Voice for the Voiceless
Written by Nicole Weaver
Photos by Karen Cogan
Everything seemed like a disturbing nightmare as Taylor Radig reflected on her experiences the past few months. Her work at Quanah Cattle Company, an animal agribusiness company in Kersey, Colorado, that purchases newborn calves and temporarily confines them before shipping them to dairy farms, lasted through the summer of 2013 and had been backbreaking.
Twice daily she bottle fed calves with pink milk, a result of blood from adult cows' infected udders.Taylor woke up each morning at 3 a.m. and, after making sure her hidden camera was ready, she would set out for a long day of physically exhausting manual labor on the farm.
Her duties included cleaning out the barns, power washing and moving hutches, picking up calves from dairy facilities and giving antibiotic shots to sick cows. Administering shots was a task that she hadn’t been trained to do, she had only been advised not to hit a vein. Twice daily she bottle fed calves pink milk, a result of the blood from adult cows’ infected udders.
During her time at the company, she witnessed and documented horrific incidents of animal abuse. Workers violently dragged calves by their legs, kicked them off trucks, pulled them by their ears and tails, and tossed them into transport trucks like pieces of garbage, resulting in countless deaths from broken necks. Watching this happen before her eyes, on top of a 12-hour workday made her feel sick.
“Don’t you think the police would be better at handling this than you are?” the sheriff asked. His tone became aggressive as the questions persisted.
Taylor didn’t answer. Her request to facilitate a case against three QuanahWithin a few days, the sheriff’s department had written a press release and sent out Taylor’s mug shot to over 120 news stations. employees charged with animal abuse became an interrogation against her. She had been sitting inside the Weld County Sheriff’s Department in Colorado all morning, exhausted from a direct flight from Orange County and confused by what was happening with the case.
“Why didn’t you come to the police immediately?”
Taylor kept reiterating that she had to establish a pattern of abuse while employed at Quanah and that a routine inspection would not have garnered the same evidence she had gathered over the course of three to four months.
The sheriff left the room. A few minutes passed. He came back with a sheet of paper.
“I’m citing you with animal cruelty for over 150 acts of animal abuse and for failing to report the abuse in a timely manner,” the sheriff said.
The realization that she had been brought to Colorado under false pretenses began to sink in. The months she spent witnessing and reporting animal abuse ended with her being charged with the crime.
“Despite what the Weld County Sheriff’s Office was suggesting, there is absolutely no legal requirement in Colorado that one must come forward with evidence of animal cruelty, much less within any specified period of time … My citation noted that my ‘offense’ occurred precisely between my first and last day at Quanah. To me this shows that wearing a hidden camera at all, even on my first day, is what bothered them,” Taylor said.
Taylor knew the charges were baseless and wouldn’t have held up in court. The message sent to her was a politically motivated one. There is not a mandatory reporting law in Colorado, however mandatory reporting requirements are included in anti-whistleblower legislation seeking to outlaw the legality of investigations.
“The outlawing of undercover investigations compromises consumer knowledge and hides the daily cruelties and abuse that goes on in animal agribusinesses,” Taylor said.
Catching this abuse is extremely difficult and it’s nearly impossible during routine inspections. Without undercover investigators seeking to expose the practices, the abuse would go unnoticed.
“I knew that Colorado’s open record laws were bad news because mug shots are public record. Any person could grab that and send it to the press. I told him (the sheriff) I was concerned about my safety and that the companies within the dairy and meat industries were out to get me,” Taylor said.
Within a few days, the sheriff’s department had written a press release and sent out Taylor’s mug shot to over 120 news stations. Charging her with a crime meant her identity was public knowledge. At only 24 years old, Taylor’s career as an undercover investigator had ended.
The arrest was national news. Taylor’s picture was spread across national television and the public outcry was staggering. A petition started against the Weld County Sheriff’s Office to drop the charges, which gathered nearly 200,000 signatures. Three Quanah workers were charged and subsequently fired from the cattle farm, but the management who allowed the abuse to happen due to inadequate training and oversight faced no consequences.
The charges against Taylor were inevitably dropped. Without a substantial case against her, prosecutors released a statement admitting that the charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It was a victory for animal rights and a loss for corporations who aim to silence the investigators that expose them.
Taylor graduated from Biola University a few months after her arrest with a degree in philosophy and a minor in theology. Her work now centers on Christian philosophy and animal rights. Currently working with PETA as PETA’s Christian outreach and engagement coordinator, she helped launch a new campaign called ‘Jesus People for Animals.’
“Our campaign is a resource for Christians and explains to them how their faith should impact their views and the way they treat animals,” Taylor said.
The campaign, which is currently based online, encourages veganism and provides information on animal rights, Christianity, and nutrition.
Throughout her time at school Taylor continued pursuing activism. One of her first jobs was working with The Humane League by touring with Warped Tour and I never wanted my identity to be publicized, because this isn’t about me, it’s about catching animal abuse.passing out leaflets on veganism. She got involved with the Humane Society of the United States shortly after working as their farmed animal protection intern. Her other work as an activist includes Progress for Science, a campaign against UCLA to end testing on primates, and Compassion Over Killing.
It was at Compassion Over Killing where she became involved with investigative work for over a year until she was arrested and ultimately charged with animal abuse.
Taylor spoke at the Animal Rights National Conference last July about her experience working as an undercover investigator—she also spoke at Twin Cities Veg Fest. Taylor’s been commended by thousands of animals rights organizations, but the recognition is still bittersweet.
“One of the hardest parts about this situation, personally, is knowing my career as an undercover investigator is over. I never wanted my identity to be publicized, because this isn’t about me, it’s about catching animal abuse,” Taylor said.