Farmer beware, some things to consider when hiring farm workers

Check below for a hiring checklist from various organizations.

WOOSTER, Ohio — Hiring new employees can be a tedious process, no matter what kind of business you operate. You want people who will work hard, do the job right, be honest and represent your operation in a good way.

For livestock farmers, hiring has become increasingly complicated as they must consider whether an applicant is actually an undercover animal rights activist, destined to put them out of business.

All are vulnerable

Hiring an activist can spell disaster for your farm, as two Ohio operations found out this year. And it can happen at any farm, in any county.

“The activist tactic of obtaining illicit employment at a farm or processing plant in order to obtain video intended to malign the reputation of farmers and ranchers is becoming increasingly common,” reports Animal Agriculture Alliance — an advocacy group comprised of farmers and farm businesses.

“While animal abuse in any shape or form is never condoned by the agriculture industry, activists use highly edited images of violence and neglect to prey on the emotions of the public.”

Fighting back

But farmers have tools to help them avoid hiring someone who is opposed to what they do.

Organizations like Animal Agriculture Alliance, and Ohio Livestock Coalition, have compiled extensive checkpoints and measures all farmers should consider before, during and after their interview with an applicant. No list will fool-proof a farm, but each point could help.

Some of the advice is common sense — check all references, pay attention to how the employee looks and acts.

Enforcing care

One of the most important steps is to require new employees to sign a strict animal care agreement, said Sarah Hubbart, communications coordinator for Animal Ag Alliance.

Not only does this help ensure care for the animals, it also ensures a timeline for employees to report any issues, a designated person to whom they should report, and a designated method.

F237A,Hubbart said one of the problems of not enforcing a timeline is that some animal rights groups delay reporting the mistreatment, sometimes for months.

“We’ve seen that these videos (produced) sometimes weeks and months before they’re released,” she said.

In Ohio, the group Mercy For Animals recorded video of dairy cattle being struck with metal bars and poked with a pitchfork at Conklin Dairy Farms in April and May, but did not report it until four weeks later.

MFA also sent an undercover filmer to Buckeye Veal in Wayne County in April and recorded what it called cruelty to calves. That footage was not released until September.

Animal Ag Alliance reports some farms also are becoming destinations for acts of terror. Producers, processors, feed companies, suppliers and others have become targets for vandalism, explosive devices and Internet security breaches.

“In the past few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in activity by Animal Liberation Front and the Environmental Liberation Front — both classified by the FBI as domestic terrorist organizations,” the organization reports.

Here are some of the most important considerations before, during and after hiring a farm worker. These measures protect the welfare of the animals, and the people who work on the farm:

• Ensure top quality animal care is provided at all times. Farmers should take extra precautions to prevent getting targeted by animal rights groups by ensuring a specific animal care standard is in place, including acceptable ways of reporting misconduct, and a time frame for making reports. Consider having your policy reviewed by an attorney, and require each employee to sign it.

• Contact all references, and any other background information. If you feel suspicious about an employee or a job applicant, there’s probably a reason.

• Network with other livestock producers and supply companies. Ask what kinds of issues they’ve experienced and share your own. Animal Ag Alliance has pictures of undercover activists on its website. Study these, hang them in your place of employment and share them with fellow farmers.

• Establish a relationship with local law enforcement. Assure them you want to do things right, but are concerned about illegal activity and anything that could put you, your farm or your animals at risk. Unauthorized farm visitors can cause biosecurity concerns for your operation.

• Evaluate every request for information about your operation, even the most routine. Don’t fall prey to false praise and never agree to a suspicious request until you have verified the validity of the request. Whenever possible, require requests for sensitive information or tours be in writing.

Here are some things that should cause concern when hiring, and with farm visitors:

• Unusual behavior by new employees or workers who have no reason to be in the facility past their hourly shift. Pay attention to workers who keep odd hours, who access files and information outside their area of responsibility, or ask questions about sensitive information.

• Workers who resist following your policies or who have issues with unannounced property checks while at work.

• Increased interest in on-farm tours, calls and letters questioning or criticizing your business or practices.

• Applicants who want to work for little or no pay, so they allegedly can gain experience.

• Employees who volunteer for jobs below their ability level, but would provide them more access to the animals. Volunteering for jobs before or after normal business hours.

• Befriending or mingling with upper management, and asking questions about security or time schedules.

• Any mismatches in information, including use of an out-of-state driver’s license.

For more information on forming and enforcing an animal care policy specific to your farm, and for safeguarding your operation from invasive animal rights activists, visit:

www.animalagalliance.org/current/index.cfm, or
www.ohiolivestock.org/

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

16 Comments

  1. Speaking of “highly edited footage” – What on earth are these babies doing away from their mothers??? And why are they housed in “igloos”?

    “Buckeye Veal in Wayne County in April and recorded what it called cruelty to calves.” Any decent person would KNOW it was “cruelty”… What on earth do you people call cruel anyway?

    Never mind… I forgot – You steal babies – Anything goes.

    We can thrive on a plant based diet. Want to change the world for better? Go Vegan.

  2. Kathy says:

    Obviously you know nothing about farming or farm animals, why on earth are you even reading or posting on this site except to harass good hard working people. Oh and while a human might survive years on a plant based diet they do not thrive, 3 out of every 4 vegans return to meat for health reasons.
    Since you are so interested in finding websites out of your realm, you might also look up
    http://www.westonaprice.org/ and learn about the importance of healthy meat, fat, dairy and eggs in the human diet.

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

    Just wondering why the other comment was earased…I am hoping the person who wrote it deleted it…It would be a extremely pathetic if the editor erased it and left the nasty, obsurd, hatelful and attacking first comment above-what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

  4. Janet Weeks says:

    This is great information. Thanks! I’ll pass it on to all potential undercover investigators of animal cruelty and friends in the animal-rights community know so they’ll know what NOT to do or say when they interview for factory farming jobs.

    Did it never occur to anyone that perhaps there would be no need for undercover cruelty investigations if you were not so cruel to animals? Stop the cruelty–Stop factory farming. That’s the BEST and ONLY way to end undercover investigations.

  5. Rachel says:

    People in the meat/dairy industries do not seem to understand that it’s not just the vegans or animal rights activists that are against meat/dairy consumption–you need to look also at organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the United Nations health/environmental organizations.

    Do you really want to know the truth about what health professionals are advising their patients regarding dairy/milk? If so, watch the video: “Milk Is Poison: That’s Why I Don’t Drink It” The doctor talks about the dangers of consuming milk and the myths and untruths foisted on the public by the dairy industry: “MESSAGE TO MY PATIENTS” Robert M. Kradjian, MD Breast Surgery Chief Division of General Surgery, Seton Medical Centre #302 – 1800 Sullivan Ave. Daly City, CA 94015 USA

    ——————-

    Even if all the animal rights activists stopped their activities, people will be moving away from meat and dairy for their own health—instead of fighting it, why not try to get involved in some other type of farming, something that will be viable and profitable down the road….people are getting tired of bypass surgeries, strokes, and stent implants—-seriously, start looking at the research.

    First, the American Cancer Society warned us about the dangers of smoking–and to this day, many still argue for their right to smoke–so be it, it’s their lung cancer; now, The American Cancer Society just released the conclusions of their study spanning the years of 1980-2006, finding higher numbers of deaths from ALL causes among meat/dairy eaters–just like the hold-out smokers, I’m sure many will hang onto that steak and that glass of milk, right up to their heart attack or stroke, or even longer if it doesn’t kill them the first time.

    Dr. C. Joseph Bennett, American Cancer Society, summarizes this study in this newspaper article:
    http://www.chronicleonline.com/cgi-bin/c2.cgi?071+article+Health+20100913155146071071007
    ————
    Former President Bill Clinton tells the world why he switched to an almost totally vegan diet–said he sometimes has a small amount of fish–he did it to reverse his heart disease–had a stent implanted and said, “I didn’t want to go through that again.”

    Here’s the CNN video:
    CNN video interviewing doctors about Clinton’s new mostly vegan diet, his decision “to remove completely the food which causes devastation and injury to the inner lining of your arteries.” One doctor says that getting bypasses and stents is, “like mopping up the floor around the kitchen sink without turning off the fa…ucet.” We have an epidemic of heart disease in this country, and the doctors agree that the most important thing we can do to reverse this is to change our diet to plant based…one doctor’s father had his first heart attack at 43, and that doctor has been on a plant-based diet for the last 26 years.
    http://www.vegsource.com/news/2010/09/cnn-interviews-caldwell-esselstyn-md-dean-ornish-md-about-bill-clintons-plant-based-diet.html

    ———-
    The United Nations has urged a move to meat and dairy free diets: “UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diets:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet

    —————-
    Harvard study:
    “Younger women who regularly eat red meat appear to face an increased risk for a common form of breast cancer, according to a large, well-known Harvard study of women’s health.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/13/AR2006111300824.htmlBreast Cancer Risk Linked To Red Meat, Study Finds – washingtonpost.com
    http://www.washingtonpost.com
    ———–

  6. Rachel says:

    By the way, Weston A. Price was a quack dentist and the foundation is full of misinformation and myth…you might want to take a look at this video to see more about what Weston Price is all about.

    http://produceworks.com/defeat-disease-with-plant-based-phyto-nutrients-nutrient-dense-lifestyle/q-a-with-t-colin-campbell-debunks-weston-price-foundation-criticism/

  7. Gary says:

    Animal rights activists by themselves can’t put a factory farm, hatchery, or slaughterhouse out of business. But the public and government officials can, when they see how horribly the animals are treated. The animal agriculture industry is saying, in effect, “We want to inflict our cruelty in secret so we can continue to profit from it.” And that’s sick.

  8. Dan Williams says:

    Well, I’m glad the animal abusers are feeling threatened. It’s only a matter of time before you’re all out of business. Better switch from livestock to crops. You can abuse the soybeans to your heart’s content!

  9. okiestorm1 says:

    You people talk like everyone that has animals abuse them, that is not true.Livestock animals can be pets also. When the so called world goes vegan as you suggest what do you thank we should do with all the animals just let them run wild. I can’t wait till you meet a 2 thousand pound bull in your front yard, or a momma cow with a newborn calf, see if she lets you out your front door.My cows and bull are gentle I raised them from babbies,bottlr feed them and took care of them, but Ive seen some that are not nice at all.Most of them will endup starving to death anyway cause you vegans have used up all the pasture land for your veggies and destroyed the grass and any chance of hay crops.I don’t condone animal abuse, I would love to take in every animal that has ever been abused but that is not realistic on my part.Some of my post have been removed from here and this one probally will be also but I got it off my chest.You people need to get real and really thank thangs through before you start yelling to the world to go vegan.Slaughter houses need to be regulated with one animal abuse charge and thier gone,it can be done.

  10. Joel Streckson says:

    Here’s an idea for farmers concerned about animal activists: Why not treat animals better in the first place so there’s no need for undercover operations to expose all the cruelty that takes places on your farm.

  11. FALSE: “In Ohio, the group Mercy For Animals recorded video of dairy cattle being struck with metal bars and poked with a pitchfork at Conklin Dairy Farms in April and May, but did not report it until four weeks later.” Unedited undercover footage shows MFA’s investigator reported cruelty at the farm and documented the other employees there abusing animals and some even bragging about their own abuse. This unedited footage is in the hands of law enforcement. Fact remains, without MFA’s investigation, Gregg would likely still be at Conklin Dairy Farms abusing animals. The dairy industry and law enforcement all failed to detect or stop the abuse until MFA investigated the facility.

  12. FALSE: “The activist tactic of obtaining illicit employment…”

    Employment was legal in accordance with all laws.

  13. FALSE: “While animal abuse in any shape or form is never condoned by the agriculture industry, activists use highly edited images of violence and neglect to prey on the emotions of the public.”

    Most animal agribusiness involves massive mega-farms, where animals live in their own excrement and are unable to turn around or spread their limbs or wings. That alone is abuse. Most are mutilated without painkillers or veterinary aftercare – tails docked, horns burned out, testicles sliced out, beaks seared off and on and on. If farmers did these same acts to dogs or cats, they could face felony-level cruelty to animals charges in most states.

    There is nothing “edited” about the actions shown in the video footage – they are there in their entirety without anything changed from what actually occurred. I guess placing the abuses next to one another is too much for agribusiness to handle. If you don’t like having your actions placed next to each other, perhaps we should focus on not abusing animals at all.

    I’d keep going, but I’d have to deconstruct each sentence. I wish I could share all of the footage I have of each investigation with the public. There is so much abuse at each facility that never gets out to the public.

  14. This one, though, it’s just a hoot, so I have to comment. According to the facility, there was no abuse to report: “MFA also sent an undercover filmer to Buckeye Veal in Wayne County in April and recorded what it called cruelty to calves. That footage was not released until September.” This is crafty journalism, claiming that standard, legal abuses go somehow unreported. In that sense, it’s still unreported because it’s legal to chain newborn calves by their necks in their own excrement for 18-20 weeks – so that they can’t turn around, can’t interact with other calves or their mothers, can’t groom themselves, can’t play, can’t even walk, can’t smell fresh air, can’t feel the sun on their bodies, can’t do the things that are natural to them – and then violently slaughter them. I urge all Ohioans to contact the Ohio Livestock Board and ask it to stop dragging its feet and ban veal crates. As one board member said during their subcommittee meeting a few weeks ago, if the American Veterinary Medical Association is saying that veal crates are cruel, why aren’t they moving on it? I couldn’t have asked it better myself. All the science says it is. Common sense even tells us it’s cruel to confine animals in their waste so that they can’t even groom or turn around.

  15. ChiVegan says:

    No matter how you “edit” undercover video, the fact is that terrible, disgusting abuse is taking place. Even one kick or punch is unacceptable. Every second of the edited version is still real. Rather than trying to “catch” the undercover activist when hiring, why don’t you focus on hiring compassionate people…or better yet, plant vegetables instead.

  16. LCampbell says:

    According to Mr. Hauff, the information was reported to the local authorities, not to Dept of Agriculture. ARA’s never go to the proper authority, they just show graffic images to the general public. Amazing how they held the images until the Signature gathering was in full swing.

    They never do tell you how they came to know of the “filmed” abuse to start with but of course, all farmers are cruel according to them. They complain when you leave the cows out in the field because they their getting hot, dusty and rained on, they complain when you put them in the barn. They complain when there’s nothing to complain about.

    Wise up, ARA’s are nothing short of little Hitler’s trying to force there “Vegan” way of life on everyone. There is a holocaust occurring right now, it’s the ARA’s slowly wiping out American Freedom and the Farmer.

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