HANSEN, Idaho -- Undercover video taken by an animal rights group at an Idaho dairy came out to the public Wednesday. The video shows mistreatment of dairy cows at a dairy outside of Twin Falls. The group responsible for shooting the videos, "Mercy for Animals" out of California, said this is not the only incident. However, dairymen disagree.
An undercover worker for the group Mercy for Animals shot the video earlier this summer.
"Unfortunately, what you have just witnessed is merely a glimpse of the ongoing cruelty and violence committed against cows at this dairy facility in Idaho," said Mercy for Animals Director of Investigations, Matt Rice.
We went to the dairy where the video was shot. It has 11,000 heifers. It is one of 13 dairies owned by Luis Bettencourt -- the largest dairy producer in Idaho. We asked him about the graphic images, involving five of his employees.
"It was unbelievable," said the dairy owner, Luis Bettencourt. "I was very upset because I work with my cows everyday. I'm in my cows everyday with my employees and I had no idea that was going on in the barn."
Bettencourt has been a dairy farmer for 30 years. He moved to Idaho from California and started with 17 cows. Bettencourt took actions right after seeing the video.
"The next day we fired all five [employees in the video] then we turned it over to the prosecutor in Twin, and they did their investigation," said Bettencourt.
The video also caused Bettencourt to make other changes in the company.
"We showed the video to all 500 employees that we have on our dairies and have them sign a zero-tolerance on the issue. It's unacceptable," he said.
They also installed video cameras. The cameras feed to a computer in the office, where the video is archived. Bettencourt can also watch the video live from his cell phone at any time. In addition, he said they're going to be tougher on reference checks and background checks for future employees.
"That's rule number one: you don't abuse your animals. If you take care of the cows, the cows will take care of you," said Bettencourt.
But Mercy for Animals says this isn't confined to Bettencourt's dairy. They've done undercover investigations at dairy operations in four states, including Idaho.
"Every time we point a camera inside a dairy factory farm we emerge with images that shock and horrify most Americans, which leads us to believe that cruelty and violence runs rampant in the dairy industry," said Rice.
Bob Naerebout, Executive Director of the Idaho Dairymen's Association, said that's untrue.
"Not only is it something the Idaho dairy industry doesn't accept, it's not anything the national dairy industry accepts, it's nothing that Mr. Bettencourt or his management staff accepts," said Naerebout.
Like Bettencourt, Naerebout said this was a one-time problem.
"There's nothing in that video that you can point to to say this is happening all over. This is an isolated incident," Naerebout said.
"It's our way of life," said Bettencourt. "We have 500 employees that depend on treating our cows good."
The Idaho Dairymen's association set up workshops and classes with the College of Southern Idaho prior to the release of this video. They are doing extra training and work with dairy owners and employees. They hope to continue this effort to improve the industry.
Mercy for Animals couldn't tell us whether they have other investigations going on in Idaho, so as not to compromise possible undercover work.