SALEM, Ohio – The Ohio Pork Producers Council has launched a campaign backed by $10,000 of its own money to help cover some legal expenses incurred by northeast Ohio hog farmer Ken Wiles.
In June, Ken Wiles and an employee on his Wayne County hog farm were cleared of multiple criminal animal abuse charges that stemmed from an undercover investigation on the farm by a national animal rights group, the Humane Farming Association.
Wiles’ son, Joe, was found guilty of one charge and fined $250 plus court costs.
That court case lasted more than six months and tallied expenses of more than $77,000, according to Ken Wiles.
The slew of charges came after a former farm employee, Ingrid DiMarino, complained to the Humane Farming Association about farm conditions.
The association planted an undercover investigator on the farm who shot video and audio of conditions there as part of the investigation.
The association took its video to the Wayne County Sheriff’s department. Authorities raided the farm in November 2006.
Ken Wiles is also currently defending himself and his Creston-area farm in another case filed by Ingrid DiMarino.
Wiles calls this go-round “an O.J. Simpson case,” since he’s being sued for the same things as charged in the criminal case.
“It looks like I’m going to be tried for the same things over and over and over again.”
DiMarino is alleging more than 30 claims in her civil suit, seeking $25,000 plus damages on each, according to Wiles.
Those charges could cost him $750,000.
On top of that, Wiles said an attorney told him his defense in the civil case will probably hover around $100,000.
Dick Isler, executive vice president of the Ohio pork group, said the council board voted in mid-July to pledge $10,000 to the Wiles farm to support its legal fight.
“We’re just trying to help Ken. The animal rights group would like to make an example of him and put him out of business. If they succeed, who’s next?”
“This is important for not only the pork industry, but the entire livestock industry to survive. Animal rights groups would love to cry victory in saying they put someone out of business,” Isler said.
Wiles said his civil trial may be a year or more away, and since the first set of charges were filed, he’s been having a tough time borrowing money and getting insurance on the farm.
“Everybody’s real leery because of this case. The attrition of not being able to borrow … if I can’t borrow money anymore, I’ll have to quit, just what they want,” Wiles said.
Isler said the council felt Wiles was “unfairly singled out” and “false, made-up claims” were hurled at him.
“This is a chance for farmers to help another farmer,” Isler said.
The Ohio Pork Producers Council is soliciting donations from individuals, companies and organizations who support animal agriculture.
To make a donation, contact the council at 800-320-7991 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.