Farmers at Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board listening session: Don’t be rushed or bullied by HSUS

BUFFALO, Ohio — Guernsey County cattleman Mike Davis’ cow-calf herd has dwindled from 60 to 25 head. And he’s not sure how much longer he can maintain that many, either.

His plea to members of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board at their listening session May 25 at the Mid-East Career and Technology Center was simple: Consider the costs/benefits of any standards levied on livestock producers, because it may force some to quit farming.

“It’s just plain hard work and it’s very low pay,” Davis told the board. “If laws become too prohibitive, it will be even more difficult.”

He asked the members to look around the room and note the ages of those present, saying it’s already tough to get started farming and new regulations would make it even harder — for both young and old.

“I’m using what I hear here tonight to make my decision whether or not to stay in farming.”

Passionate

Like Davis, others in the crowd of about 100 made similar passionate comments, hoping to emphasize to board members the enormity of their task.

Ralph Coffman, a retired agricultural education teacher from Washington County, said there’s a problem when farmers are considered guilty until proven innocent, and farmers often feel like they’re being singled out because the majority of society don’t understand generally accepted farm practices.

“Remember who and what started this,” Coffman said, “HSUS and Wayne Pacelle.”

“Please consider the sound farm practices. Take your time,” he urged the 13-member board. “This is serious business.”

Coshocton County pork producer Wendell Waters also cautioned the board to avoid knee-jerk responses and quick solutions, saying major production changes will require a long-term view.

He asked the board to analyze what livestock producers are currently using as generally accepted management practices and see if there are actual reasons they need to be changed.

Is ag being bullied?

Like Coffman, Guernsey County’s Arthur Nichols said he was concerned because the animal welfare push has been elevated by animal rights and vegetarian groups like PeTA and the Humane Society of the United States.

“I don’t want the industry bullied while we’re trying to save it,” Nichols said. “Don’t be ramrodded by organizations that would counteract what we’ve already done.”

He also encouraged the board to consider including an appeals process.

Her livelihood

Tuscarawas County dairy farmer Connie Finton supports the board’s efforts and said she “worked hard, probably harder than anything I’ve done politically, to get Issue 2 passed,” referring to the successful ballot initiative last November that created the constitutional amendment to form the board.

“It is important,” she said, “and what you’re doing, I believe, will mean the economic survival of our industry.”

“On our farm, cow comfort and cow safety are our No. 1 priorities,” she added, and asked the board to consider standards that are “simple and size neutral.”

No direct food safety link

In an educational presentation prior to the listening session, Henry Zerby, meat scientist at Ohio State University, cautioned against linking animal welfare too closely to food safety.

“There’s quite a bit of disconnect between food safety and changes in animal welfare,” he said, meaning changing animal handling or processing practices does not automatically translate into a safer food supply.

“It’s not a cause and effect.”

Fear of unknown

Perhaps cattleman Gary Cox voiced the main concern that all livestock producers have with the yet-to-be-determined standards: “What I want to know is what effect will this have on me?”

He, and everyone else, will have to wait to find out. The board hopes to release preliminary standards by fall.

By Susan Crowell

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

10 Comments

  1. former dairy eater says:

    What effect lack of standards and humane treatment will have on farmers is that they will be put out of business by people refraining from dairy and animal products because of cruelty shown by the videos recently released! Get the highest regulations possible!

  2. Young Cattle Producer says:

    Then let it be that way if you want, it’s basic economics, if there is no demand for our products (meat, dairy, eggs) then we producers well be forced out of business, and our industry will cease to exist.
    However realize that the recent video released by Mercy for Animals is not a standard practice on any farm. I watched the video and I was horrified by what I saw. I competely agree that those actions are appalling and those men should be punished for what they’ve done.
    But I also know that what was shown in that video is not considered “normal”, I know of no one who raises their cattle, dairy or beef, in such a manner. I am a firm believer in animal rights, I call it animal husbandry. And animal husbandry is what I practice when working with any animal.
    I consider the psychology of the animal, their flight or fight responses, and there has been research and work done to promote and further develop humane and responsible handling practices. To further educate yourself I would greatly reccommend looking into Temple Grandin and her work with cattle psychology.

  3. Dr. Joe says:

    I fully believe the dairy video posted yesterday was fully staged by Mercy For Animals. Nathan Runkle (Director for MFA) is one and the same that did poultry breakins several years ago in central Ohio with total disregard to biosecurity issues and ethics. They were staged back then too. Tell me, how can two employees video abuse for weeks, without telling anyone in management (owner) unless they were being paid off. Follow the money.

    In my view, both the abuser and the camera man are guilty of animal abuse crimes.

    Mercy For Animals are not very mercifull with their actions. How ethical is it to pay an abuser, then profit from it as animal abuse. Actions speak louder than words.

    Watch out for Mercy For Animals, PETA, HSUS, and the OhioHumane groups. They are stiking a fight against the newly formed Ohio Animal Welfare Board voted in last Fall. They claim to stomp the large farm, protect the small farmer; yet show videos of a small farmer. They are true to their primary goal to abolish animal agriculture, and pet ownership. All under the name of Animal Rights.

    In the next few months, if more video’s are aired, consider the source. I rest my case.

  4. Kate Fuller says:

    The derangement of people who blame the messenger is unfathomable. The dairy industry – the entire animal mean and animal products industry – should be up in arms AGAINST animal cruelty. Stupidly, these people take on against the organizations that support humane treatment of animals. How idiotic. It makes all dairy farmers not only apparently but actually complicit in acts of blatant cruelty and viciousness. The enemies here are the abusers. The animals are the innocent victims. If farmers are having a hard time, look to the message you send. If you say “We’re all for kicking a sick animal that can’t move,” well – who would want to help you? Who would want to buy your products. It’s too nasty to do business with “plug-uglies,” and that’s what pro-abuse farmers are.

  5. jb says:

    I hope people don’t take for granted the food that we have in this country. This whole thing kind of reminds me of the free trade act that was passed back in the 90′s that was suppose to create more jobs & it did absolutly the opposite. It’s like this if it’s not broke then don’t fix it. If we can’t raise meat, milk, eggs here in the United States then were will we get our food from? Mexico? China?, Japan? That sounds really healthy. We raise the most safe, affordable, healthy foods right here in the United States so don’t be fooled by some vegetarian groups that think nobody’s opinion matters except theres. Because they have all the answers, all the scientific back ground on how livestock should be raised? Think again, Your local farmer next to you can tell you 10 times the info on livestock.

  6. Lovely14 says:

    Dr. Joe – The OWNER of the dairy farm, Gary Conklin, is in the footage HIMSELF kicking a downed cow numerous times (at 1:25). Want to try again, there, little feller?

    Dr. Joe, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.

  7. qwerty52 says:

    Isn’t it funny, how those who don’t have a clue think they know it all? I’d like to see all of these urban experts dumped on a dairy farm and left to run it, except I’m certain their ignorance would lead to much worse over-all care of the animals than the *normal* practices on the Conklin farm.

    Dr. Joe, my bet is you’re VERY close to the truth. I doubt MFA planted Gregg, but feel it’s likely that their undercover person saw someone being a little rougher than necessary with the animals, befriended him, and urged on his sick, over-inflated ego. That doesn’t make what Gregg did right in any sense, but it does make what MFA did inexcusably wrong.

    MFA was most disingenuous in splicing the clip of Gary Conklin where they did, between two instances of Gregg’s blatant, sickening abuse. If you look closely at that 3 second segment, Mr. Conklin is not repeatedly kicking and beating the downed cow in the head, as many have stated. It looks to me like he kicked her twice, between the shoulder and neck, with the sole (not the toe) of his boot. While that may sound bad, this is an adult Holstein, not a little puppy. That amount of force applied in that manner, in that location, is no worse than what a herdmate would do, coming up to her and giving a not-so-gentle nudge to get her to move. It’s about the same, in proportion, as coming up to a human friend, giving them a brisk slap on the shoulder, and saying, “Let’s go!” If you watch, as that segment cuts abruptly off, the cow IS rising. My guess is it would have a LOT less impact if it continued and showed the cow getting up and then just standing there. I don’t know Mr. Conklin. I don’t know how he otherwise personally treats his animals. I know that one, 3 second segment, doesn’t appear to show abuse. I’d think if MFA had anything worse *on him* they would have used it in the video they released to the public.

    Gregg is in custody. I’m sure the authorities are using this time to try to find ANY other possible charges to bring against him. No one with functioning brain cells wants this poor excuse for a human back on the streets.

    The Conklin farm is being investigated. While others may doubt, I cannot see this just going away. What Conklin and his family don’t deserve are the threats of violence and death, or even the threat of financial ruin before the justice system has a chance to work. I find it ironic that many of the vegans/vegetarians/animal rights activists are most vocal in wishing physical harm on these people. People are animals, too. It’s so easy to say someone who can hurt an animal can hurt a person. I see it going the other way, also.

  8. Catherine K says:

    Thank you Mercy for Animals! Keep up the great work you do. I sent your footage to a member of a ‘humane society’ a person that foolishly believes he can eat animals without contributing to mass cruelty. I’ve witnessed a lot of animal abuse but this footage, Ohio dairy, is …beyond words, beyond my worst nightmare. These men need to remain in prison for a looooong time. For the health of the planet, for your own health and to help end this type of cruelty to these innocent animals; please go veg.

  9. Vivian says:

    I see the “Good Ole Boys” network at work protecting Conklin. I am sure he will be back in business in Ohio under a different LLC name here shortly. USDA takes billions of taxpayer’s tax dollars and provides little to none for it. If you think this is just “city folks” getting riled up about this, think again! I was raised on a small ranch and never witnessed such cruelty in my life!

  10. Amanda J says:

    I understand this video was not shot at the dairy farm part of this operation. It does not matter cruelty is cruelty. I just can’t wait to see who paid the filmer of this and how much HSUS or other animal rights radicals contributed. Remember the RICO suit that PETA and HSUS is involved in regarding Feld Entertainment, PETA and HSUS supposedly paid this person a lot of money (waiting to go to trial). HSUS is a vegan animal rights social movement and it is time our officials understand this. It really has nothing to do with making laws but drawing attention using the welfare of animals as a way for us all to become vegan and in that way we can all show more compassion to animals by not eating them or using them in any way. Letting HSUS have anything to do with any animals is like asking Jeffrey Dahlmer to baby sit. Each animal should be overseen and overseen well by those involved in the industry along with the professionals not a lobbying agency whose work it is to stop all animal enterprise. If the video is true this young man should be charged. No one doubts this and what about the filmer, did he have any obligation as a human being to stop this? I don’t understand the mentality of someone who would take a job to do the filming and who must be part of the animal rights movement. I am afraid if this had been my personal stock and my livelihood and a job I love, this young man who was filmed would have to be picked up off the ground minutes before he was reported. I am waiting to hear what he has to say and of course how and from whom the filmer was paid.

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