Monday, June 7, 2010

Avoiding Spies On Your Farm

Farms beset by spies
Even humane facilities undertake precautions
Sunday, June 6, 2010 02:59 AM
By Holly Zachariah
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Dave Thorbahn knows his business is a target. Some of his 184 employees already have been offered cash to videotape what goes on inside his barns.

Who offered them the money or why, Thorbahn can’t say. It could have been someone looking for trade secrets, but he suspects otherwise. He wonders whether it was someone working for an animal-rights organization that wanted a peek inside Select Sires, a bull-semen facility with 1,791 bulls in 57 barns in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Thorbahn is president and CEO of the bovine-genetics business, which happens to have its headquarters along Rt. 42 near Plain City, with buildings directly across the highway from and beside Conklin Dairy Farms, a relatively small farm with just a handful of employees.

But Conklin’s place has been the subject of a criminal investigation since Mercy For Animals, an animal-rights group that promotes a vegan lifestyle, released on May 24 a secretly recorded video showing an employee of Conklin Farms viciously beating and abusing cows and calves.

Conklin herdsman Billy Joe Gregg was subsequently fired and has been charged with 12 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and a felony weapons charge.

Mercy For Animals’ executive director, Nathan Runkle, said an investigator working for his organization was in Ohio applying for jobs at several farms and was living near Conklin’s when he caught wind of potential abuse there and was hired.

Thorbahn isn’t so sure it was that simple.

“I have to ask myself, were they in this area because of us?” he said. “We’d be quite a plum for an organization like that.” Read More

Every farm or ranch that raises livestock is a target for the animal rights groups that use undercover videos to raise money. While it’s hard to believe that farmers and ranchers would need to protect themselves against the very people they feed and clothe, that is the sad reality. They are desperately trying to get hired anywhere they can. It’s important that farmers and ranchers protect themselves against hiring someone like this. The reason it is important is because these undercover spies won’t be there to work and take care of livestock. They will be more concerned about looking for a camera shot that they can get paid for and may play well with consumers that don’t understand animal husbandry. And, when they can’t accomplish that goal, they will simply not show up for work any longer and move to the next place, here again leaving the proper care of the livestock in jeopardy.

19 comments:

Meggie said...

My husband and I had wondered earlier if Select Sires was the "original" target for MFA. They are literally down the road and within just a few miles of Conklins. Thanks for posting.

Vivian said...

How about treating your animals humanely?....then you wouldn't have to worry about SPIES! Give me a break! Growing up we had cattle, chickens, etc. Yes, we ate them but they lived a charmed life compared to the brutality of what is happening on many farms. Ranchers were a different breed then but now no one can tell the difference between a farmer and a rancher. There is nothing you can do at this point anymore other than to start producing meat that consumers can eat without feeling sick to their stomachs at the thought of what that animal went through before it was killed!

Emma said...

How about if you are not being cruel and your animals are being treated humanely and with the respect that any living creature deserves, then you have NOTHING to fear?
Smoke screens and paranoid simply fuel my belief that you are all well aware that people mistreat these poor creatures and your ONLY concern is being caught.

Peter said...

You know people who own those places could just install cameras themselves and that way protect themselves and the livestock as well, problem solved and everyone wins.

Maria E Gonzalez said...

If you're clean, what are you scared of? There are rules that protect farmers and rules that protect workers, and rules that protect animals...if you abide by them you should be happy to open your doors to all, or is there a problem? If you agree with the treatment of the Conklin cows, you shouldn't have them. I am not insulting and hope you let this comment open to all, as your doors should be.

Michael Schmidt said...

Farmers should have nothing to fear, including any spies, if they treat the animals humanely, right?

Anonymous said...

Protection from "spies" is not necessary if the operations are above board. It's similiar to a business being audited by an undercover agent. It happens all the time and typically, the business is given a 'clean bill of health', if you will, if all the procedures are being followed. Therefore, if you are concerned with a "spy", it would imply there is something to hide. If that is the case, I would suggest your procedures be changed to a more humane level before you do get caught.

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous! If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't fear video cameras! The general public, who you call uneducated in animal husbandry, knows when abuse is abuse! I am not an extremist or a vegan but after seeing one abuse video after another I will no longer buy my animal products from farm factories! I've researched and found a local farmer to buy from. You need to changer your standard care because Americans won't support you much longer and with the internet you can't keep thngs hidden. All we ask is that an animal lives a humane life and is slaughtered humanely!

Anonymous said...

If everything is on the up and up, then you have nothing to worry about, right? There are undercover people that go into all kinds of businesses, why not farms too? It's a business, correct?

The real facts are harrowing, and I am aware that many people don't want to really "know" what goes on at these farms, including those that work there. However, it still doesn't negate the fact that abuse is quite prevalent among farm animals whether it be a factory farm or the so called family farm like the Conklin Dairy.

Anonymous said...

Uh....have you seen what was going on at the Conklin farm? Don't treat your animals like a sadist freak would and you have nothing to worry about.

Sara said...

I think it is funny & sad that people are posting "Anonymously" and in the same breath asking every farmer/rancher to open thier doors and let the public go through thier business/homes.

Anonymous said...

What happened at Conklin was terrible. However, it's the rare exception, not the rule. Nearly all producers of livestock provide appropriate care and well-being for the animals in their operation. Not doing so is counterproductive. Certainly, the best defense against radical activitst groups like MFA, PETA, ALF, HSUS and others is ethical and humane treatment of animals. But sadly, when a radical activist group member gets access to an animal production farm, their videotaped "expose" can be taken out of context. Even acceptable euthanasia practices in any given animal industry would "horrify" radical animal activists. What's disappointing here is the average consumer's disconnect from farming and agriculture and therefore, their likelihood to be sucked in by all the propaganda put out there by activist groups. Thanks Advocate for Ag for standing up for agriculture and representing the other side of the issues. Us aggies have been silent too long...

Rhonda, Daphne's Mom said...

Why worry about spies if you have nothing to hide?????

Tany said...

By evidence, the world is full of thousands of people that have nothing to do except videotape all the farms owners to get some money. Who is trying to get money with this kind of paranoid articles ?
If you have a heart beating somewhere, in watching this video you can say nothing except it's unacceptable and these men are a shame for agriculture. This is your best advocacy...

Crystal said...

I think after watching the videos of what they did to those babies at conklin everyone needs to be aware that yes, this DOES go on day in & day out, and you better be ready because if you are engaging in this type of barbaric behavior you ARE going to be found out, so just man up & stop whining about it, this is reality, we the people need to know what is happening behind those closed doors, they suffer bad enough with no sunshine, no fresh air, tails getting chopped off, being pushed around, caged up so they can't move, if you do this for a living, shame on you, if you take the ABUSE further, get ready because these fanatics are coming for you! We're not going to take it anymore, get angry if you want, that isn't going to stop us, how do you think those animals feel!

Al Winmill said...

I agree that there should be nothing to hide, but I believe the true argument here is warning the business side of farming/ranching that they could be hiring people who don't want to work for you, but try to get you in trouble, potentially leaving you without a worker when they realize you're running a quality operation and stop coming to work. Just my 2 cents.

Al Winmill
www.TitanOutletStore.com

Anonymous said...

A lot of us are watched by surveillance cameras in the work place. It's no big deal.

Madison said...

One of the Anonymous posters says "Even acceptable euthanasia practices in any given animal industry would "horrify" radical animal activists." I certainly hope you're not referring to the "euthanasia" ermployed at the Wiles Hog Farm. Placing a chain around the neck of a sow, lifing her up with a piece of heavy equipment, and watching her struggle until she dies, may qualify as an acceptable form of euthansia to some but not to most. The fact that the ag industry ponied up $10,000 for the legal defense of the sicko that did just that, shows me that your industry DOES NOT take the welfare and humane treatment of animals seriously. Worried about spies? He who hides nothing has nothing to hide.

Sara said...

Crystal~ This DOES NOT go on day in and day out. What happened in that video is the rare exception. That type of treatment of animals is bad for business. You can't expect animals to produce at peak performance if you are abusing them. I don't know anything about the Conklins specifically but have experience in agriculture. You state "they suffer bad enough with no sunshine, no fresh air" I'm not sure where you got this idea, but around my area dairy cows are left out to pasture when they are not being milked, and if they aren't out to pasture they are in huge open barns with plenty of light and breeze. You come across pretty uneducated and disconnected with what actually happens on farms. Your type of ignorance is exactly what these radical organizations prey on.