At last week’s Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board listening session in Guernsey County, I heard that an animal rights group was planning on releasing an undercover video shot at an Ohio dairy farm (link is NOT to video, but to Farm and Dairy’s first story on the issue). By the time I got home around 11 p.m. Tuesday, the video was already lighting up the Internet.
I watched it, and I hope I do not have to view it again. While the footage has been edited, it does show unacceptable treatment of calves and dairy cows.
“Animal agriculture is incapable of self-regulation,” condemns Mercy For Animals on its blog. MFA was the group behind the undercover footage and its packaging and release on the Web.
But readers need to be aware of the group’s ulterior motive, and that is promoting a vegan diet (vegans try to eliminate the use of animals for food, clothing or any other purposes). Nothing excuses the actions of the dairy farm employee, but you need to know where this group is coming from.
“Compassionate consumers can end their direct financial support of farmed animal abuse by rejecting dairy, and other animal products, and adopting a vegan diet.”
Personally, I have lots of questions before I feel I can comment legitimately on the issue. Not the issue of animal cruelty or mistreatment of farm animals — that I can easily comment upon because it has no place on any farm, and all farmers must care for their livestock in the most humane way possible. But the issue of how this video came to be produced and released is rather murky.
Who was the undercover “investigator” from Mercy For Animals? When was he hired, if he was posing as an employee? Did he know Gregg before he arrived on the farm? When was Gregg hired? What is the farm’s process for checking references? Who were these guys’ references?
How many employees does the farm have working with the cattle? Who supervises and trains employees? Did other employees know this was going on?
Did the Conklin family know this was going on? When did the Conklins find out about the undercover video, and when did they see it? Where were they when this action was taking place?
Did Gregg know he was being filmed (he clearly speaks to the camera angle in several segments)? Did the individual filming also participate in mistreatment to gain Gregg’s trust? How did MFA target Gregg and/or Conklin Dairy Farm?
Why did it take four weeks for MFA to prepare the video — and let the alleged abuse continue, if they proclaim to care so much for animals? Why not work with law officials or the local human society to create the case?
Did MFA “misuse” the animals itself to promote its vegan agenda? Did the individual filming egg or urge Gregg on, to instigate the abuse?
Have investigators checked computers, e-mails, cell phone records to piece together a timeline, or an understanding of who knew who, and who knew what when?
Was Gregg paid by MFA? Is he a supporter?
Why was the video released at the same time Humane Society of the United States’ CEO Wayne Pacelle was making a visit to Ohio to drum up support for the Ohioans for Humane Farms’ ballot initiative? Was HSUS involved with MFA in the making/releasing of this video?
My questions do not give Gregg a green light to do what he did. We have a rule of law in this country, and he has been charged. It’s time for the police and legal system to work — and get answers and facts.
It’s also time for the rest of agriculture to stop being the silent minority, and to speak out on its own behalf, about how you treat your livestock, which is NOT what is portrayed in the video. There’s no question about that.
* * *
There is no way to talk about the alleged incidents of animal abuse at the Ohio dairy farm without becoming emotional. When I went home from work last week and shared the emerging story to my husband, however, he found a way to put it in perspective in a new way.
Where are the undercover videos, where are all these well-funded activists, he asked, when it comes to children instead of animals?
In March, a 36-year-old Cleveland man was sentenced to eight years in prison for putting his 7-year-old daughter in a clothes dryer and turning it on.
In April, a mother in Stark County became angry when her 15-month-old toddler wouldn’t get off the steps so she grabbed him and threw him to the ground, breaking his leg.
In 2008, state and local child protective services received 3.3 million reports of children being abused or neglected. Nine percent of U.S. children are victims of physical abuse. Nine percent — that’s nearly 1 of every 10 children!
In Ohio alone, there were more than 86,000 reports of child abuse in 2008.
I thought of these thousands of unseen children in the aftermath of a horrific video allegedly filmed undercover at the Conklin Dairy Farm near Plain City, Ohio. People around the world are clamoring for justice, or for retribution.
I’m not trying to downplay the incident. I watched the video once and I will not watch it again. Wanton animal abuse or neglect is inexcusable.
But I also agree with Keith. There are no multimillion dollar-backed undercover investigators, no news conferences, no outraged blog posts or online comments, no protests around homes, in 99% of the child abuse cases. There are just underpaid, overstressed social workers, and a society that cares too little, too late.
We all have a responsibility to work together to prevent child abuse and neglect. Who will speak up for our future?