Senator: Video of cow abuse staged, advocacy group considers lawsuit

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Senator Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, says he believes the animal rights group that secretly recorded video of employees abusing cows at an Idaho dairy in 2012 actually directed the employees to act a certain way on camera.

"I've watched it twice," Sen. Rice told KBOI News Tuesday. "I wanted to make sure that's what I was seeing."

The footage led to a controversial bill in this year's legislature that makes it a crime to record video at an agricultural production site without the owner's permission. The bill was signed into law last month.

Click HERE to watch the video. ***Warning: video contains extremely graphic content and language***

Rice first made the comments on the Nate Shelman Show on 670 KBOI Monday evening. And he reaffirmed his view Tuesday with KBOI News.

He says the group that shot the video, Mercy for Animals, staged abuse of animals at the Bettencourt Dairy in 2012.

Reporters at KBOI News also repeatedly watched the video, but didn't see any blatant or obvious examples of coaching or staging.

Rather, it all seemed difficult to understand, even for reporters who are fluent in Spanish. One version of the video clip with subtitles was equally ambiguous to KBOI News reporters.

But RIce says it's clear to him.

"That's my interpretation of their video," Rice said. "It tells me it wasn't something (the undercover activist) just happened upon, he was encouraging it."

And there was this exchange Monday KBOI 670,

"There are a few things that people don't seem to have picked up on this thing," says Rice. "The first thing is that the second video, at the very beginning of the video, you have the person that's abusing the animal ask the filmer if that's what he wants him to do to the animal."

He continues: "That's one of the things that people who have looked at the whole thing, all of the video, tell me there's incidents of that all through, and what that shows is that the guy who was filming..."

Shelman cuts in: "Was coaching him."

Rice continues: "Was telling him what he wanted to film, and then they were doing what he wanted, not what was normally the course at the dairy."

Click HERE to listen to Senator Rice's full comments on the Nate Shelman Show.

KBOI 2News talked with Matt Rice, director of investigations for Mercy for Animals, Monday night for the group's response to the allegations.

Rice, no relation to the senator, gave us a statement that says:

"The [senator's] claim is completely false and insulting. Mercy for Animals turned over all our video to law enforcement. They launched their own investigation that resulted in criminal charges and convictions. Video footage doesn't take sides."

Rice added: "MFA is exploring the possibility of a defamation lawsuit against the senator."

Here's the full statement from Mercy for Animals' executive director, Nathan Runkle:

Mercy For Animals' Statement on Senator Jim Rice's Baseless and Defamatory Comments

On Monday, Senator Jim Rice stated on KBOI Radio that the unedited video footage from Mercy For Animals' investigation at Bettencourt Dairies showing workers sexually abusing animals proves the abuse was coerced. Today, Mercy For Animals has provided the entire unedited video of the incident in question to the media. The unedited video was made available to law enforcement in 2012, when the investigation took place, and led to criminal animal cruelty charges
and a conviction against Jesus Garza, the worker seen on video sexually abusing and violently beating a cow.

The following statement can be attributed to Nathan Runkle, Mercy For Animals' executive director:

Senator Rice has shown his true colors as a corrupt politician who is willing to lie and deceive voters in a desperate attempt to protect the deep pockets of the cruel dairy industry. The undercover video showing blatant animal abuse at Idaho's largest dairy factory farm doesn't lie, but Senator Rice does. Senator Rice's radical conspiracy theory is not supported by even a kernel of truth. His defamatory
claims are a slap in the face to Idaho's law enforcement officials and justice system. After completing a thorough review of Mercy For Animals' unedited investigative footage, law enforcement concluded that illegal animal abuse was allowed to fester at this dairy factory farm. Senator Rice's insane claim is unsupported by truth or facts and raises serious concern about his ability to serve in a competent or trustworthy manner.

The unsupported accusation made by Senator Rice represents a new low for supporters of ag-gag, who will go to any length to cover-up animal cruelty on factory farms and intimidate whistleblowers. Senator Rice has as little regard for the truth as he does for animal welfare or the will of his constituents. Mercy For Animals is exploring the possibility of a defamation lawsuit against the Senator for his baseless claims.