Willie Nelson Urges Land O’Lakes, Challenge Dairy to Stop Using Milk Products that Come from Confined Calves

Posted on March 26, 2008

Country Icon Joins Over 22,000 Petition Signers in Pushing for Dairy Farm Reform

Willie NelsonStating, "As a cowboy, I must stand up for cows," Willie Nelson has signed on to a campaign to warn consumers about the cruel-and illegal-living conditions for calves raised to produce milk for dairy products. Nelson has written letters to Land O’Lakes (St. Paul, Minn.) and Challenge Dairy (Dublin, Calif.), two of the major corporations that use milk from calves raised at California’s Mendes Calf Ranch, which employs an intensive confinement practice that is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund. ALDF is filing an appeal in this lawsuit today in the Supreme Court of California.

Nelson’s letters are being delivered to the corporations this week along with the signatures of more than 22,000 concerned citizens who have taken part in the Animal Legal Defense Fund­’s "Free Baby Mendes" campaign, which aims to stop the intensive confinement of baby cows at the California facility. Located in Tipton, Calif., Mendes houses calves for approximately 80 different dairy producers. After birth, baby calves are almost immediately taken away from their mothers and shipped to the Tulare County facility, which houses as many as 12,000 calves at one time. (This relatively new practice in the dairy industry – which can help profits but harm calves – is little-known by most consumers.)

On June 19, 2006, ALDF first filed a complaint in Tulare County Superior Court against Mendes Calf Ranch for isolating and confining newborn calves in crates. This confinement violates state anti-cruelty laws, which require that animals have adequate exercise area. Now, with the country crooner’s help, ALDF has taken the effort straight to consumers.

A copy of Willie Nelson’s letter follows:

March 24, 2008

Chris Policinski, President and CEO

Land O’Lakes, Inc.

4001 Lexington Ave. North

Arden Hills, MN 55112

Dear Mr. Policinski:

I’ll be 75 years old next month, and I have seen a lot of this country in my many years on the road. It’s a tragedy to see the small-town farmer, who cared deeply for his backyard animals, is rapidly being edged out by huge facilities that look more like factories than farms–and treat animals no better than machines.

That’s why I’ve joined more than 20,000 other concerned Americans in signing the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s petition urging you to please take action to stop the abuse of thousands of baby cows linked to Land O’ Lakes dairy products.

Some of your suppliers use California’s Mendes Calf Ranch to house the calves of their milking cows. These babies are taken from their mothers soon after birth and shipped away to live by themselves for extended periods in cramped, filthy crates–often without enough room to turn around or lie down naturally.

The confinement of calves at Mendes is in violation of California’s animal cruelty laws, and it is not a practice befitting your company. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is filing their appeal in ALDF v. Mendes in the Supreme Court of California this week, and their lawyers will continue to seek justice for these cows in the courtroom. Meanwhile, many thousands of citizens have signed the petition urging you to cut all ties with Mendes Calf Ranch, as well as any other operation engaging in the same practices, unless and until those operations provide humane conditions for their calves.

As a cowboy, I must stand up for cows. Please consider my concerns, and those of the thousands of others who have joined me in signing the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s petition to Free Baby Mendes, and insist that your suppliers end this cruel confinement practice immediately.


Willie Nelson

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