WOOSTER, Ohio — Dairy farmers across the state are quickly condemning what could be one of the most graphic and severe cases of animal cruelty to ever be documented on film.
An undercover video shot by the animal welfare group Mercy For Animals was released to media just days ago, showing dairy cows being struck over the head with a crowbar, some being poked with a pitch fork and calves held to the ground and punched.
The Ohio Dairy Producers Association — an associate member of National Milk Producer’s Federation, expressed frustration and outrage to the actions.
“As representatives of Ohio’s dairy farm community, we take this situation very seriously, and we absolutely condemn the mistreatment of animals that took place on this farm,” said Jenny Hubble, vice president of communications. “We support a thorough and swift investigation of this matter with appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken.”
The alleged abuse was recorded at Conklin Dairy Farms Inc, from Plain City.
It is unclear what disciplinary action the farm or its worker who performed the abuse may face. A phone call was made to Gary Conklin’s home Wednesday morning, with no answer and no answering service.
However, a statement from the farm was released to media late Tuesday night.
As reported by the Associated Press, Conklin Dairy Farms is a fourth-generation family operation and takes the care of its cows and calves very seriously.
“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,” Gary Conklin, of Conklin Dairy Cattle Sales LLC, said Tuesday night in an e-mailed statement. “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 the cows or calves would be fired.
“That is not a representation of the industry,” said Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s Mike Bumgarner, who called the actions “deplorable” and said “we’re disgusted with the video and condemn the actions that are in there.”
MFA goes public
But a growing concern is why Mercy For Animals waited nearly a month to release its findings. The organization held news releases Wednesday in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton.
Nathan Runkle, who founded MFA in 1999, said information was withheld for several reasons. For one, there were reports the employees at the farm owned firearms and felt intimidated.
Additionally, Runkle said MFA was not sure how local law inforcement would receive their investigation, and whether its disclosure would bring the investigation to a halt.
“Not knowing who was in law enforcement, not knowing the situation in Union County,” MFA kept quiet, he said.
Runkle said MFA spent four weeks investigating the farm, “enough time to document the cruelty and that it was an ongoing pattern of abuse, and that the owner had knowledge.”
Farm and Dairy has not yet reached the owner of the farm, but no record has been provided that he knew of the abuse. Some news reports are now reporting he fired one employee this morning.
Standards in Ohio
Bumgarner indicated he was not familiar with MFA’s timeline, but addressed the matter of making reports in an “immediate” manner.
“Abuses to animals should not be tolerated and should be reported immediately,” he said. “To sit back and wait trying to promote another agenda, I guess I have a hard time trying to understand the mindset.”
The video was released at a time when Ohio is forming standards for livestock care and treatment. The newly created Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board held a public comment session in Guernsey County, the same night this video hit media.
MFA’s solution — revealed at the end of their undercover video — is to “ditch dairy” and adopt a vegan diet.
Bumgarner’s solution is for justice to be served to the man committing the abuse.
“(He’s) an individual who should be dealt with, and likely will be dealt with, with the animal cruelty laws we have on the books,” Bumgarner said.