ALDF Files Suit to Stop Abuse of Newborn Dairy Calves at California Ranch

Posted on June 19, 2006

Update
After taking the case against Mendes Calf Ranch all the way to the highest court in the land, ALDF got news on May 15, 2008 that the California Supreme Court was dismissing ALDF v. Mendes. The facts laid out in the lawsuit against Mendes were never heard by the court system. Because animals are still considered "property" by the law, ALDF is still pushing the envelope by using innovative legal strategies to fight for the right to represent the interest of the voiceless in court. While the court rejected ALDF’s "standing" to bring this lawsuit to stop the illegal confinement of the thousands of animals at Mendes Calf Ranch, the court of public opinion continues to speak out loudly against this abuse.

June 19, 2006

Tulare County, Ca. – The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a
complaint in Tulare County Superior Court this morning against Mendes
Calf Ranch for isolating and confining newborn calves in crates so tiny
that they can barely move or turn themselves around. This confinement
violates state anti-cruelty laws, which require that animals be
provided with adequate exercise area. The Bay Area-based animal
protection group is also suing the California Department of Agriculture
for failure to inspect and discover the cruelty and is alleging that
the State Board of Equalization is illegally using public funds by
giving tax breaks to these farmers for the crates.


Footage obtained
for ALDF by East Bay Animal Advocates shows that baby
calves at the Mendes operation are unable to lie down in a natural
position or turn around without contorting themselves. It is clearly
uncomfortable for them to move around on the slatted, often
feces-covered floors of their confinement crates, and they struggle to
reach out to each other through the breaks in the walls separating them
from each other–as a result of being taken from their mothers at birth,
their natural instinct to suckle and lick is totally thwarted. The
facility sacrifices lawful treatment for efficiency–Mendes raises
approximately 12,000 dairy calves from up to 80 different ranches for
the first several months of their lives. The calves undergo a quick
growth process in their time at Mendes–intended to prepare the animals
for the harsh demands of the dairy industry.

Co-plaintiffs in the case are two Stanford Law School students who have
purchased and consumed dairy products over the past couple of years,
including Challenge and Land O’ Lakes brands of butter, both of which
can be traced to Mendes Calf Ranch. Both individual plaintiffs believed
that they were paying market value for products made in accordance with
California law; they are suing because of the harm they have suffered
by paying for illegally-produced goods that they now know to have come
from cows who have been cruelly raised in the process.

"Many people are familiar with the extremely cruel conditions in which
male calves are raised to produce veal," states ALDF Executive Director
Stephen Wells. "What people may not know is that their sisters–female
calves destined to produce milk for the dairy industry–often have a
grim fate in store for them as well. Taking calves who have been ripped
from their mothers just after birth and keeping them isolated in tiny
crates so small that they are unable even to turn around comfortably,
is not just cruel–it’s illegal."

Video footage of the conditions at Mendes Calf Ranch can be seen here.