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Undercover Videographer Charged With Animal Cruelty for Reporting Delay

A contractor working undercover for the non-governmental organization known as Compassion Over Killing is now being charged with animal cruelty in Colorado.

Weld County Sheriff John B. Cooke said videographer Taylor Radig is charged with one Class 1 misdemeanor count of animal cruelty “due to her believed participation in the cattle abuse incidents” and alleged negligence for failing to report it in a timely manner.

Taylor’s undercover video showing abuse of calves being off-loaded from a trailer at the Quanah Cattle Company north of Denver was turned over to the sheriff on Nov. 12. After investigation on Nov. 15, three local men hired by the cattle company through a temporary agency to work with the calves were each charged with one count of animal cruelty.

The three men also lost their jobs after being seen in the video pushing and shoving male calves only a few days old from trailers used to collect them from surrounding dairy farms. Animal handling experts condemned the cruelty shown in the video.

After additional investigative work, the sheriff on Nov. 22 filed charges against Radig, who also worked as a temporary employee for Quanah Cattle Company from mid-July to mid-September.

“During her employment at Quanah, Radig compiled many hours of animal abuse footage that was collected on an ‘as needed basis,'” the sheriff said. “The video footage was eventually provided to law enforcement by representatives of Compassion Over Killing approximately two months after Radig’s employment ended with the Quanah Cattle Company.”

Erica Meier, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based animal welfare organization, said the charge against Radig is “unsupported by law” and claimed “it reeks of political motivation fueled by an agribusiness industry that is once again lashing out in desperation to stop undercover investigators from exposing the truth.”

Meier said that the Weld County sheriff was “undermining the integrity of the legal system” with a “shoot the messenger strategy.”

Unlike a half-dozen other states, Colorado does not have a so-called “ag-gag” law. Those measures often require immediate reporting of animal abuse incidents to prevent undercover operators from collecting such evidence over time.

However, Colorado does have animal cruelty laws that are fairly comprehensive in scope, with a history of successful prosecutions. The sheriff points to two animal cruelty statutes as the basis for his charge against Radig.

Compassion Over Killing has not addressed why it took so long to turn their evidence over to law enforcement. The first court appearances over the incident are scheduled for January.

© Food Safety News
  • Eileen O’Connor

    Interesting analogy to child abuse. In 1997, the LA times ran a series, “Orphans of Addiction,” on the abuse of children by drug-addicted parents. Reporters and photographers did witness and record acts of child abuse, and were later criticized, along with their employer and editors, for being a “fly on the wall.” In “The intervention Dilemma,” the American Journalism Review examined whether the journalists and paper had a duty to intervene or report the acts of child abuse. It is a dilemma. As the Times’ Managing Editor Leo Wolinsky said, “if you decide to go to authorities when you witness abuse, you’d have to call off the story before getting started. The result is there would be no investigation, the kids would still be in danger and the public wouldn’t know about it.” http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?rel=ajrpaterno1.html

    • LouWho

      But they did go to the authorities. It would have been like your example had they simply used it as bad PR for the ag industry but they went to the authorities claiming illegal action, yet they waited two months to do so – undoubtedly allowing for more abuse.

    • That is an interesting and analogous instance.

      Thanks for telling about it in comments.

  • Just Saying

    FSIS does not support inhumane handling in meat slaughter plants. If witnessed, inspectors are to place the plant under immediate suspension.

    • And they know all, see all? They’re human, not superhuman.

  • farmergirl2

    ….perhaps you are right about reporting to the sherriff???? Buuuuutttttt…did the Ms. Radig turn over any information on an ongoing basis to the company’s management so that they would have an opportunity to correct the situation? Did she do her job, the one whe was hired to do, and try to change behavior that she knew was wrong….”Hey guys…..tha’s not how we were trained to move animals.” Doesn’t sound like it. Can you really call it “systemic”, if the management is unaware and thus unable to take corrective action? This only further proves that Compassion over Killing is really about raising money, just like HSUS. They need the splash the footage creates. They should not be protected by “whistleblower laws” if they are an active or accepting participant in the first place. If they really cared about the animals, they would have repeatedly made management aware, and THEN, if nothing was done to correct the issue, turned things over to authorities. It is inhumane to continue to allow suffering, just to get more footage.

    • What part of “investigating whether the abuse is systematic” did you have trouble comprehending?

  • farmergirl2

    This is simply bunk. While these unfortunate incidents are going to occaisionally happen, your accusations are ridiculous. Why would a slaughter facility WANT to have these type of incidents. Besides the obvious, these mis-stuns cost time and money. They have no, ZERO, incentive to not stun animals properly. First time, every time.

    • She is quoting actual events. Did you miss that?

      • ZUL

        You clearly missed Farmergirl2’s point – she contended simply that these awful and expensive events do happen but are not normal, and are certainly not supported by the business managers.

        In addition to being wrong here, your posts are annoying. You come-off like a smarmy know-it-all.

  • LouWho

    So then why, once she was no longer recording “evidence of systematic abuse” and no longer employed by the company did she wait TWO MONTHS to report anything??? I get they wanted to package it up nice and appalling but there is no excuse for waiting that long if you DO intend to go to the authorities. You’re missing the point.

    • No, I’m not missing the point.

      The organization was working with the local police before they turned over this particular piece of video. And they didn’t have to turn any video over, if they didn’t want to.

      There have been numerous court cases over freedom of the press, which should cover this effort, and whether people can be compelled to report a crime, or to turn video or other graphic evidence over to the police.

      This Sheriff keeps talking about ‘negligence’, but he doesn’t include the entire phrase: criminal negligence. This means that she would have had to have been an active participant in the acts–not just someone filming the acts.

      This case will never survive in court. It could, though, be an effective case against ag-gag if it were to progress through the legal system.

  • Let’s start with the obvious questions here. Has the HSA been routinely violated and ignored. Yes. Has their been any major plant closings when the HSA is violated? No. If you allow slaughter plants to create their own guidelines, do you expect to see more or less abuse? More. Does the law need to change in order to stop violations? Yes.

    When giving FSIS credit for stopping and and all violations of the HSA, realize that they are not. However, add in the fact that they want slaughter plants to follow some sort of “guideline” when they cannot even manage to adhere to the HSA already in place, hmmmm, I would have to say that it is a farce and long past due that these issues were enforced, and addressed by FSIS to step up their responsibilities and come down hard on these slaughter plants. Put a stop to the cruelty to not only the animals, but to the inspectors that work daily to enforce humane conditions for those animals, and protect the general public from bad slaughtering practices. Clearly you did not read what Dr. Friedlander wrote. Why don’t you go and read Dr. Friedlander’s account of what he witnessed as a USDA Vet Inspector for over 10 years and then come back and let me know what other way you would like to see better enforcement tactics in place other than “self reporting”? The FSIS continues to ignore bad slaughtering tactics and that has been proven repeatedly These plants have the power to stop any and all investigations into repeated abuse patterns. FSIS has done nothing to prevent fraud, abuse and other unconscionable actions involving the HSA and the animals by giving out little or no penalties. It has to stop, if not now, when? People like me are the ones that alert others to the fact that this is going on and must change. I guess you would like to see “business as usual” since it will affect the “bottom dollar”. Compassion is not an ugly term, and certainly is a trait that I have a lot of, what happen to you?

  • crookedstick

    If this girl was to be found guilty, then henceforth, every police undercover-agent working drug investigations should be charged and convicted on drug charges.

  • I replied, but it is taken down each time.

  • crookedstick

    Classic case of “shoot the Messenger.” If this girl is prosecuted, every under-cover Drug Enforcement cop should be charged with drug dealing.

  • Shane

    Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 or backwards Bizzaro world if you prefer old Superman comic books ! Those trying to expose animal cruelty are charged with animal cruelty. Those actually practicing animal cruelty are given a slap on the wrist fine – like Dennis Chavez recently in New Mexico. According to some of the obtuse comments below by farmergirl2, groups interested in protecting animals from suffering by exposing abuse are only in it for the money – unlike the factory farming industries cramming animals into slaughter in order to maximize profit and therefore suffering as well ! I see we have common sense backward : the altruists are actually profiteers and the killers and torturers of animals aren’t profiteers, they are saints ! So, if a state has an ag gag law, you are criminal for reporting violations of existing law concerning animal abuse. If a state doesn’t have an ag gag law, you are still criminal for reporting such violations not quickly enough. If only you would have reported them more quickly, we could have then ignored them more quickly ! If there is any doubt now in anyone’s mind that Americans have reached a crossroad between corporate fascism and the right of free speech in reporting animal abuse, that doubt is gone after this story !