Earlier this week, national news broke of an undercover investigation at Conklin Dairy farm in Union County, Ohio, near Columbus. The undercover footage, obtained over the past several weeks by the animal protection group Mercy For Animals, shows workers beating cows in the face with crowbars, stabbing them with pitchforks, breaking their tails, and punching, throwing and kicking calves—while bragging and gloating about the abuse.
Hundreds of news articles have emerged and thousands of people have called for not only prosecution of those individuals involved in these abusive acts, but also the rescue of the animals on this farm. Many of you have contacted us outraged and concerned about this case, wanting to know what will happen to the perpetrators involved, as well as the animals.
In an effort to address your concerns and our own, Farm Sanctuary is approaching this cruelty case from three angles:
Obtain custody of the animals in need
Push for prosecution to the greatest extent of the law
Advocate for better laws to protect farm animals in Ohio
Farm Sanctuary is in contact with local authorities to offer help, and we want you to know that the Union County Humane Society has welcomed our offer to provide rehabilitation and lifelong refuge to any animals that they take into custody.
As you may already know, Farm Sanctuary operates the largest rescue and refuge network for farm animals in North America. We run two sanctuaries, a 175 acre shelter in New York State and a 300 acre refuge in northern California, as well as a national Farm Animal Adoption Network. Throughout our history, we’ve rescued thousands of farm animals in need. We work with local law enforcement on farm animal cruelty cases to help document conditions of the animals in partnership with local veterinarians, we provide rehabilitative care at our shelters for abused animals, and we secure permanent placement for seized farm animals. Farm Sanctuary is ready and poised to help the animals from the Conklin Dairy farm. We will continue to work with local law enforcement to ensure that any animals that can be rescued WILL be rescued.
According to the Union County Humane Society (UCHS) investigating this case, current state laws limit what can be done. UCHS confirmed that they obtained a search warrant Wednesday and humane agents entered the premises accompanied by the Union County Sheriffs Department, Union County Health Department, and a veterinarian from OSU that specializes in large animal care. At that time they found that all living animals at the facility had no visible signs of abuse. Without any visible signs of abuse and with the main perpetrator arrested, UCHS stated that they lacked the physical evidence to seize the animals on the spot. However, this farm sells animals every week, and according to UCHS, two agents from the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Enforcement Division have been added to assist in the investigation. UCHS confirmed that state inspectors arrived at the farm on Thursday and cited it for not properly disposing of dead animals. A department spokeswoman stated that Conklin didn't bury dead cows deep enough on the property. Additionally, the Union County Humane Society plans to track down animals recently sold from the facility to see if they show signs of abuse.
By all accounts, this investigation will take time and is ongoing, but we may need your help when the time comes to bring these animals to sanctuary.
Susie Coston, our National Shelter Director, will be keeping you up to date on our efforts to bring these animals to safety through our Sanctuary Tails blog.
To date, one alleged perpetrator, Bill Joe Gregg Jr., has been arrested and charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty. Unfortunately, Ohio has some of the weakest animal cruelty laws in the nation. Ohio law does not allow felony charges on farm animal abuse, no matter how malicious. These are second degree misdemeanor counts which can result in up to 90 days in jail for each count. Union County Sheriff Rocky Nelson called these acts "vile and disgusting." He stated in a Columbus Dispatch story covering the arrest, "If there was a way this could be a felony charge, I would push for that." Thankfully, Gregg is being held on $100,000 bond, which is indicative of a strong commitment to press for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. Other arrests are pending further investigation. Farm Sanctuary will be monitoring this case as it proceeds and we will be encouraging relentless pursuit and prosecution of all perpetrators involved.
The cruel acts we see in this video, sadly, do not represent “just an isolated incident.” I wish I could tell you that it was. But, unfortunately, I have often witnessed this type of violence and callous behavior in the course of investigating farms over the past 25 years. It is pervasive, and the result of a system that is inherently cruel.
The utterly unconscionable behavior captured in this video is a logical extension of an industry attitude which sees animals as mere units of production, rather than as feeling, sentient individuals. Right now, Farm Sanctuary is working with concerned citizens across the state of Ohio to collect signatures to get a sweeping farm animal welfare initiative on the November ballot. If passed, this initiative would end the most egregious farming practices and send a message to agribusiness that whether it’s considered “standard practice” or a sadistic act of abuse, cruelty is cruelty and won’t be tolerated.
Read more about these ongoing advocacy efforts on my Making Hay blog and learn how you can get involved in this campaign in Ohio. If you are not subscribed to our Sanctuary Tails and Making Hay blogs, please join today to stay informed about this and other critical farm animal issues.
We are as outraged as you are by the sadistic abuse depicted in the investigative video, and we hope to see justice and a safe refuge for these animals in need. Please, stay tuned.
Yours for the animals,
President and Co-Founder
P.S. Below, I’ve included some media highlights of this developing case, and I encourage you to check out our daily postings on Twitter and Facebook for more developments.
CNN - ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL - May 27, 2010
Dairy Farm Abuse (Video with Gene Baur)
NPR - ALL SIDES WITH ANN FISHER - May 27, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.
Ohio Dairy Farm Animal Cruelty Video (With Gene Baur)
LOS ANGELES TIMES - L.A. UNLEASHED - May 27, 2010
Ohio dairy farmworker charged with animal cruelty after advocacy group releases undercover video