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Published August 19, 2013, 10:32 AM

Iowa butter cow vandalized

The 2013 butter cow, on display at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, was recently vandalized with red paint. The display, however, was cleaned up promptly and the exhibit opened as usual the next day.

By: Scott McFetridge, Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — An animal welfare group intent on sending a message in support of veganism hid until closing time Aug. 10 then poured red paint over the Iowa State Fair’s butter cow. But the damage was quickly scraped away and visitors never knew the iconic sculpture had been damaged.

Iowans for Animal Liberation claimed responsibility for the attack in a news release, saying members hid in the cavernous Agriculture Building and emerged after the fair closed for the day. They then broke into a refrigerated room where the sculpted cow and other butter sculptures are displayed and poured red paint over the cow.

The words “Freedom for all” were scrawled on a display window.

“The paint represents the blood of 11 billion animals murdered each year in slaughterhouses, egg farms, and dairies,” the group said in the statement. “We intend this action to serve as a wake up call to all who continue to consume meat, dairy, eggs, leather, and all animal products: You are directly supporting suffering and misery on the largest scale the world has ever known.”

Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright says fair staffers discovered the damage the next morning. A sculptor scraped off damaged sections of the cow and reapplied new butter while other workers cleaned off paint elsewhere in the room.

The display area, which this year also features a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln and a depiction of the Lincoln Highway that crosses Iowa, opened as usual at 9 a.m. Aug. 11

The cow, which is made with about 600 pounds of butter covering a wood and metal frame, has been a part of the fair since 1911. The butter is reused for up to 10 years.

Describing the vandalism as “more of an inconvenience than anything else,” Bright says security procedures at the fairground would remain the same. He notes the Agriculture Building, built in 1904, has plenty of hiding places and is usually packed with people, many of whom gather around the butter cow display.

“Everyone comes out to see the butter cow,” Bright says. The fair typically attracts more than 1 million visitors annually.

“The butter cow looks good now and everything is back to normal,” he says.