I think by now everyone has seen or at least heard about the 4 minute undercover investigation video released by Mercy for Animals earlier this week. Workers at Conklin Dairy Farms in Ohio engaged in sadistic abuse of the animals they are paid to care for. Calves having their heads stomped on, diary cows tied and then beaten in the head with crowbars, cows having their udders stabbed with pitch forks…
What industry allows employees to get away with this? Imagine an employee at a grocery store stomping on perfectly good tomatoes. They would be fired on the spot. But what if the tomatoes were too rotten to be sold? I suppose then, the employee might get away with it. Perhaps the manager would even join in on one particularly frustrating or boring day at work. I think this is precisely what happened at 4th generation, family-operated, Conklin Dairy Farms.
In the undercover video footage, you see Conklin employee Billy Gregg bragging to his new co-worker (the undercover investigator) about abusing a cow that was being sent to slaughter because her inflamed udders would not allow her to produce any more milk:
“we beat the fuck out of this cow, we stabbed her, I broke her tail in three place, kept stabbing her ass. Beat her. Next day Gary says, “we’re gonna send her to beef” Cuz she had mastitis and all. Couldn’t get her in the parlor. I drugged that cow. I beat that fucker until her face was like this big around”.
In an industry that treats sentient animals like production units and commodities, a dairy cow with mastitis is as good as a rotten tomato at a grocery store. And since there are about as many laws protecting a rotten tomato as a unproductive dairy cow, you can do whatever you like with them.
In the days following the release of the footage, the agriculture community in Ohio denounced the activities that had taken place at the farm and blamed it on one bad apple, Billy Gregg. He was charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty and has been jailed. Under current Ohio animal cruelty law, Billy will not be charged with any felonies, just misdemeanors. Before you start trashing the hillbilly Americans and their backwards law system, please note that Canadian animal cruelty laws are about the same – if not worse.
The owner Gary Conklin said in a statement, “The video shows animal care that is clearly inconsistent with the high standards we set for our farm and its workers, and we find the specific mistreatment shown on the video to be reprehensible and unacceptable”. Ironically, Gary Conklin was one of the guys shown kicking a downed cow in the video (at 1:26).
Everyone in the small Ohio farming community is putting on a fabulous display of outrage by vocally denouncing Billy Gregg’s actions and painting him as a psychologically disturbed criminal who acted alone. But no one else shown on the video has been charged with animal cruelty and the dairy farm has not been shut down.
It is clear that the community’s attempt at denouncing animal cruelty is disingenuous. If there really is a culture that rallied around good husbandry and condemned deliberate acts of abuse against the farm animals, why did Billy Gregg feel so comfortable bragging to a newly hired employee (the undercover investigator) about all the egregious acts of cruelty? If it wasn’t a socially accepted practice, why did he do it in front of his coworkers and why did the owner take part in the abuse? It is apparent that the precedent set by the culture around Billy Gregg is that abusing animals is tolerated, accepted and even celebrated.
What happened at Conklin Dairy Farms is not an isolated incident by any means. Every time an animal rights group hires an investigator to go to a randomly selected farm they come back with more than they set out to get. Even without any of the abuse shown in the 4 minute footage, Mercy for Animals would have obtained footage that documented the systematic abuse of dairy cows who are kept constantly pregnant, suffering from chronic mastitis and the killing or disposal of new born calves.
The animal agriculture industry is mostly self-regulated and it is obvious that this system is not working out. This November, people in Ohio will have the opportunity to vote for a ban on some of the worst practices in animal agriculture. It is true that the proposed law will not stop the abuses documented at Conklin Dairy Farms, but it will ensure that the animals on farms will have the bare minimum, such as the ability to turn around, stretch their limbs and spread their wings. It is not much too ask for, but even so, there is strong opposition from the farming community against the initiative to give farm animals just enough room to stretch their limbs. In fact, they are spending millions of dollars to make sure that this initiative does not pass. It really makes me wonder why anyone in animal agriculture would think Billy Gregg is a psychopath.