An animal rights activist who spent the summer working undercover at a cattle ranch suspected of mistreating its animals has been charged with animal cruelty after blowing the whistle on the operation because it took her too long to report the abuse.

Taylor Radig was cited for misdemeanor animal cruelty along with three employees of the Quanah Cattle Company.

A member of the animal rights group Compassion Over Killing, Radig spent two months filming ranch employees physically abusing newborn calves and then waited two months after leaving her job in order to turn the materials over to the Weld County Sheriff’s Office.

"Radig’s failure to report the alleged abuse of the animals in a timely manner adheres to the definition of acting with negligence and substantiates the charges Animal Cruelty," said Weld County Sheriff John Cooke in a statement to the press [pdf].

Compassion Over Killing, meanwhile, believes the sheriff's department is trying to scare potential whistleblowers into keeping silent.

The group's executive director Erica Meier called Radig's animal cruelty charge a "“shoot-the-messenger strategy aimed at detracting attention away from the crimes of those who actually abused animals."

Meier further called the sheriff's claim that Radig herself engaged in abuses while at Quanah "baseless," and insists she was "working cooperatively with local authorities on this case."

For its part, J.D. Heiskell & Co., the feed company that owns Quanah, said it was "dismayed" by evidence of abuse at the ranch.

The Quanah Cattle Company released its own statement saying it was unaware of the abuse until Radig's footage was released, and has "taken immediate corrective action" by terminating the employees responsible and "re-training" its other workers.

If convicted, Radig and the three animal cruelty suspects face up to 18 months in jail.

[mug shot via WCSO via ABC7, screengrab via COK]