Jolley: Dairy Cow Abuse Exposed (Again) On Video

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Meghan Barr, an Associated Press writer, revealed another well-timed abuse video today, undoubtedly released by animal welfare group Mercy For Animals. MFA is the same Chicago-based group that released a video showing workers at an Iowa egg hatchery tossing male chicks into a grinder.

MFA said a video it secretly recorded at Conklin Dairy Farms in Plain City, Ohio shows workers “beating cows with crowbars, stabbing them with pitchforks and punching them in their heads.”

It serves as desperately needed fuel for the HSUS’s flagging effort to revive their Issue 2 animal welfare initiative in Ohio It’s a controversial ballot initiative funded largely by out-of-state money and managed by out-of-state ‘volunteers’ to “prevent animal cruelty, improve health and food safety, support family farms, and safeguard the environment throughout the state of Ohio.” Or so says the HSUS web site.

The AP story quoted Gary Conklin speaking in defense of his fourth generation family dairy: "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. We will not condone animal abuse on our farm."

The company said it would interview its farm workers and anyone found to have ‘willfully’ abused cows or calves would be fired.

Whether it was willful or accidental, the taped activity violates Ohio’s animal welfare laws. Conklin should not only fire everyone involved but immediately turn them over to authorities and review his hiring practices. Sin #1 was hiring people with those abhorrent attitudes about the animals in their care. Sin #2 was being so unaware of his employment standards that he found out about the activity only by unwittingly hiring an MFA undercover agent.

Conklin should be a constant presence throughout the dairy, sending a no tolerance message to everyone employed by his family. Following Temple Grandin’s suggestion that video cameras be installed where animal abuse might occur would be an excellent idea, too.

The good news is the practice shown on the video, sensational and inflammatory as it is, does not represent the norm in animal agriculture. It can truly be classified as rare and aberrant behavior. The bad news is it does happen and it must stop. There is absolutely no excuse. None. Zero.

The Conklin incident puts another ‘shiner’ on Ohio’s animal Ag practices. In 2007, an infamous video surfaced that became the centerpiece of HBO’s shockumentary, “Death on a Factory Farm.” It showed how a Wayne County, Ohio hog farmer handled his unwanted pigs - hanging them by a chain from a fully extended front-end loader.

At the trial, the operation’s owner was found not guilty of all charges. The owner’s son, shown on video grabbing pigs by the ears and tossing them into a buggy, was found guilty of improperly handling piglets. Hands were slapped, people went about their business. The judge ruled that Ohio had no standards forbidding strangulation and hanging of farm animals. The Ohio Pork Producers Council declared the outcome a “huge victory.” In the horrified public’s eye, it was a huge defeat.

Bottom line:
It’s time to ramp up the consequences for bad behavior. Sending a few low level employees down the river will never solve the problem. Holding top management’s feet to the fire through hefty fines and jail time will slam the door shut on these practices. The responsibility to hire the right people, give them adequate training and vigilant supervision lies in the front office.

Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Cattlenetwork.com and Agnetwork.com.



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