Farm workers allege mistreatment of cows, workers at Darigold farms across Northwest

May 14, 2014, 12:57 PM | Updated: May 15, 2014, 1:32 pm
The United Farmworkers of America released this photo of a cow with an injured, bulging eye they say highlights the mistreatment of dairy cows at Darigold farms across the Northwest. (Photo via United Farmworkers of America)
(Photo via United Farmworkers of America)

Workers at Darigold farms across the Northwest are raising new complaints about the treatment of cows and workers alike, and they allege blood and pus from sickened cows is getting into the milk supply.

Photos: Sick, injured cows reportedly being kept in milk supply chain (Warning: Graphic Images)

A consumer lawsuit filed last week accuses the dairy cooperative of producing milk “under conditions where dairy cows are injured and sick, where despite suffering from bloody and swollen udders, cows are still milked, and where workers are denied the most basic labor protections, such as drinkable water, lunch rooms, meal and rest periods, and an environment free of discrimination,” the complaint said.

The United Farm Workers of America released several pictures this week purportedly taken by workers at Darigold-affiliated farms in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, showing sick or injured cows including one being milked despite badly injured udders.

“Sometimes it even sickens them to have to milk cows that are bleeding or they’re infected with mastitis and they don’t really have a choice,” says Jorge Antonio Valenzuela, PNW Regional Director for the United Farm Workers of America. “Some of the workers have reported they have, in fact, stopped drinking milk themselves after seeing the way the milk is being processed.”

Darigold denies the claims of abuse made in the lawsuit and being leveled by the workers, calling them “meritless.”

“The claims that our dairy producers do not adequately take care of their employees or animals are not only inaccurate, it is offensive to generations of our dairy farm families and the employees who care for the animals. We are proud of the over 500 family farms that work hard each and every day to produce high quality Darigold products that feed our local communities and the world,” said Steve Rowe, General Counsel & Sr. Vice President, Corporate Affairs in a statement.

Workers have staged a number of protests at dairies in Bellingham, Lynden and elsewhere, Valenzuela says. And he says while a Darigold representative met with workers to address their concerns following a rally at company headquarters in Seattle in January, conditions have gotten worse.

“We were just meeting with a group of workers yesterday who are reporting these conditions are continuing and as time has passed, more and more workers are coming forward with these complaints,” Valenzuela says.

Workers have also delivered several petitions to Darigold headquarters signed by over 20,000 customers demanding improved conditions for both cows and workers, Valenzuela says.

Darigold said in the statement it stands behind its strict code of social responsibility.

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Farm workers allege mistreatment of cows, workers at Darigold farms across Northwest