Conklin Dairy Farm Owner Will Not Be Charged

The Columbus Dispatch reports on the well publicized case of an undercover video showing abuse at a dairy farm in Ohio:

A Union County grand jury has decided the owner of a Union County dairy farm caught in an abuse scandal should not face criminal charges.

[...]

Jurors saw hours of video tape recorded by an undercover employee of the animal-rights group, Mercy For Animals,  not just the few minutes that group posted on YouTube, [Union County Prosecutor David] Phillips said.

On the tape, Conklin employee Billy Joe Gregg is seen viciously beating and abusing cows and calves at the Plain City farm. Gregg has since been fired. He has been charged with 12 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and faces a felony weapons charge. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Also on the tape, Conklin is shown kicking a cow that is lying down.

Phillips said the portion of the tape shown publicly was spliced together and that Conklin’s behavior was taken out of context. The Union County sheriff’s office said it had four veterinarians with experience in large-animal care review the tape.

“In context, Mr. Conklin’s actions were entirely appropriate,” Phillips wrote in a news release this morning. “The veterinarians told law enforcement that cows who remain down are at risk of injury or death. A cow’s muscles may atrophy. Once that happens, the cow may never get up and may suffer or die.”

I’ve never worked with cows so I don’t know how I would try to get one up off the ground.  Maybe tempt the cow with a treat?  (Do cows even like treats?  I don’t know.)  If the cow is not interested in getting up for the treat, what is standard protocol for motivating a cow to get up?

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36 Comments

  1. Cows do love treats, especially bananas and apples (when they’re in the mood, carrots). :) Oh, and melons. We have a steer who loves to wow crowds by crushing whole melons.

    We’ve used slings and tractors. We’ve used physical labor, with several folks on one side to rock her sternal and then assist with getting up. Kicking a downed cow isn’t very helpful, least of all to the cow.

    But if a bovine is recumbent, in acute pain, and cannot get up after several hours, then a vet should be called. Even if all other reasonable options are exhausted, kicking a downed animal is never (should never be) an option.

    Reply
  2. Hamilton

     /  July 6, 2010

    I’ve never witnessed a kick, but I have witnessed the whack of a 3′ piece of hose on a cow’s backside to get it moving. We used to hit each other with them, they’re more about the noise and the surprise than anything else, and occasionally they will be sufficient to right a downed cow.

    However, this is generally used either in situations where machinery or a hoist is not possible, or in conjunction with manual or hydraulic lifts using a sling. Upward pressure is applied, which gives the cow a direction to move in, and a few whacks to the rear is more than enough motivation to get a cow who CAN right itself to do so. The cow is more startled than hurt, however.

    Cows that do not have the ability to right themselves or remain righted are shot. If the reason is injury, the cow is consumed. If the reason is unknown, the cow is euthanized (or shot if the animal is under severe stress or discomfort) essentially autopsied and then disposed of.

    Kicking a cow could serve no purpose other than a dark one, as far as I’m concerned.

    Reply
  3. Susan

     /  July 6, 2010

    I guess I have cheap date cows … they like plain white bread for treats. Heck, carrying an empty bucket out in the pasture can cause an stampede.

    I’ve lifted their tails over their backs a time or two to get them up and moving. Sometimes it works if they aren’t bad sick. It’s an obnoxious enough manuever that seems to get their attention without causing them any true grief.

    Reply
  4. I had a dog who sometimes used a well-aimed bite on the ass.

    Reply
  5. Questions floating around in my head: OK so if I think about someone kicking a downed dog, I think that sounds cruel because no matter what size the dog, that would hurt (and possibly seriously injure) the dog. That said, I am not one of those owners who would never physically correct a dog. For example, to me, an uninvited nose in my plate is worthy of a swat on said nose. I don’t believe it injures the dog in any way (physically or mentally) but rather it is a response to the dog’s action in kind. That is, the dog is saying something to me physically and I am answering back physically. I want the dog to think “Ouch, that stings, I won’t be doing that again.”
    So I’m wondering what a kick feels like to an animal the size of a cow. I don’t see how it could possibly be the equivalent of kicking a dog (which I think is cruel) but I don’t know if it would equate to a dog nose swat either. I’m sure there are factors, such as the strength of the kicker, how many kicks are used, what type of boots the kicker is wearing, etc.
    I’m just trying to gain some sort of perspective. The prosecutor seemed to think the kicking in the video (which I haven’t seen that part) was appropriate, based on input from vets. I’d like to understand that better.

    Reply
    • Well certainly a 1,500 Holstein cow is much larger than a 200 lb Great Dane, but hitting an animal out of frustration and anger is not helpful. Some cows are sensitive or in pain (and arguably a downed cow is generally uncomfortable/painful) and a kick only frightens or further harms them. We have a Holstein cow with arthritis and a bum back leg – kicking her would cause her mental and physical distress. But we have a 2,200 lb “chubby” Charolais steer – kicking him would inspire an “oh, really?” stare.

      But if a 200 lb Great Dane was down, and you were a 90 lb person with no physical ability to get that dog up, and say that dog is in the middle of a road*, is kicking the dog out of frustration or to try and get him to move acceptable? Is kicking an animal who cannot freaking get up really coming from a place of compassion and kindness? I can see shoving and pushing and leveraging weight, because those actions – by their nature – don’t generally come from a place of reaction but a place of action. Kicking, to me, is a reaction to frustration and annoyance, and that isn’t ever helpful when you have an 1,800 lb animal down.

      I think people react to a dog being kicked with severe aversion because we view dogs as “pets”. I react with severe aversion to a cow being kicked b/c I know she is as emotional, feeling and worthwhile as a dog…and having seen the video, I know that kick was not a desperate “please get up or you’ll die, and I’ll mourn your loss and so will your friends” kick, it was an “i’m pissed off your milk-producing-induced state of recumbency is messing w/ my bottom line.”

      *It’s true that a large, downed animal is going to have a lot more gut and lung problems than even the largest downed dog.

      Reply
  6. Hamilton

     /  July 6, 2010

    Shirley, you’re certainly right that a strike that would cause injury to a dog is not the same as a strike that would cause injury to a cow.

    The point is that it’s the startle, not the pain, that gets the cow moving. A sharp sound (one farmer I knew had a whistle on him that was hard to ignore), clanging of metal, the thwap of a hose, a bite from a predator – all of these things get the animal moving from a psychological standpoint. It’s my experience that handling any animal too roughly is a great way to get it to shut down completely – the last thing you want with a cow who won’t get up.

    Also, dealing with dogs it’s not a danger if they lay down most of the time. Whereas a cow who won’t get up is life or death.

    Generous coaxing also plays a part – buckets of feed, or any kind of food you may have left over in your pocket can work. I once moved a horribly stubborn heifer by using a chunk of a square hay bale. I let her have a few really good bites and then just slowly started wandering away. She realized I was taking the food with me and forgot that she was trying to be obstinate.

    As far as the vet is concerned, ag vets are a very guarded group of people. The agricultural industry is constantly under fire (look how many people acted like this was commonplace) and ag vets will do what they need to protect their industry. Most farmers are not going to hire a vet who has exposed something like this as abuse. The problem is, where does it end.

    I realize I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but it is a serious issue the Ag industry is facing. When does physical force become brutality? When does it become abuse?

    It may seem obvious to you and I (although we may have differing scales of where the line is) but it’s not an easy thing to prosecute. It’s easy for people with no farming experience to hear my stories of working on an incredibly progressive, humane, free ranging organic dairy farm. Swatting any animal with a rubber hose is easily misconstrued as abuse. However, this is sometimes what’s necessary, particularly while trying to control a herd (we frequently had to move the herd across roadways to new pasture areas – this is done with about a dozen people and two dozen big black rubber pipes. We stand with our arms out, pipes almost touching to make kind of a human fence. If an individual cow gets too rowdy and decides to make a go of it, she’s rewarded with a firm whack to the top of the head. Again, this is shock value. You never hit the sensitive skin of the face or near the eyes, but right on top of the skull where the horns should be (removed) is a nice hard plate that takes a hell of a lot more than a whack with a rubber pipe to even bruise this area.

    The bump turns them around in a hurry though.

    Frequently the cars that would be stopped waiting for us to get everyone across would get upset at what they were seeing (you could always tell those who vacationed in the country, vs. those of us who lived and worked there) and scream obscenities at us out their SUV windows. We would gently explain that the only reason their car wasn’t being stampeded was because we were calmly getting them across the road safely – even if that meant swatting the occasional rogue into line.

    Now, what SHOULD have happened is that the industry bigshots publicly called this a$$hole out on his misbehaviour, and condemned him in front of the court, the government, and the public. To say “We as an industry will NOT tolerate this as ‘normal’ behaviour towards ANY animal in ANY circumstance besides self defense”

    I actually thought it might, when the lobby first spoke out against the video footage.

    What can I say but:

    Dairy Industry FAIL.

    Reply
  7. My cow(s), who are now all in the freezer, loved watermelon rinds, bagels, and all sorts of other “treats”…including dog biscuits! When she was in the petting zoo at the fair, my beloved Charlotte earned more than a thousand dollars for Big Brothers Big Sisters, one quarter at a time, taking alfalfa cubes from the public.

    I have grabbed her tail and tweaked it sideways (not so much straight up, but used it more like a jump rope to *scoop* whichever cheek was on the downward side) to encourage her to stand. But really, a cow not wanting to get up is a bad thing. Mostly, she’d get up the moment I attached a lead rope to her halter, or would be starting to get up before I could even get the halter on her!

    I have also used the side of my foot (rather gently) on her buttocks, but really, it wasn’t very effective. I’ve seen people kick a cow in the udder, and that just plain looks painful and mean.

    I would step on her hooves to try and get her to move over when she was standing. Again, it was done sorta gently, and if you did it too hard or too mean, you’re likely to get cow kicked. (My cow NEVER kicked me, but she did kick out at the ferrier once when we were getting her hooves trimmed.) My experience is that animals intuitively read our intentions. Two people can do the exact same thing to an animal, but they may be coming at it from a very different mental space. The same animal will react differently to each of them.
    I don’t know how to get the Dairy Industry to take a stand on these sorts of issues. I do know that there are many farmers, dairy and otherwise, who are NOT doing this sort of crap, and who won’t allow anybody in their barns who would.

    Reply
  8. lacebra

     /  July 7, 2010

    Next time Gary Conklin is too weak to stand, I hope someone KICKS him in the HEAD! HE deserves it! OHIO STINKS! DAIRY FARMS STINK!

    Reply
    • Donna Lake

       /  July 9, 2010

      I still to this day cant bring myself to watch the video to the end, the wiring of the nose to the metal pole, then beating the poor thing did me in, I wonder if the Cow is still living, and I’m also wondering how Gary Conklin went to a Grade A for his milk when the cows are beat almost to death, Gary Conklin you are lower than well SHIT and tell me what could a newborn do to be beat and stomped like that??

      Reply
  9. I think it’s pretty likely that the farm owner’s kicking, when put into context, showed someone who had tried a bunch of things and gotten desperate.

    The question isn’t really whether the kicking represents best practices, but whether it met legal thresholds for abuse. I didn’t think it necessarily did in the original video clips, while it was clear that Billy Joe Gregg was not only abusive in a legal sense, but one twisted little mofo who needs to be off the streets (and byres).

    Seeing the kinds of hits that cows deliver to one another, I don’t believe that a human’s kick to the backside could be *that* distressing to a full-grown cow. If the cow is down and in danger from being down, and the human is trying to get her up so she doesn’t *die,* I’m going to cut him a lot of slack on methods, even if he may not choose what I’d consider best practices.

    I’d use a hired thug myself. Rosie’s teeth never break the skin, but her hard nips to strategic spots are quite motivating. I’m hoping that her talent for keeping small hoofstock in line transfers to the big snotty-nosed variety when we get them in.

    Her great-great-grandfather, who lived to be 17, used to toddle out to the barn every day until just a few weeks before he passed and bite one cow on the ass to make her stand up for milking. Satisfied that he was still a stockdog, he’d then retire. Sometimes I wonder if that cow would lie down just to indulge the old boy. I’m not sure he had any teeth left at that point.

    Reply
    • lacebra

       /  July 7, 2010

      First of all, there are special types of equipment designed to be used for these kinds of problems with animals and humans! The principal involves hydraulic lifting-much more comfortable than kicking! There is no excuse for what Gary Conklin did! The investigation was a joke! The prosecutor stacked the deck with vets who work in the farming industry, vets who only care about how to squeeze a “profit” out of the “product.” These vets care NOTHING about the QUALITY of LIFE for the ANIMALS! A MESSAGE TO YOU AGRICULTURAL VETS: YOU DO NOT FOOL EDUCATED MEMBERS OF SOCIETY! YOU STINK!

      Reply
  10. Oh brave anonymous Lacy Underthing, keep yelling.

    The more all-caps and exclamation points you use, the more you are right. Everyone knows that.

    Reply
  11. I just went to the Mercy For Animals website in an attempt to re-view the dairy cow footage.

    What I found instead was video of a very bad egg production facility.

    But here’s the thing. The wee vegans aren’t content with the truth. They start out their video showing workers killing hens via cervical dislocation, and claiming that the birds “struggle for minutes” while still alive.

    Uh, no.

    That flapping bird is DEAD. The nature of the wing flaps is consistent only with the galline post-mortem reflex, not with a live bird’s conscious struggles.

    This is not a lost agrarian secret. The metaphor “chicken with its head cut off” persists in the American idiom, and it is literally true.

    There is no way that the guy with the video camera did not know this. Is he claiming that a reflex-flapping *decapitated* chicken is also alive and struggling?

    So, you start out with a blatant lie, and end with an agenda (the only way to separate oneself from institutionalized corporate cruelty is to drink the vegan kool-aid) — anything else you have to say or show is suspect at best.

    Reply
  12. H, I guess you don’t have an agenda? I mean, if you start with name calling and end with an agenda… anything else you have to say or show is suspect at best.

    I can’t seem to find where they indicated the decapitated chicken is alive, so if you would be so kind….? You’re right about one thing though – the actions of the employees in that video should be cruel enough on their own to make people think about who they are abusing and why, without having to be dressed up. But they aren’t.

    Reply
  13. Yeah, so, reading comprehension much?

    The reflex-flapping of the broken-necked chickens in the video is the exact same reflex-flapping of a beheaded chicken, and is not seen in any live avian.

    “Many of these birds struggled for minutes after their necks were broken …”

    No, they did not.

    The chickens at the start of the video were, at the time of the flapping, ex-chickens. They had departed this mortal coil. Deceased. Bereft of life. Metabolic processes are now history. Clear enough? The chickens are no longer suffering. Kicking them roughly into the manure trough is not an animal welfare question at that point in time.

    Unless you, or anyone else, wants to contend that a chicken without a head is suffering, the dead broken-necked chickens in that video were not suffering, and to claim that they were is a calculated lie.

    As for “name-calling,” anyone who will not use a real name and selects an item of lingerie as his or her screen name is fair game. Is “Lacy Underthing” a well-known noxious racial slur for the oppressed lacebra people? I wasn’t aware.

    My agenda is that I’m having an omelette for lunch. Eggs and milk provided by my very happy girls of two species. And for dinner, one of our own chickens. His successors are lying out in the brush right now, and will be back to scratching for bugs when the sun gets a little lower. They seem to enjoy their chickeny lives here, free-ranging in clean pasture and interesting woods with the goats and ducks and turkeys and guineas.

    Because the choices on how to eat, and how to live with animals, is not defined by buying from QENE vs. buying from Boca Burger (Kraft).

    Reply
  14. Jamie

     /  July 7, 2010

    ok, this is a super serious subject but I couldn’t help giggling to myself when this quote came up “The chickens at the start of the video were, at the time of the flapping, ex-chickens. They had departed this mortal coil. Deceased. Bereft of life. Metabolic processes are now history. Clear enough? The chickens are no longer suffering.”

    It reminds me of the infamous “dead parrot” skit from Monty Python. I was expecting you to say next, “it has ceased to be!”

    Ok—continue the seriousness…

    Reply
  15. Jamie, I was quoting what I could remember from the Dead Parrot sketch. Maybe didn’t get it exact.

    Reply
    • Jamie

       /  July 8, 2010

      ah, then that would explain why it seemed so familiar! I had to look up the sketch to see what else they had said. I forgot the part about the metabolic processes so I figured that was your addition.

      Reply
  16. regan h

     /  July 8, 2010

    cows like that don’t feel like having treats they feel like they are going to die and won’t budge, you h ave to force them to get on their feet and start moving their muscles

    Reply
  17. Hamilton

     /  July 8, 2010

    “you have to force them to get on their feet and start moving their muscles”

    With the toe of a boot? Unnecessary and NOT effective.

    Reply
  18. regan h

     /  July 8, 2010

    I didn’t say the toe how about the side of your shoe and you don’t have to kick the cow hard just bump her a few times to incorage her to try to get on her feet if you don’t get her up she is as good as dead!
    A died cow is no good to a farmer. I dout most of you people on here haven’t spent any time on the farm working with animals. I have done a lot of it big animals are tuff and some times they have to be preswaded to do things for their own Good they don’t understand what they have to do to save their own life thats were humanes have to intervien. It’s hard to get points across to people that don’t understand the situations, spend a year on a farm working live stock and you will have a better understanding whats going on.

    Reply
    • You do not need to work on a farm to know that kicking a downed animal isn’t helpful.

      I’ve worked more than 6 years with livestock, including cattle. Different setting – sanctuary, not a meat/dairy/egg producing farm.

      Never had to kick an animal. Ever. That’s a sign of frustration and anger on the part of the human, not an effective, good way to get an animal up.

      Reply
  19. regan h

     /  July 8, 2010

    you don’t under stand the point the cow just had a calf and she won’t get up. you want to see if the cow can get up if she does great if she don’t and you know that she has to get up and move around, and you are all alone no help no cell phone like in the
    the old days you do what it takes to save the cow. you hsus lovers I’me tired of your stupidity cattle ARE NOT DOGS they are food.
    [I for got people do eat dogs] and to the one who has a steer that smashs watermelons look out someday he may deciede to smash YOU!!!

    Reply
    • We don’t know the cow just had a calf. The video just shows the owner of a dairy farm kicking a cow who cannot get up. She could be suffering from laminitis, which is pretty common in ruminants fed grain (as most dairy cattle are fed).

      You think cows are food, but that does not make them food. They are as intelligent and emotional as dogs. They can learn to navigate mazes. They form bonds with each other – heck, they can hold grudges and form cliques. Pretty cool stuff.

      Howie is as unlikely to smash me as gravity is to cease existing, but thanks for the silly, hyperbolic stereotype. He’s an arthritic, 13-yr-old, charolais steer. In his younger days, he loved flipping wheelbarrows, but he’s just an old steer who loves melons and neck scratches.

      This is Howie’s favorite past-time, hugs (next to melon crushing…hey, he might make an exception for you! Just kidding, he’d like you, despite the fact you erroneously think he’s food): http://www.flickr.com/photos/rinalia/4173222356/in/set-72157622805078239/

      Reply
      • regan h

         /  July 8, 2010

        Rinalai
        I’m not saying anything about your steer bad I think thats neat I have been around other cattle like him. A dairy cow knows and understands people a lot more then beef cattle that has been born and grew up on the range they act half wild witch they are when they are brought in.
        I can’t help it if I like to eat meat the fact is i like beef, I,m not interrested IN eating your steer or any bodies pet.

  20. Susan

     /  July 8, 2010

    The grand jury who saw all of the video, not the sliced and diced MFA Utube view and declared he was acting purdently

    Even the (sic) photogapher admitted to poking cows with pitch-forks and kicking them — but not that hard.

    Yet his actions, even though only for show and to egg Billy Bob Abuser (can’t recall his real name) are never questioned.

    Interesting that he becomes a hero in all of this … no?

    Instead of bringing it to the Mr. Conklin;s attention that Billy Bob might be trying to tenderise the cows before market-time he waits.

    For what?

    To get video of Mr Conklin doing something evil to the cow’s too even though it might be neccesary even if it is out of frustration.

    In my mind which I make no claim for having the aptitude to catching people at their worst … in my mind, it would make better video to tell Mr. Conklin of the abuse and to have him ignore it or make light of it.

    *oh that BillyBob, he’s such a character, that’s just his way to show affection now dontcha know. Just get on back to work now*

    Wouldn’t that have been a better ending?
    No … the photographer had to poke the cows just a little bit himeself with his own pitchfork in his own hands and hit them, probably with a balled up fist for authenticity to get BillyBob going and wait … wait for all that all important kick to the backside on a sick cow.
    That’s a real hero right there.
    If anybody needs poking with a pitchfork, I’d say it’s the guy with the hidden camera.

    Reply
    • Are you seriously trying to argue that that individual in the video is not a sadistic freak who takes out his anger and frustration on baby calves and their mothers? You’re trying to foist blame on the undercover investigator?

      Takes all kinds, I guess.

      Reply
      • Susan

         /  July 9, 2010

        Yes’m I agree.
        It takes a special individual that can stand by and video-tape such a thing.
        Don’t you think?

  21. regan h

     /  July 8, 2010

    to Rinalia
    dairy cattle are feed very little grain they are feed mosty hay or hay siloage or some corn siloage along side hay siloage to much corn witch is the most feed grain can founder them like with horse’s its not good for they need roughage witch means grass you know they have a ruminants stomach I have remove hundreds of them from dead cattle that came into the rendering plant that I worked in for 5 yrs.
    I’m interested if you know what a rendering plant is if you do e-mail me and let me know you know . I’ll give you a hint it has a lot of maggets and stink I have skined alot of beef with green skin and the hair was slipping of but it still makes leather

    Reply
    • According to the APHIS 2007 dairy report, 87% of dairies feed corn silage (8% feed pork to cows too). The previous 2002 report stated that 75% of dairy cows are NOT on pasture but are fed primarily silage or haylage. Silage is highly concentrated feedstuffs.

      Corn silage includes grain. Silage packs a high energetic punch and increases the risk of acidosis, which increases the risk of laminitis (restricted bloodflow to limbs causes leg problems)…one of the top 3 reasons why dairy cows are sent to slaughter (after mastitis and repro problems).

      I’m well aware of what a rendering plant is – waste not, want not certainly could be a motto for animal agribusiness.

      Reply
  22. There are two kicks that Mr. Conklin delivers to the cow in the video. And as I viewed it again, it struck me that they are not very hard — not as I’d remembered them, maybe because my brain was stuck on the VERY HARD blows that Billy Joe Gregg delivers to cows and calves in the adjacent clips.

    At the second kick, the cow starts to get up, and the video suddenly cuts away.

    This is, BTW, at 1:25 of the video on YouTube. So others can fast-forward to that point and don’t have to experience Billy Joe Gregg’s performance again. Thanks so much for making me watch through that minute and a half again. That just made my day.

    So claiming that it is “ineffective” to kick a cow to get her up is clearly not accurate. The cow is getting up. We don’t know why the cow was down, or why Mr. Conklin is trying to get her up — but the two kicks with the bottom of his foot appear to have done the trick.

    Best practices? Perhaps not.

    Criminal animal cruelty? Can you not see the difference?

    Reply
    • lacebra

       /  July 9, 2010

      If somebody kicks me, no matter how hard, I can press assault charges! CASE CLOSED!

      Reply

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