About a dozen animal-welfare activists held signs Thursday in downtown Hagerstown, calling on a local dairy cooperative to rethink its relationship with a milk supplier, alleging neglect and mistreatment of cows at a Pennsylvania farm.
However, an official with Lanco-Pennland, which operates a cheese plant near Hancock, said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is unfairly attacking the Hagerstown cooperative because it sources a small portion of its supply from the National Farmers Organization.
PETA has made allegations against Reitz Dairy Farms near Shamokin, Pa., an NFO-affiliated farm recently cleared of animal-cruelty charges by Pennsylvania State Police.
“It is unfortunate that PETA is wrongfully attacking Lanco-Pennland for alleged activities of a farmer who is not in any way associated with Lanco or our farmers,” Lanco General Manager Kurt Williams said in a statement.
Lanco received some limited deliveries through NFO last fall, then signed a contract with the cooperative for the 2019 calendar year.
Williams said a small percentage — about 8% — of milk from the NFO contract has gone to its cheese plant this year, but none of that milk has come from the Reitz farm.
“As a vendor, Lanco requires NFO to participate in National Milk’s F.A.R.M. program and abide by all state and federal regulatory guidelines,” he said. “Every load of milk is tested before receiving into the plant.”
The owners of the farm, Lloyd Reitz Sr. and his son, Andrew, were cleared by state police on June 27 after an inspection found no animal-cruelty violations, according to a report published in The Daily Item in Sunbury, Pa., on July 3.
A phone message left at a number listed for the Reitz farm was not immediately returned Thursday. Other media outlets have cited a statement from the farm in the past week, saying its operation is safe, sanitary and complies with industry standards.
NFO spokesman Perry Garner said the Reitz farm has been a member since 2016.
In a statement, the NFO said it takes any allegation of improper treatment of animals “very seriously.”
“And we take prompt action to determine the facts of the situation,” the statement said. “Investigations and audits of such allegations are conducted by outside groups whenever possible.”
PETA officials said the investigation into conditions it has documented in its latest eyewitness exposé at the Reitz farm remains open.
Through whistleblower complaints, photos and videos, PETA alleges dairy cows have been beaten, kept in their own waste and denied veterinarian care.
“Cows suffer and die at Reitz Dairy Farms only because the owners profit off of milk that’s meant for their newborn calves,” said Tricia Lebkuecher, a senior campaigner for PETA. “PETA is reminding kind people that the best way to prevent all this suffering is to stop buying cow’s milk and other dairy products and go vegan.”
Source: Herald-Mail Media