I see lots of rough handling going on, definitely not acceptable. Pulling by the ears, pulling by the legs and dragging the calf, that is not acceptable. It’s rough handling,” Grandin said.

According to Weld County Sheriff’s documentation, three individuals—Larry Loma, Ernesto Daniel Valenzuela-Alvarez, and Tomas Cerda—were cited with class 1 misdemeanor animal abuse charges. They were immediately fired from Quanah Cattle Co. They will be in court at the end of January, 2014, and their charges could carry brief jail time.

The Weld County Sheriff’s Office later interviewed Radig to potentially uncover any additional suspects. It was then they realized the length of time between the documented abuse events and the events being reported, at which point Radig was cited with a class 1 misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty.

WLJ called COK at their Washington, D.C. office, asking why it took so long for the video to be turned over to authorities. COK did not comment initially, with one representative saying they “weren’t supposed to talk about that,” but COK Executive Director Erica Meier later responded via email with the group’s official statement. The statement largely sidestepped the question and instead offered attacks on the Weld County Sheriff’s Office and animal agriculture as a whole.

The one marginally on-topic portion of the response reads as follows:

“After our legal team meticulously and extensively researched the law and reviewed all of our evidence to demonstrate a pattern of abuse to support our claims, we presented a strong case to authorities revealing abusive and illegal activities that would have otherwise continued unabated.”

Further questions from WLJ if the mentioned legal review by COK justified the two-month lapse between the collection of evidence and the reporting of the abuse went unanswered as of publishing. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor