The votes are in, more than two thousand of them, and Taylor Radig is Whistleblower Insider’s 2013 Whistleblower of the Year. Good job Taylor!
Taylor’s selfless and passionate work to expose animal abuse inspired the majority of our readers to vote for her. Her story began in July 2013, when she went undercover at Quanah Cattle Company in Kersey, Colorado and stealthily filmed the horrific animal abuse she encountered there. Quanah is an animal agribusiness company that purchases newborn calves from dairy factories, places them in a temporary holding facility for a week or so, and then ships them out to be slaughtered for veal or raised for meat.
Taylor was recruited by Compassion Over Killing, a Washington DC-based non-profit animal rights group, to gather evidence of suspected abuse at Quanah. And that is exactly what she found. While there, she filmed three Quanah employees routinely abusing newborn calves, including violently dragging them by their legs, lifting them by their tails, and throwing them onto the ground. But when she turned over the video to the Weld County, Colorado Sherriff’s office two months after ending her investigation, she was the one arrested for animal cruelty.
Sherriff John Cooke said that by not immediately reporting the abuse, her actions “adhere to the definition of acting with negligence and substantiates the charges of Animal Cruelty.” But Compassion Over Killing’s Executive Director, Erica Meier, said the charges against Taylor were nothing but a “shoot-the-messenger strategy aimed at detracting attention away from the crimes of those who actually abused animals.” Quanah has apparently taken corrective action by terminating the three workers featured in the video. Moreover, following a huge public outcry, including a petition that garnered more than 186,000 signatures, the animal cruelty charges against Taylor were dropped on January 10, while charges went forward against the three workers she filmed.
Taylor had tough competition for the title this year. The other nominees were courageous and stood their moral ground to do what they believed was right. Other nominees included: Judy Doetterl, who wore a wire to expose Johnson & Johnson’s practice of illegally promoting the antipsychotic drug Risperdal for treatments not approved by the FDA as safe or effective (for which J&J paid $2.2 billion to settle); the anonymous secret service whistleblowers, who, at great risk to their careers, brought to light a variety of sexual improprieties within the agency; and Dinesh Thakur, who exposed generic drug maker Ranbaxy’s illegal exporting of drugs into the US that did not meet FDA safety requirements and the company’s lying to the FDA about its manufacturing operations in India.
While each of these had numerous supporters, Taylor secured an overwhelming majority of the votes. One voter commented that each of the whistleblowers nominated for the award were courageous people, but emphasized – echoing the sentiments of many voters – that Taylor “stands out for her exceptional courage.” Others focused on the irony of her arrest for exposing the clear wrongdoing of others as reflected in this comment by another voter: “Reporting animal abuse and cruelty should be ENCOURAGED not silenced and retribution exacted.” To see all the comments, click here.
Taylor herself, in a letter thanking those who rallied on her behalf throughout her long ordeal, wrote that “we told the world that animal suffering matters, and that their pain should never be kept secret.” Based on the outpouring of support for Taylor as Whistleblower of the Year, it is evident that her message is being heard loud and clear. Hopefully, the courage and moral leadership of Taylor and all of our other nominees, along with the positive outcomes they have achieved, will inspire more whistleblowers to stand up and speak up in the coming year.