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Iowa State Fair butter cow doused in red paint by animal rights group

2:30 PM, Aug 12, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Iowa State Fair responds to butter cow vandalism

Des Moines, Iowa (Des Moines Register) -- The Iowa State Fair's beloved butter cow sculpture looks as good as new after vandals covered the iconic bovine in red paint early Sunday.

The cow, a fair tradition since 1911, cleaned up well after the dousing. Vandals from the group Iowans for Animal Liberation attempted to churn controversy over factory farms by scrawling "Freedom For All" on a glass window in the display.

"It's sad, because the butter cow is iconic of the Iowa State Fair," said Lori Chappell, Iowa State Fair marketing director, who added: "No one was hurt; no one was injured. The butter cow is fine."

Security has increased at the building since the incident, and better locks have been installed, Chappell said.

No arrests have been made. Police are reviewing camera footage of the building's exterior as part of the investigation, Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright said.

Sculptor Sarah Pratt received a call around 4 a.m. Sunday, shortly after the vandalism was discovered. Pratt was putting the finishing touches on the cow by the time the Agriculture Building opened at 9 a.m., Chappell said.

"We didn't miss a beat," she said.

Officials can't recall the butter cow ever being defaced, though someone made a failed attempt to place a note on the cow a few years ago. The note slipped off the the slick surface.

"That didn't work so well," Chappell said.

A group that calls itself Iowans for Animal Liberation claimed responsibility for the vandalism in an email to the Des Moines Register. The email stated group members hid in the Agriculture Building until it closed.

"After dismantling the lock to the refrigerated case housing the Butter Cow with a screwdriver, we doused the entire butter sculpture in red paint," the email said. "The paint represents the blood of 11 billion animals murdered each year in slaughterhouses, egg farms, and dairies."

It is unclear if Iowans for Animal Liberation is the same group or related to The Animal Liberation Front, which has taken credit for previous acts of vandalism related to animal rights.

The Animal Liberation Front has been active in Iowa before. The group, which has ties to larger organizations in Canada and the United Kingdom, claimed responsibility for vandalism at a University of Iowa psychology laboratory in November 2004.

The group removed more than 400 animals, mostly laboratory rats and mice, from Spence Laboratories. They poured acid on research documents and destroyed computers. The group later released an email which contained the names of researchers, their home addresses, telephone numbers and names of their spouses.

In September 2000, the Canadian wing of the Animal Liberation Front released 14,000 mink from a fur farm in Chickasaw County. Though the group claimed credit for the release, authorities were not able to find individuals responsible for the release.

In October 2001, the group claimed responsibility for release of mink in Ellsworth, Sioux City and New Hampton. The Ellsworth farm of Metta Nelson was hit twice in that month and said at the loss of animals would like run the farm out of business.

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