Animal care: MFA says veganism is answer; farm industry says education

MARYSVILLE, Ohio — Because we don’t know what’s happening on today’s farms, going vegan — the forgoing of meat, eggs and dairy products — is the safest way to ensure animals are being treated humanely and compassionately.

So says the director of investigations for Mercy for Animals — the pro-vegan animal rights organization that released four weeks of undercover video in late May, of apparent, intentional abuse to dairy cattle at a farm in Plain City.

“I personally believe that going vegetarian and avoiding meat, dairy and eggs is one of the most powerful things that we can do when we’re not on the farm, when we don’t see what’s going on, to ensure that we’re not paying people to be cruel to animals,” said Daniel Hauff, during a news conference outside Union County Common Pleas Court on June 10.

“The public needs to see how these animals are treated,” he said, referencing a dozen undercover investigations by MFA in the United States.

On the farm

On the other side of the fence, farmers from across Ohio, veterinarians and the groups representing them say they do know what happens on farms — it’s not anything like what’s being suggested — and they spend each day laboring to do good.

They support showing the public how farm animals are treated, but say it’s not how animal rights activists often imagine.

On the same day MFA directors were holding news conferences in Ohio’s major cities to discuss the footage they had just released, dairy organizations were responding with their own statements — condemning the cruelty, but saying it is not reflective of members’ farms.

“What’s important to know is that the actions shown in the footage absolutely do not reflect how Ohio’s dairy farmers as a whole care for their cows and calves,” stated Jenny Hubble, vice president of communications for Ohio Dairy Producers Association.

“Our farmers have a moral and ethical obligation to provide excellent care of their herds every day, and they do so, because it is the right thing to do and it ensures they can continue to produce safe, wholesome, quality milk and dairy foods.”

ODPA is a member of the Ohio Dairy Industry Forum, the Ohio Livestock Coalition and the Ohio Agricultural Council, as well as an associate member of the National Milk Producers Federation. In one way or another, it represents most of Ohio’s 3,277 dairy farms.

The care board

“These rare but unsettling actions point to the timeliness and value of the new Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board,” stated Ohio Veterinary Medical Association.

“The board’s job of providing a meaningful examination and enforcement of appropriate standards for Ohio’s farm animals will help put an end to the type of egregious activities displayed in the … video.”

Of the dozen investigations MFA has led, at least two were held in California, one that occurred at a poultry farm four weeks before voters made their decision on Proposition 2 — legislation proposed by the Humane Society of The United States.

Deja vu?

Two years later, exactly four weeks before the deadline for Ohio voters decide if they will sign petitions to put a similar measure on their own ballot, MFA released a graphic video of abuse at a dairy farm in central Ohio — where a now-fired employee was seen punching cows and calves, jabbing them a pitchfork and performing other inhumane acts.

Action call

MFA’s call to action was “ditch cruelty, ditch dairy” and go vegan. It also encouraged viewers to sign the Humane Society of the United States’ petition, which must be done before the end of June.

Ohio Farm Bureau Federation — an organization representing more than 230,000 Ohio farmers and nonfarmers, provided its own condemnation of the acts of cruelty, but also made early predictions about how the film is now being used.

“We are also concerned that this incident will be manipulated for political gain by animal rights activists,” stated OFBF in May.

“Any attempt to portray these horrific acts as commonplace on Ohio farms would be deceitful. Farmers take care of their livestock because it’s what decent people do, and because comfortable animals are productive animals. Farmers should not be judged by this aberrant and disgusting event.”

Number of farms

In the United States, there are more than 2.2 million farms, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service — a database compiled by U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are 65,000 dairy farms nationwide.

The dozen farm investigations, which have focussed on different species, represent less than one-tenth of a percent of U.S. dairy farms, although not all investigations were conducted on dairy farms, a factor that would decrease the sample even further.

The big picture

Still, MFA stands behind its investigations, whether it’s in Ohio, California, Maine, or any of the other states they’ve investigated.

Multiple videos and reports have been produced from these 12 investigations, and shown to millions of public viewers.

Hauff said they show how animals are treated “day-in and day-out in animal agribusiness and animal agriculture.”

He asks the public to determine if they want to support modern farm practices. If they do not, then he believes going vegan is the answer.

“We ask people to look at the whole picture,” he said, “and make that determination for themselves.”

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

17 Comments

  1. berlinoh5 says:

    In one of the Columbus newspapers, Wayne Pacelle confirmed Ohioans for Humane Farms has collected more than 450,000 signatures on the animal-care amendment and expects to have an additional 100,000 or more in hand by the filing deadline. Mr. Pacelle said the only reason the petition would not be filed is if HSUS reaches an agreement with state officials and the newly formed Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to enact the proposed reforms without going the route of a constitutional amendment.

  2. Thanks, berlinoh5. We also just verified that information and have uploaded a quick story on the signature gathering efforts here:
    http://www.farmanddairy.com/news/ohioans-for-humane-farms-says-it-has-necessary-signatures-for-ballot/15196.html

  3. AN says:

    Finaly the truth about why MFA plated this employee and then set up an investigation to “catch him” in the act. All so they can pass a bill.

  4. Corvus says:

    Interesting propaganda piece, but you do know that the OWNER of Conklin dairy can ALSO be seen abusing animals in that undercover video right? I wonder where the worker learned it from…

    Funny, if this is not what happens on farms, why is it that every time someone goes undercover, they find horrible mistreatment of animals?

    You can write against it all you want but the video of the owner of Conklin, his workers, and others treacherously abusing animals really speak for themselves.

  5. Chris Kick says:

    Corvus, thank your for your concerns.

    The part of the video apparently showing Mr. Conklin kicking a cow has received a lot of attention. Some say it’s abuse, but others are saying he was trying to get the animal to stand, likely for its own good.

    If a large animal like this does not make every effort to get up, it can cause more physical damage than if it were to be kicked. It appears that once the animal tries to stand, the kicking then ends. So I don’t want to speak for or against it, just what’s being shared.

  6. Corvus says:

    Oh so all of the kicking and abuse is for the cow’s own good?! I see now. Well that says quite a lot about the dairy industry and the conditions cows are kept in does it not? I guess that’s like how farmers tell me they MUST hit and kick the pigs because they’re so darned stubborn they wouldn’t move otherwise! The nerve of those animals! Not wanting to be moved from gestation crate to slaughter!

    The idea that Mr Conklin, this worker, or any farmer cares more about these animals than their profits and image is laughable.

  7. FED-UP &PO'd farmer says:

    Corvus-you are truely EXTREMELY IGNORANT about cattle!!! NO ONE can say what truely went on, but I am certain that there was a reason the “camera man” didnt show the entire episode-that being that the farmer tried to get the cow up gently, and since the cow didnt get up,he HAD to resort to more aggressive ways. THIS IS NOT ABUSE-BUT FOR THE COWS BEST INTEREST!!! I have seen vets resort to much more aggressive techniques such as shocking to get cattle up-if they dont get up they are at risk of developing many more problems that would end up disastrous for the cows’ well being-even DEATH!! You and everyone else that thinks that the farmers think more of their profits are purely STUPID!!! The cow IS the income, and she was treated aggressively to keep her alive and well- NOT to “abuse “her..You idiots need to stop thinking that you know more about animals than us farmers..I am certain that the Conklins know more about cattle than all of you animal rights morons put together will ever know.

  8. MSouza says:

    You people make the supposition that all the people in animal agriculture are mistreating their animals. It might be a good idea to visit some farms to see how well are animals are treated. Are you aware that the world population will double by 2050. As you try to destroy animal agriculture we will have an extreme shortage of food. People in the USA will be dependent on other countries like they are for oil. A quote from Bill Gates, Sr. a country that improves there food production always becomes enriched and their society tends to improve economically. As agriculture is demonized this will be detrimental to our food supply.

  9. Corvus says:

    Since folks continue to defend what was in this video and the people in it as “helping” the animals, I think it’s pretty fair to assume that people in animal agriculture harm animals.

    I’ve seen people make animals move on sanctuaries and it is not like they make them move on Conklin or as was described by fed-up&p’oed. Shock is used too? How nice!

    So again, thanks for reminding me that all animal farming is abuse. I need that once in a while.

  10. Corvus says:

    Msouza, since you’re worried about the food shortage, we can easily take the massive amount of land, food, and water that goes to raising a pound or two of beef and use it to feed everyone. Most of the food in the world goes to feeding livestock.

  11. mary gibson says:

    I do wish Susan had chosen a more compassionate writer to do this article. There is no defense, in my opinion to abusing animals. It is a known fact that animal abuse results in child abuse, I would suggest you read more on this issue.

    Again we read the number of farms, in my opinion, inflated, and membership of the agricultural community, down from the 250,000. of a few years ago, which was not a truthful statement. I would suggest a better figure would be about 37,000. farmers and the remainder to be insurance members who join to get the price of their insurance reduced. If they really researched this abatement they might find it is not such a bargain.

    A little honesty on this issue would go a long way. My grandparents were farmers but I know they would roll over in their graves if they saw industrial farms and how the animals are kept.

    Ohio can and should do better. Subsidize small and medium sized farms, create a two tier system of animal industry, those requiring permits to be called commercial as they are in most other states, these having no zoning abatements, paying their fair share of taxes and having the owner living on them so he can enjoy the same environment foisted on the neighbors.

    It would be a solution to the problem and add to this picture honesty which seems to be absent from all the rhetoric.

  12. Nicole says:

    I am a farmer and come from a long line of farmers. In my short life there are many times where I have been criticized as soon as the words farming come out of my mouth because of the poor situations which have occurred in the agriculture industry. I nor anyone in my family condone any matters of animal abuse and would never attempt to consider any excuses for what has been publicized. Nor would I or any of my family make swift judgment for those that do not feel strong about the agriculture industry. There are wrongs on both sides of the industry, those in favor and those not, but it is the way these matters are resolved and justice is obtained that must be evident. We all have choices but we spend more time criticizing other people’s choices than actually making an effort to make a difference. To each his own. My family and I are very proud that we educate ourselves in order to qualify for a high standard product that helps feed America. Please don’t label us. Thank you all for taking the time to read my comment. God Bless

  13. Garry F says:

    I’ve seen “industrial” agriculture and it is not pretty. It is not surprising livestock start getting treated like “pieces of equipment”. My experience is people in those industries get treated the same. I also know of good dairy farms who are getting squeezed by the companies (aka Monsanto and large food processors etc.), and selling their farms is more profitable than producing. I think we all have to take a hard look at how we are living our lives. Telling others to avoid beef/dairy/poultry products just avoids dealing with the problem. I think all professions/industries have their set of problems and effects those on the outside (so telling those on the outside to keep quiet again just avoids the problems (denial) and allows to continue.
    I eat cheese, beef and dairy (and thank you to those who produce it!), and will continue to do so….I am more careful from whom I purchase these products from now (especially since the processing plant hamburger problems of the mid-1990).
    Hopefully we can all work of this together instead of resorting to extremes.

  14. okiestorm1 says:

    Iam so tired of certain people saying all farmers and randhers abuse thier animals. I have cows,horses,goats,and chickens I take very good care of my animals, they have shelter they eat before I do and they have a large pasture with lost of room to run and grass to eat. My animals are very gentle they loved to be acratched and brushed. I brought them with me from Oklahoma when we moved up here in Aug. I kind of regret it now, the way some of you are talking about farmers and ranchers just because one person is inhumain to an animal and in my opinion should be beat with a pipe then thrown under the jail dose not mean we all hurt our animals. I can tell you this It will be a cold day in hell before any won takes my babies from me, or tells me how to raise them. I do not condone abuse but sometimes to get a down animal up on its feet again you need to be agressive, Ive seen the vets hang a cow upside downbefore because she foe some reason went paralized in the backend,she hung there for about 2 hours and it worked she started moving and could walk again. Ive used a hotshot to get a cow up so ahe wouldn’t get ranover by the others when loading.You say cruel I say saving a life.

  15. Corvus says:

    So, humane farmers, what’s the slaughter process like? What happens when the dairy calves are born male? Eh?

    If slaughtering and beating animals is humane than I need a new dictionary.

  16. okiestorm1 says:

    No one said beating any animal is humane, most dairy calves that are born male are sold and raised as steers, I know I just bought 3 of them 2 months ago just got them off the bottle, they are helping fertalize my grass pasture lol. They are still bulls but will be cut soon, and when big enough be sold probally for meat, that is thier life always has been always will be. If we never killed cattle for meat or cut bull calves nature would take its course and we would be over populated with cattle they would not stop breeding, we dont force our animals to reproduce but we can control it. In the Bible calves and goats were sacrificed, the rest used for milk and food were they inhuman also. There is a difference between useing force to get a down animal off the ground and beating one just like theres a difference between spanking a child and beating one, there is no reason to beat any living creature.

  17. ohiofarmer says:

    Dear Corvus
    I would just like to ask how exactly you would do it different. If we all stopped eating meat and went vegan what would happen. Do you know how many unwanted animals there are in this country? How many more would we have if we went “vegan”. What would happen to the millions of unwanted cattle, sheep, goats and chickens?
    Would it be better to just euthanize all livestock? A livestock free world. The problem with most people opinions is they are totally one sided. The truth is this country will never adopt a vegetarian lifestyle.
    The problem with agriculture is the corporations did what the consumer wanted provided cheaper food. People want $.99 hamburgers and the industry will not change. Just like our jobs are going to other countries because we want cheaper cloths and more convenient shopping? Millions of Asians are abused in the clothing industry. Will you stop wearing clothes? Let’s hope not. Instead of trying to convince people to stop eating meat. Help to educate them about abuses in agriculture. And buy from more reputable suppliers. Better food is available if we are willing to pay a little more.
    Lastly I would like to say we have animals of all kinds on our farm and love everyone. They eat before I do and chores are done before I rest. They count on us for it. I know that you cannot beat a profit out of anything and if you abuse animals they will be sick and not do their best. The way a well cared for animal does.
    And, I was just wondering about the abuse video, they went undercover for weeks and allowed this abuse to continue. If I had been there it would have stopped immediately. But I guess they needed more proof so we could see what “Ohio Dairy Farms” are like. I feel the person who filmed of this video is just as responsible for any injury or death that may have occurred during the “investigation”(witch hunt).
    I could go on all day. Animal rights people, farmers love animals too. (That’s why most of us got into it) So please educate yourselves and stop the hate. It’s easy to point your finger and complain. Help make a change. Stop shopping Wal-Mart.

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