DES MOINES, Iowa — Vandals covered the Iowa State Fair's butter cow sculpture in red paint, officials confirmed Monday.
A group that calls itself Iowans for Animal Liberation claimed responsibility for the early Sunday vandalism and scrawling "Freedom For All" on a window in the room housing the Iowa fair tradition, according to e-mail sent to The Des Moines Register.
The cow's sculptor came in later Sunday and scraped the paint off, Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright said.
"The butter cow is something people come to the fair to see," he said.
The tradition of Iowa's annual butter cow began in 1911. This year, sculptor Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines worked in a cooler where the temperature was in the low 40s, applying 600 pounds of butter over a metal, wood and wire frame to create a cow that's 5½ feet tall and about 8 feet long. She told The Associated Press in 2011 that the butter could be reused for up to 10 years.
The Animal Liberation e-mail stated that group members hid in the fair's Agriculture Building until it closed. Claims that the email is from the group, as well of the group's existence, have not been verified.
No arrests have been made. Police are reviewing security camera footage as part of the investigation, Bright said.
"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 e-mail stated. "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 the lab. They poured acid on research documents and destroyed computers. The group later released e-mail that contained the names of researchers, their home addresses, telephone numbers and names of their spouses.
• In October 2001, the group claimed responsibility for release of mink in Ellsworth, New Hampton and Sioux City, Iowa, including one Ellsworth farm hit twice in that month.
• In September 2000, the Canadian wing of the Animal Liberation Front released 14,000 mink from a fur farm in Chickasaw County, Iowa. Though the group claimed credit for the release, authorities were not able to find individuals responsible for the release.