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?

Egg News Break

Yesterday I picked up another couple dozen eggs from my neighbor.  Her hens do not live in battery cages inside a dark building but rather in an outdoor chicken coop.  I hope one day to have my own hens.

I came across a couple of articles regarding eggs recently that I thought some of you might be interested in reading.  The first is an announcement from American Humane Certified that they will now approve producers who use “enriched colony housing” for their hens.  Prior to this announcement, they only approved cage-free operations.

The second article falls under the “first they tell you something is good for you, then they tell you it’s bad” category:

Here’s some disconcerting news for health-conscious eaters who favor eggs from free-range hens: A Taiwanese study found that the eggs contain much higher levels of industrial pollutants than eggs laid by caged hens.

[...]

The researchers believe the free range eggs have more contaminants because they are found in the environments where free range hens roam. Studies have found the chemicals in “feedstuffs, soil, plants, worms and insects,” they wrote. Their own measurements of dirt from free range farms persuaded them that soil contamination is at least partly to blame.

The problem probably isn’t limited to Taiwan. Scientists have also found the same trend in the European Union, and one study found that about 10% of free range eggs exceeded the safety limit set by regulators there.

Oh darn.  In polluting our planet, we’re poisoning our way up the food chain.  If we don’t get a handle on things, I’m afraid the only eggs deemed fit for human consumption will come from hens who live like the Julianne Moore character in the movie Safe.

More on OH Dairy Farms

Regarding the link I shared yesterday to a post from a dairy farmer which was itself a response to the horrible abuse footage at Conklin dairy farm, a reader writes:

*eye roll* to the “defense of dairy” blog entry, but hey to each their own…I notice you didn’t include the reason for that blog entry.

I did not include a link to the OH dairy farm abuse footage but I’m not sure what the inference is here.  Did I not include it because I believe it’s staged footage or because I think abusing cows is swell?  No, on both counts.  Did I not include it because I think the timing is suspect and the release of the footage is being used by HSUS to further their quest for new farming laws in OH?  No, although I am doubtful that the timing is merely coincidental.  The reasons I did not include a reference to the abuse video are rather pedestrian:

1.  I knew the blog post I was linking to mentioned the abuse footage so in that sense, I felt it was covered.

2.  I purposefully try to avoid seeing animal abuse images because I find them too disturbing.  I see many in the course of surfing the net but as of the time I posted that link, I had not seen the Conklin dairy farm footage and was hoping to avoid doing so.  (I’ve since seen snippets from it on television, unfortunately.)  Since I had already written a post yesterday with links to graphic abuse images, I really wasn’t that keen on including another.

3.  I count my readers as fully capable of using Google to find the footage for themselves, if they felt inclined to do so after reading about it in the link I posted.

More from the reader’s comment:

As I keep wanting to know – how many undercover investigations, how many videos does it take for people to stop thinking these are “bad apples”? There are hundreds currently. Does it take thousands? Tens of thousands?

There is no set number I could think of that would personally sway me into believing that animal abuse is the norm in farming.  Maybe I am naive or just out of touch with reality but I do believe that most people on this earth are inherently good, or at least not sadists.  I believe, perhaps wrongly, that if I were to watch footage of every farm in America 24/7 for a year, that it would be mainly animals being taken care of in a humane manner with some small amount of the footage showing cruelty.

Similarly, while I do often post on stories of cruelty to pets, I believe that those are aberrations and that the overwhelming majority of owners treat their pets humanely.  In theory, I could collect hundreds of stories of pet abuse, and pose the same question asked above – How many will it take to convince people that these are not bad apples but rather the norm?  But I don’t believe that’s true.

And finally:

We don’t need the breast milk of another species to survive. We never have. Why take part in maternal deprivation, slaughter, veal, artificial selection for unhealthy animals when you don’t have to?

I don’t need cow’s milk to survive – true enough.  Nor do I need a car or a computer or air conditioning to survive.  But I have those things because they are available and I enjoy them.  I strive to be a mindful consumer but perhaps I’m just fooling myself so that I don’t have to face my own awfulness.  I hope not.  My dream (we’re talking lottery dream here) would be to have my own farm where I could have cows and chickens to keep as pets and to provide me with food.  I would love that.  But the reality is that if I want dairy products and eggs – and I do – I must buy them.  I support the choice to be vegan for those who desire it but I don’t choose it for myself.

I did want to mention that I first learned about the Conklin dairy farm abuse footage yesterday on Twitter – from the farmers I follow.  I saw a number of tweets from farmers condemning farm animal abuse and referring to the video.  Now I’m not so naive as to fail to recognize that the agricultural community likely feels a business obligation to issue these type of statements.  But again, because I do believe most people are not sadists, I have no reason to doubt those farmers who say this abuse makes them sick and they would never treat their animals this way.  That’s exactly how I feel when I read about pet abuse cases and I would hate for anyone to judge me and how I take care of my pets by the actions of sadists who set their pets on fire or what have you.  Those stories make the news because they are not standard fare.

I hope I’ve explained my thinking and answered the questions posed.  I always appreciate reader comments.  Civil debate is one way that I learn and expand my views and for that I am grateful.

Egg Score!

My neighbor who has a variety of farm animals as pets recently put out a sign that says “Fresh Eggs – $1/dozen”.  Needless to say, I was beating on her door in no time flat.  These are some eggs from our first batch – I love the variety of colors, from light green to dark brown.  I cracked them into a pan with some eggs I already had from the grocery store and noticed right away how much more vibrant the color of the yolks were on the fresh eggs – a bright orange.  It made the store bought eggs look weak.

Food Animal Cruelty – Standard Fare or No?

Editorial:  Is HSUS trying to guilt us into going vegan?

That piece got me thinking.  When I see the HSUS commercials showing images of cows being treated cruelly at a slaughterhouse, I think of that in terms of something unusual.  Similarly, when I see images of filthy dogs in dank cages, I think, “That’s not how most breeders take care of their dogs”.  Of course I’ve known a lot of dog breeders so I feel confident in my assessment there.  But I really don’t know any slaughterhouse operators.  I just sort of assume that most people in animal agriculture are normal, compassionate folks doing a job.  Am I wrong?  Could I walk into just about any slaughterhouse and secretly film hours and hours of cows being treated inhumanely because that’s the norm, not the exception?  Or do I have the context right – that this kind of thing is an aberration?  What’s your take?

April 21 on PBS

Two documentaries of interest premiere on PBS this coming Wednesday night, April 21:

Through a Dog’s Eyes will change the way you feel about your own dog. The documentary follows a handful of people as they journey through the heartwarming and often challenging process of receiving their service dogs.

and

Food, Inc – In addition to graphically detailing animal cruelty, environmental despoliation and economic monopolization, the film Food, Inc. also questions whether the industrial system produces the nutritious, health- and life-sustaining stuff we call food.

Tips for Avoiding Factory Farm Products

A guide to shopping and eating for those who wish to avoid supporting factory farms:

Most people share at least the following traits: they want to be healthy; they like animals; and they value clean air and water. Yet relatively few Americans connect those concerns with their food. As more people start making the link (especially if they’ve seen graphic video footage of industrial animal operations), many decide it’s time to stop eating foods from factory farms. This is a guide for doing just that.

Among the author’s recommendations:

  • Eat less meat. Eat better meat. (The same goes for dairy products and eggs).
  • Know your labels (and their shortcomings).
  • Explore alternative stores (independent grocery stores and co-ops).
  • Pasture is the gold standard.
  • Grass fed is very good (but the label is weak).
  • Organic is very good, (but the label isn’t perfect).
  • Free range is okay (but the label is seriously flawed).
  • Antibiotic free doesn’t mean much.

Can The World Produce Sufficient Food Without Factory Farms?

I don’t know the answer to this question but I have done some reading on the subject. It seems there is a lot to debate. In order to feed the number of people on the planet who currently choose to eat meat, eggs, dairy and other animal products, it seems like the “family farm” wouldn’t produce adequate supply. Thus, the so-called factory farm with practices that many people seem to at least express some environmental/ethical concern over and at most, abhor. But is it feasible to eliminate them?

Some possible ideas would be for everyone to reduce their consumption of animal products, to encourage more family farming and “backyard” farming, and for those unable to produce their own animal products, to buy from family farms in order to help them stay solvent.

I’m sure there are other ideas, probably better than the ones I listed. Whaddaya got?

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