PKA syringe pic

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is claiming that cows on a North Carolina dairy farm are being mistreated, and the group has released footage of the animals slogging through knee-deep manure to prove it. One problem: The so-called undercover footage stinks of PETA misinformation. So strap on your muck boots, because we’re about to wade through the filth of PETA’s latest complaint.

According to PETA, the dairy cows are forced to eat, walk, and sleep in a pool of thick manure. But as another dairy farmer’s analysis notes, the cows in the video are suspiciously clean: Their stomachs, tails and backs are relatively unsoiled. A cow living in PETA’s purported conditions would be submerged in feces every time it laid down to rest, which would cover its hips and underside. And cows use their tails to swat flies—tails that would be soaked with manure were PETA’s story accurate. That doesn’t seem to align with the clean cows in PETA’s “eyewitness” film.

Inspectors from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture inspected the dairy after PETA’s video dropped. They found no evidence to support PETA’s claims that the cows were being mistreated. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), however, has ordered to farm to clean up—but let’s put that in context: Local officials pointed to temporary house-cleaning issues that had been aggravated by bad weather.

While the dairy farm certainly needs to clean up, it doesn’t appear to be the site of prolonged or deliberate animal abuse. The Mountaineer notes:

PETA claimed the cattle were emaciated and forced to remain in a several-inch deep pool of their own waste. However, the Haywood County Animal Control department found that cattle were pastured in a clean area next to the barn and a pasture across the road when they weren’t being milked. There was no evidence the cattle were either emaciated or in poor health, said animal control officer Jean Hazzard, a county official who has come down hard on those who abuse animals in the past.

In an email Hazzard wrote, “I have responded to the dairy and met with the owner and reviewed the alleged deplorable confinement and living conditions, which were unfounded.”

The paper concludes that “PETA resorted to false and exaggerated claims to make their point. In doing so, the organization has caused unwarranted damage to innocent parties and has undermined consumer confidence in our food supply without justification.” It’s hard to see how one could determine otherwise once all the facts are considered. (Just don’t count on PETA to deliver the full story. We can’t find anything about the Haywood County Animal Control’s findings on PETA’s site.)

PETA apparently got something else wrong, too: Harris Teeter, the company PETA said was supplied by the purported “dairy factory,” says that it does not receive products from the dairy. Harris Teeter is demanding the animal liberation group retract that claim. (The dairy also only has 30 cows—hardly a “factory.”)

PETA’s faux pas is nothing new for the animal rights movement. Remember when animal activists dragged the Ringling Bros. circus through court for a decade under allegations that the circus abuses elephants? Not only was their case thrown out, but the presiding judge found animal rights activists had covertly paid the key witness nearly $200,000—a witness who lied under oath. Ringling countersued under anti-racketeering statutes, and animal liberation activists led by the Humane Society of the United States paid almost $16 million in May to settle this bribery and fraud lawsuit.

Looks like PETA is just the latest animal rights group to step in it.