Animal abuser, animal rights activist fooled dairy farmer with seemingly good backgrounds

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For coverage of the grand jury’s decision, see Conklin Dairy Farms: No additional charges.

PLAIN CITY, Ohio — When Union County dairy farmer Gary Conklin hired the now-fired animal abuser Billy Joe Gregg Jr., and undercover animal rights filmmaker Jason Smith, he did so thinking he was getting two men with good dairy experience.

It’s what their resumes and applications indicated. Gregg had reportedly worked on his family’s dairy in Michigan and had been honorably discharged from the military. Smith had worked on his family’s dairy in Texas and had worked for a painter.

Showed experience

Their records indicated they were experienced for the job, and they appeared that way, until late May when Conklin saw an undercover video on the Internet program YouTube, depicting Gregg purposefully abusing animals with pitchforks and metal bars, and Smith filming the actions as they took place.

“From a credential standpoint he (Gregg) appeared good,” Conklin told Farm and Dairy. “We had absolutely no idea anything was going on like what was seen in the video.”

Gregg began working for the farm in November and Smith started in April. Both workers typically completed an afternoon shift, Conklin said, when other workers were not around.

As a cattle broker, Conklin said it’s the nature of his work to be off the farm much of the day, which is partly the reason he did not observe the abuse.

MFA testimony

Smith reportedly told law enforcement that he did not witness any abuse by Conklin, and that Conklin did not know of the abuse by Gregg.

It was the intent of Mercy for Animals — the pro-vegan organization that produced the film — to prove that the farm owner knew what was happening and allowed it to continue.

“What we need to determine was not only that the cruelty was ongoing and outstanding, but we needed to verify for law enforcement, who knew about it, who was involved in it, how much the owner (Conklin) knew, if he was involved — that’s the reason the investigation went on so that we could provide everything,” said MFA Director of Investigations, Daniel Hauff, the day Gregg was arraigned.

Charge the activists?

Union County Prosecuting Attorney David Phillips said the grand jury also considered charges against MFA and Smith, whose videotaping of the abuse spanned about a four-week period. Smith told deputies he also had kicked animals and poked them with a pitchfork.

“He (Smith) claimed he did so to maintain his cover, and said he didn’t use his full strength,” Phillips said in a released statement. “The investigator told me that MFA was aware of the abuse, since he reported to them on a daily (basis). MFA allowed the abuse to continue, unreported, and the animals to suffer at the hands of Billy Joe Gregg.”

MFA responded with its own statement, saying “this case graphically illustrates that animal agriculture in Ohio is incapable of self-regulation, and that stronger state and federal laws are urgently needed to detect and deter future abuse.”

Phillips said it was wrong not to call law enforcement immediately.

“As soon as the investigator and MFA became aware of Gregg’s actions, someone should have notified law enforcement or the humane society,” he said. “Had they done so, much of the abuse at the hands of Billy Joe Gregg shown on the video never would have happened, and the animals would have been spared.”

No charges

Ultimately, the grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to proceed against MFA.

Future plans. Conklin said he plans to increase the scrutiny of applications before hiring again, and said he’s also working on ways to increase the monitoring of employees and provide a standard method to report any abuse that is seen, immediately.

Still, he can’t help but question all that has happened, and its timing.

“Was he there protecting us (and the animals) or was it more about getting horrific video because they had a petition signature drive going on?”

It’s a question he said he can’t answer, but one that should be answered by each person.

“I think its incumbent upon the people of Ohio to draw their own conclusion,” he said.

Clear focus

Right now, Conklin’s focus is on his business — now in its fourth-generation — and keeping up the work he believes in.

“We’re just focussed on our safety and the well-being of our cows and getting our business back on track,” he said.

He expressed his thanks for the support of local law enforcement and the sheriff’s department, the prosecutor and members of the grand jury, as well as the community and dairy industry, for their support in upholding the law and his farm.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

26 Comments

  1. Mike A. says:

    “Ultimately, the grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to proceed against MFA.” I guess the hypocrisy only goes so far. I’m not a dairy farm owner, however I have managed to raom this earth for 51 years without getting hit by a bus. If I did own a dairy farm it would be my business to check on my animals firsthand and I find it a little suspect that “Mr. Innocent” would fail to notice the OBVIOUS EVIDENCE that would be left on the faces of animals suffering such horrific abuse. This fact alone tells me and most other concerned folks what kind of a person Mr. Conklin is. he’s obviously NOT the innocent, concerned dairy farm owner he pretends to be – that much is obvious.

    • mic jordan says:

      Agreed. Conklin had to know. There were several who did this on the video. Billy Joe Gregg was in the US Army in Iraq and was taught by our government to be crazy on command. This is why our soldiers must never be allowed to return to the US. They have been psyoped into insanity. The first thing they do is get a job with a police department when they return so they can carry a gun and beat people up.

  2. larry says:

    Here’s a good video on animal rights: http://meat.org

  3. mary Gibson says:

    It is sad that Chris does not equate the problems our small and medium sized farmers are having with the onset of the industrialization of the livestock industry.

    For years Farm Bureau has called the shots on this issue but in my opinion, those days are over. Perhaps it is time to put the farmer back into farming as he has always been a good neighbor, not so the industrial farms in Ohio.

    I am sure Chris will have a big job with Farm Bureau if he continues to have tunnel vision.

  4. Chris Kick says:

    Mr. Conklin said he plans to increase the monitoring of employees and is working on ways to do that.

    I visited a dairy farm this spring where the farmer uses a computer monitor to watch what happens in the parlor.

    Some farmers like Conklin are also implementing a standard method of reporting abuse, which holds the employees accountable for doing so.

    These measures seem to have many positives, although it is doubtful 100 percent monitoring can ever be obtained.

  5. Linda says:

    Gee Mike A. I think the hypocrisy is that an ‘animal rights’ group would knowingly allow animals to be abused by their own ‘plant’ and to allow that abuse to go on for weeks before reporting it to anyone! Shame on you!

  6. Mary says:

    Mike, if you look closely at those videos, you will see that no bloody sores were left on the animals, no broken bones. So the abuse would NOT have been visible to Conklin. We have heard enough proof about ‘staged’ videos, and the timing for this one was highly suspect. I do wish both Gregg and Smith had been charged with animal abuse, because that is exactly what THEY did, not Conklin. How can anyone not get the true picture of what happened here? Two animal abusers walked away from this. Is that justice? I think surveillance equipment is a good idea. Farmers need them to protect themselves from such staged events. Sad that the animal rights extremists will abuse and allow abuse of animals for an entire month. How dare they say they are helping animals!

  7. Zeke says:

    Smith and Gregg should be in jail and MFA should be bankrupt. The animal rights movement is dishonest and pathological.

  8. Tom says:

    Pictures of both perpetrators need to be passed around.

    We need to take back everything that these animal abusers (Mercy for Animals and other animal activists) have taken from us. They are very dangerous to the existence of humans and animals and we’ve only seen the beginning. Strickland and the Farm Bureau simply gave away the store for this.

  9. Farmer says:

    Unfortunately the video is what is remembered in all of this, especially to all the animal rights people who have never seen a farm and only know what they have learned from verbage of the animal rights movement. It is a way to gain sympathy for this social movement. HSUS, PETA and now Mercy for Animals use sensationalism to sway the public. Think of all those walled eyed puppies, shoulders slouching, hunkered down! Makes me want to take out my wallet and send some money, but I know their end result is no more animals for pets or food or any other “use” – that stops me and should stop you. Animal rights activist want you to believe that what was filmed happens every day on a farm and only farmers know that is not true. But it is the pictures which stay in the minds of the unknowing public and am not so sure that the Animal Terriorism Act does not need some tweeking for the tresspassers. It is a form of terriorism!

  10. ohiofarmer says:

    Anyone who wants to stop animal abuse in agriculture needs to go after the source. Corprate America! Small farms are not treating their animals badly, because it is hard enough to make a dollar in this business. But the corperations got ahold of farming and know animals are treated like machines, pushed harder for bigger profits. Animal abuse should make us all sick. But we can do more than just complian or be vegatarian. Boycott stores and suppliers who are selling this cheap meat and dairy. Yet most peoples convictions stop at their wallet. Americans want it cheap. So abuse continues. Stop buying wall-mart.

    • Karen says:

      I agree with you ohiofarmer, the indignation does stop at the wallets of allot of people. You do get what you pay for, unfortunately, these poor animals on the factory farms suffer & the small farmers take the rap.
      These activists are as much to blame for their dirty tactics.

  11. billybob says:

    “ohiofarmer”- you’re only fooling yourself. Corporate ownership? Conklin farms is family owned, like 99% of all agriculture. You’re not a farmer, just a cool-aid drinking idiot. You’re only fooling your AR friends.

  12. Nancy says:

    I have to wonder if Gregg and Smith BOTH work for MFA. The fact that their ‘farm experience’ described on their employment applications sounds identical and if you watch the video closely, much of the time Gregg appears to be looking into the camera as he blatantly brags about the abuses as he’s doing them and also about others he says he has done.
    As someone else mentioned, I also didn’t see any marks from the pitchfork poking. If he was jabbing the cows as hard as it appeared he was, he should have been drawing blood. I’m betting much of what’s on that video was staged by both parties.
    MFA works in conjunction with HSUS who needed a little push for those petition signatures. I believe it’s all tied in togehter with the sudden capitulation by Strickland and the FB rep who made the recent “compromise” with HSUS without any input from Ohio farmers.
    Does it make anyone else go hmmmmmm?

  13. Max says:

    Why in the world would someone like Billy Joe Gregg Jr. be working for Mercy for Animals? Do you seriously think he would set himself up for all the hatred that video has generated?
    He not only is in trouble with the law but his life is a mess and he will always be looking over his shoulder wondering if an animal rights person is coming after him.
    That video was not staged by Smith and Gregg, I’m sure of it.
    I also still wonder how Gary Conklin or some of his family members were so oblivious to the sadistic treatment going on in their barn.
    At one point in the video Billy Joe says that a cow wouldn’t go into the parlor and they beat her in the head so bad that it was swollen up terribly the next day. He states that Gary said she had mastitis and was going to slaughter anyway. Does that sound like a farmer who doesn’t know what is going on with his cows? Didn’t Gary wonder how one of his cows could possibly end up with a face as big as a watermelon?
    Animal abuse should not be tolerated by anyone. The Dairy industry, like the beef industry, protects its own and won’t admit to the cruelty that is done to living things that cannot speak for themselves.

  14. TexasLady2 says:

    If it wasn’t set up by Clegg and Smith, why is Clegg wearing the same clean shirt throughout the entire video?

    Why does the camera man not stop the abuse? If MFA cares about animals so much, why would they, having a report daily on the things happening, why wouldn’t they stop the abuse? Why wouldn’t they report it to Conklin?

    To me, this looks like a one day setup incident.

  15. Tom says:

    The state of Ohio and the Farm Bureau are capable of launching in-depth investigations of these people. I think that there is an attempt at a whitewash going on here and that Strickland needs to be investigated. He might be another Blageovich. Ohio, Illinois, what’s the difference? Now they’re both run by greasy mobsters in cheap suits.

  16. K9Psych says:

    Texas Lady, Get a grip on reality. Undercover investigators are UNDERCOVER for a reason. They can’t just wave a white flag in the middle of the investigation and call, “Time out!” Undercover investigators some times take a year or more to come forward, because the point of their investigation is to stay UNDERCOVER, until they have gathered sufficient evidence to satisfy judges and juries. Look at the backlash MFA got simply from exposing the evil taking place on Conklin’s farm, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE OWNER! They are up against a farming community who will stick up for their own regardless of what they have done. They, too, often value the lives of animals less than the lives of the humans who use and abuse them. In the face of that kind of adversity (and lack of ethics), OF COURSE MFA had to stay UNDERCOVER in the face of the abuse.

  17. K9Psych says:

    Thank you, Max, for adding some intelligent and meaningful dialogue to this discussion.

  18. LCampbell says:

    Of course K9Psych, we all know it perfectly fine for AR’s to abuse animals because it’s in the ultimate name of “Humane Rights”. It’s okay for PETA to kill over 2300 dogs each year even though their Tax form say they made over 3 billion dollars and the local shelter managed to adopt out nearly every dog taken in. It’s okay for HSUS to pay for lawyers for eco-terrorists that bomb buildings and kill people and animals because it’s all in the name of “Humane Rights”.

    What this state needs is legislation to punish ANYONE that is abusing animals and not let Dictatorships like HSUS/PETA and their eco-terrorist sub-groups slide by because they had to keep their cover.

    It amazes me how tunnel vision people are to donate money to these organizations with leadership that is a few fries short of a kid’s meal. Geez, Ingrid Newkirk wants her body made into a hang bag and boots and her liver made into pate. Wayne Pacelle thinks all domestic animals should be wiped off the face of the earth because man created them, not god. And let’s not forget my favorite quote, the Bible was written by Atheists and no one in the Bible ever ate meat or harmed an animal. And don’t spout your rhetoric about these statements being taken out of context. They said it.

    Then of course you have Mary Shaver-OConnor leading the Dog Auction ban. Let’s not forget her, calls the police on people at an open town hall meeting that did nothing wrong. Lied to the police and her own group keyed their own cars and blamed it on the animal owners. Calls for a ban on Holmes county businesses then boo hoos when no business will let her solicit signatures at their location. Talk about needing therapy.

    I’ve got news for you vegans. If you put an end to the meat/milk/egg producers in this state, the cost of everything else will go up. Oh but I need not worry about that should I, you all can afford that seeing how you drive around in BMW’s and all. I keep forgetting how only the wealthy support no animal abuse, all us hard working people in the middle class are just dumb animal abusers, polluting the environment and infecting humans with E. Coli from our CAFO’s. By your standards we should be dragged through town in shackles and a noose.

    It’s a shame that most AR’s/Vegans act like Dictator’s thinking their beliefs are the only ones that society should follow. Animal abuse should be punished, I couldn’t agree more on that subject but don’t go around saying all animal owners are abusers because that is a lie. All Amish are not puppy mills, all large scale breeders are not puppy mills. All farmers are not abusers or polluting the environment. Just because I like to eat meat, doesn’t make it alright for you to attack my way of life. Mr. Conklin was setup, as with most of MFA’s victims and the media spreads the lie like a plague. Mr. Conklin was cleared of any wrong doing and it’s a shame he got a target painted on his back because he hired someone that needed a job only to find out it was the enemy. So, get all the farmers, animal owners, auctions, dog breeders out of business. Lets continue to add to the unemployment rate and drive the cost of everything up in the state. Maybe if you work hard enough, you can get everyone to leave the state and have it all to yourselves. It’ll be just you, Strickland, Mary Shaver-OConnor, Ohioans for Humane Farms and MFA.

    • Alicia says:

      LCampbell, K9Psych never said that it was OK to kill animals so stop putting words in her mouth.We do need to have tougher laws for animal abusers like you said but PETA and HSUS are nothing alike.And Wayne Pacelle never said anything about having all animals wiped off the face of the earth because they were not created by god.And the bible wasn’t written by athiests it was written by a group of bishops.So please learn history and facts before commenting.

  19. berlinoh5 says:

    One additional point LCampbell – the boycott of Holmes county businesses was not about the group who wants to ban dog auctions not given permission to solicit signatures. I spoke with several employees of the businesses which were referenced in the online petition available on the group’s website. Both employees confirmed that the owners did not extend permission because they were afraid of the repercussions from residents in Holmes county (mainly, the amish commercial dog breeders) who do not support the ban on dog auctions. One of the employees even referenced the term “Amish Mafia” when describing how she was concerned that her home might be vandalized.

  20. LCampbell says:

    That may be true, I know the 3 business owners I talked to said they would not allow them in their establishment because those in support of the dog ban had called for a ban on any business in Holmes County.

    As far as an “Amish Mafia”, I personally believe that as much as I believe that Wayne Pacelle and Ingrid Newkirk actually care about saving animals’ lives.

  21. okiestorm1 says:

    Amish Mafia, are you kidding me! What would the Amish do to any one, throw an egg maybe,get real Berlinoh5.

  22. We certainly need to think even more in that way and find out what i can do about that.

  23. okiestorm1 says:

    IOWA has just pasd a law,it is illegal to LIE to get onto a place to video animal cruelty,,I would like OHIO to pass this same law.

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