Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Thoughts On The Ohio Dairy Farm Abuse Video

I’ve spent my whole life around agriculture and specifically cattle. I love everything about cows. From being there when the calves take their first steps to enjoying the tasty and nutritious beef that I help supply to the world, all of it is fascinating to me. And it’s that appreciation for these animals that has me so upset this morning.

Yesterday afternoon I found out that a new “shocking” video was being released showing the abuse of dairy cows in Ohio. When I finally got a chance to see the video last night I was outraged for many reasons.

First, I think we’ve all learned not to believe everything you see or read on the internet. Especially after watching this video I’d like to think this didn’t really happen. All of the facts in this case will eventually come out, but on the surface the blatant abuse it shows makes no sense. Deliberately mishandling the very cows that, figuratively and literally, are putting the food on your families table is incomprehensible to say the least. Anyone who has ever handled cattle also realizes that all of the things they were doing to these cows were never going to achieve any desired results.

Next, I’m completely disgusted with these undercover employees that are more concerned about getting months worth of video and are willing to let this abuse continue on in the name of their political agenda. Anyone who has a shred of decency wouldn’t let that happen. If you are aware of something like this and still allow it to occur, that makes you part of the problem.

Finally, if these allegations of abuse are found to be true then I’m livid that these people ever considered themselves dairymen and part of the agriculture community. Their actions are an insult to every one of us that work so hard everyday to properly care for our livestock. I wear the titles of Cattlemen and Rancher with pride, but along with them comes a responsibility to uphold the values and tradition of animal husbandry. Everyone I know that works with livestock feels the same way.

As a fifth generation United States rancher, my job is to care for my cows to the best of my ability. What I saw on that video is not acceptable. The good news is that it’s not the norm. I have visited dairies that ranged in size from 4 head to 4000 head. Never have I seen anything but the very best care being given. My experiences on hog farms and other cattle ranches have been the same.

If you are upset with what you see in this video, that’s OK. I am too. But if you are interested in how livestock are treated on the overwhelming majority of farms and ranches, visit one in your area and see it for yourself. ~Troy


Amanda said...

Thank you for this response. I'm re-posting it everywhere I can.

Angie said...

Maybe on smaller farms this is a rare occurrence but in factoring farming this is not uncommon and I am sure you are aware of the dairy industry viewing male cows as a liability and often times just killing them instantly (this is why places like Farm Sanctuary even exist). And as far as the undercover camera man goes - if he (and others like him) did not film this then we would not be able to witness what goes on so that we can make choices about where our money goes and what we choose to eat.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that the beatings don't seem to have much economic merit to the farm, but seem rather motivated merely by sadism.

This video shows horrific abuse which should be condemned by us all, period. The ag community should be calling for prosecution of those who are so obviously cruelly beating these animals.

Of course, when you say the investigation lasted "months on end," it actually lasted only four weeks, and the owner of the farm himself is shown in the video engaging in the abuse. This demonstrates a pattern of cruelty here as opposed to just one or two bad days.

Why blame the whistle-blowing farm worker? Without such people, this abuse would still be continuing today.

Again, I agree this is horrific. And we should be blaming those who abused the animals, not those who stopped the abuse.

Caleb said...

Great response Troy. Very eloquent and directly to the point. Keep up the good work.

DairyScienceMark said...

The Huffington Post has an interesting and 'instructive' way of commenting on this video at the following URL:

I don't agree with their 'take', but we need to learn from the approach used.


Anonymous said...

As someone who works in the food industry, but not animal agriculture, I am offended not only by the video, but also by the implicit defensiveness of these sorts of posts.

I appreciate that most small dairy operations don't practice this kind of behavior, and I really appreciate you sharing your perspective. But milk is big business and plenty of people make their living off it, so pretending everyone raising cows is doing it for the hugs is patently absurd.

I am sick of attacks on the people recording these videos, and suggestions that THEY are the problem, rather than outrage from your industry at these farmers. The filmers have an agenda, true, but it seems all to often the response to attack the messenger.

It hardly matters what the majority of firms or individuals do. The Massey mine disaster affects their industry, too, but you don't hear mine companies saying they are being unfairly maligned. You don't hear Exxon complaining that the entire oil industry is unfairly bearing the brunt of BP's mistakes. Yet every time one of these videos come out, there are dozens of ag folks saying it's not fair. I'm sorry, but it is quite fair.

This video was about a single operation, and even if people make judgments about the entire industry based upon it, it's because your industry is organized in such a way to allow this to happen.

Where is the self-policing? How do other caring farmers implicitly allow this kind of behavior within their industry? Why aren't there stronger humane treatment standards? Or humane-treatment certification programs? The growing organic movement shows there are opportunities for marketing beyond taste alone, and marketing for humane treatment is clearly an option.

If this abuse is taking place (and the arguments for it being staged seem quite weak), it is a failure of your industry to prevent it. If you don't want the Humane Society or whomever in there, then do it yourself. Why aren't you doing more to root out this behavior in others, rather than complaining about the activists?

Attacking these people for recording videos rather than reporting immediately is akin to blaming cops for gathering evidence about criminals so they can make their case instead of arresting people upon suspicion alone. Without these videos, is there any assurance that such complaints would be taken seriously? Without these videos, would there be pressure on your industry to weed out other bad actors? I don't think so.

Consider the fact that even though they have documented video, so many people suggest it's staged. You simply can't believe it, even WITH the documented video. Without the video, you wouldn't believe it at all. You'd just call them liars and be done with it. And who would that help?

Anonymous said...

This video was staged! I know the Conklins and KNOW they do not handle their cattle in this fashion! I am outraged with this video, for the simple fact that the guy in this film and there was only one guy doing it was paid to come in and create this video to get a reaction like this. I am outraged with this whole scheme! Now look at the honest hard working people that worked there that will probably have nothing after all this!


Emily Johnson said...

I think a lot of your message gets lost - the problem when these events happen is that too often energy is spent blaming the messenger

I've read about long term police investigations into drug and child porn rings where they spent months collecting evidence. If the person filming spoke up when it was happening the evidence would have been destroyed and nothing would change

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. You are an angel amoungst the animals and we appreciate your kindness to the animals you care for. The rest of those guys can go to hell for all I'm concerned. Very sad situation.

DebbieLB said...

Small farm or large farm, this kind of abuse is not acceptable. I find it disturbing that people that would abuse animals like this would apply for a job working with animals every day. I believe it is not just to earn a good solid living working hard, but to supplement their living by providing opportunity for filming abusive behavior. This person obviously does not respect animals--and he needs to be brought to justice.

I agree that these undercover videos have become too common--I do not believe in their truthfulness or honesty! If they are not staged, they are taken out of context or as another article stated, the owner was out of town during the time frame of the abuse.

I am outraged that people posing as honest farm workers trick farmers into hiring them to care for their animals. The owners place their trust in these workers, only to have them abuse their trust, their animals and their livelihood. Shame on this man and shame on the videographer. They both need to be prosecuted!

Anonymous said...

I find it extremely entertaining, that some people think the "messenger" shouldn't be blamed for any of this. That person taking the video had every chance to step up and stop the abuse but instead they just got their good shots and probably even edited the video to make it more "moving", pathetic! The people taking any kind fo video invlolving animal abuse, especially abuse as seen in the video, must not feel morally obligated to step up and say something, or turn off the camera and walk away. It was all just a show for the people on the video, it wasn't as if they were doing a daily routine and animal abuse happened, every second of the video is just hard core abuse. Why be an enabler? If they get so much joy out of having it video taped then shut it off and walk away, walk right to the police station and turn them in. Better yet the person video taping should have turned them in regardless, but instead wanted to get another video out there to bash the ag industry and make their group, whomever it may be, a top hit video that will make ag look bad. It honestly sickens me, i do not know how someone was able to watch this for months or even a month just to get the footage, no matter what me reason for being there would have been after the first time, the first cruelty act, i would have stepped up and done my part to stop it. And as far as the defense that it is evidence and you can't just turn them in, no true, that isn't evidence, there is not mystery in that video, you can plainly see who is doing the abuse and they eveb talk straight to the camera about how much they enjoy it, that would be like video taping a human being beating someone and stabbing them and torturing them, having the abuser tell you how much they enjoyed it on video, and then just walking away. You don't need evidence when there is a witness seeing exactly who is doing the crime and what is being done. there is no puzzle here, so the excuse of evidence goes right out the window. The video person or people should be charged right along with the abusers, they were an accomplice and should be charged as one.

Anonymous said...

Ag, you need to take a step back and look at this video from a public eye.

No farmer I know could or would ever defend this kind of behavior as shown in this video.

I don't care how it was filmed. I don't care who held the camara. I don't care if the owner was out of town. I don't care that the AR group is a bunch of nut cases.

Doesn't matter. It is apprehensible what has been shown.

Call it out and stand against a fellow farmer. At the very least, Mr. Conklin needs a lesson in managing because this would not ever take place on my farm without me knowing. Period.

Stop trying to deflect attention to the group that made the vid.

Start standing up for what is right and the public will listen.

Bookkeeping Made Simple, LLC said...

I watched the it and I think someone needs to treat those farmers the way they are treating their animals. It was very sad.

Anonymous said...

There is footage of Mr Gary Conklin HIMSELF kicking a cow in the FACE!
This abuse is systemic and we are in contact with former employees!
Denying does not make it NOT occur!

Troy Hadrick said...

I'm really surprised at how many people feel it's ok to let the abuse continue to happen for any period of time as long as they are "gathering evidence". As a rancher, I wouldn't tolerate this abuse for any period of time.

How long would you watch your neighbor abuse a dog or cat before you turned them in? If you you knew someone was abusing a child in this manner, would you call someone a hero if they allowed it to happen for a month?

I guess some people have more of a a tolerance for this behavior than I do.

Jenn said...

Seriously Angie, killing bull calves instantly, that is absolutely ridiculous and I have never heard of such a thing. Apparently you have never been to a feedlot with dairy steers. (And by the way cows are mature female bovine, so saying male cows is totally incorrect.)

I'm with Troy on this one, the people need to visit farms to see how it is really done. We treat our animals properly with respect. The few who do not, should not be around animals. The same would be true for how people treat other people. I think the public as a whole, has forgotten how to respect. It's time to restore it!

Anonymous said...

How do you people claiming the owner is in the video know what Gary Conklin looks like? If what you're saying is true, why hasn't he been arrested? The only photos I've seen associated with this story are of the employee who was arrested (and who, to my horror, is training to be a police officer!).

Jan said...

It's OK to abuse animals (commenters) if it's showing others?! WHaT?!! Beating cattle with crowbars is NOT OK!!! EVER.

And the anonymous saying milk is 'big business' and farmers made a lot of money - what planet are you on?!! The farmers LOSING thousands per month are making money? That doesn't work in my bank account!

If 2 activists go onto a farm and beat animals while videotaping it that makes it OK?!! So if two people go into your home and beat each other senseless you then beat your family members and should have them removed? Or it's justified because it shows domestic violence happens?

These things are ILLeGAL for a reason and you're on an AG blog - which like many AG blogs CONDEMNS it. Yet anonymous activists come here and say that's ok because it happens. Unacceptable.

And Troy agree with you.

Gerald and Denise said...

Troy - I just found your blog this morning. My daughter is giving a presentation to the State 4-H on Branding in the Beef category early June. One judge asked in a previous contest 'If an animal rights advocate asked if branding was inhumane how would you respond.' I'm interested in your comment.

Ryan said...

It's interesting reading the small farmers speak out against the treatment of animals at Conklin Dairy Farms and then immediately point a finger at the videographer or raising questions about whether or not it was staged by pro-animal activisits (ridiculous claim).

Let's say the videographer captures the first act, then confronts that worker and the owner....they then out themselves and the worker gets maybe a warning and the business and the abuse would go on as usual.

Allowing enough time to gather evidence of systematic abuse and the involvement and knowledge of such acts by the owner can put a stop to it at that Dairy Farm (which should be shut down based on the evidenced gathered) and other farms as well.

Thank god they stomached through what had to be an agonizing time at that Dairy Farm. Now enough evidence has been gathered to put that monster away for a while, shut down that farm, and remind farmers that do not consider humane treatment a priority, that they need to get their act straight.

As a once proud meat eater, I now will consider an alternative diet and lifestyle. Not only because sick abuses like these occur, but the reaction of other small farmers is political in nature.....point the finger at the cameraman. Makes me think if they really do care about humane treatment, or want to distance themselves from this PR nightmare.

The public isn't going to buy it and neither should you, it's a damn red herring and you know it.

Focus on the real issue and trying to distract it with your finger pointing, only makes you look worse.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your post Troy. I'm a ND kid and a farm advocate too. But.......and this is a big but. WTF are you talking about taking a shot at the people who shot the video?

Unknown said...

I grew up on a family hog farm, and the things I saw were traumatic enough. Basically, if an animal had no economic value, its pain or suffering was considered “cost-effective” for the businessman farmer to ignore (no vet calls for animals with congenital or other medical conditions causing suffering … and why waste time or bullets silencing their cries and putting them out of their misery?) Other family farmers, like you, may be much better shepherds of their animals’ welfare, but unfortunately their products get no special recognition in the grocery aisle, and most animal products sold in the US are not from family farms.

Worse than the worst family farmers, however, is the fact that most factory farm laborers have no direct economic interest in the animals whatsoever -- and, let’s face it, “factory farm laborer” was probably not their first career choice. Add to that the industry’s stressful (and, at the slaughter end, very dangerous) work conditions and its focus on big numbers and profit, and the results are really not so surprising.

I support everything from veganism to the The American Humane® Certified Farm Animal Program. We can all agree the stuff on this video and many others needs to stop, so I say we work together and put off arguing about the ethics of consuming animal products in general until we know the most egregious practices and lax oversight are history.

Becky said...

Thanks for the post. It's nice to know someone else is on the same side. We dairy farm and I see absolutely no purpose to the abuse. What was it accomplishing other than to appease the sadist nature of the abusers? Sure I get frustrated when a calf won't drink, but punching it in the face? It makes no sense.

As far as the video goes, those cows were clean, well bedded, and well fed. If they had seen abuse like that daily for a prolonged period of time they wouldn't look like that. I'm wondering how much mfa paid them to do it. Workers like that wouldn't survive a minute on our farm and it horrifies me that they were allowed to do this. Someone knew, whether it was the owner, which I doubt, or the cameraman. Someone saw the abuse and let it happen over and over again and for what purpose? To get a good story? To make us aware that sadistic animal abusers exist? We as an industry need to step up to the plate and show our outrage at the abuse and let our consumers know that this type of behavior is not tolerated. Sadly I don't know the best way to do that.

We dairy farmers aren't in it for the money. Yes, this is how we make money (or lose it as is the case at the moment), but it is far more than a career. It is a way of life. I'm raising my kids as farmkids and raising them to be proud of it.

Thanks for the post and the support.

Anonymous said...

First, the video was filmed for two weeks, not months. I bet if the investigatator had stopped at the first instance of abuse, there would be even more of a ludicrous outcry that it was staged, it would have been easier for people to ignore it, and there wouldn't have been a case for the prosecution the abusers deserve. The sad truth is that animal abuse is rampant in the industry. Mercy for Animals chose the Conklin Farm AT RANDOM (see It is good to hear that you personally have never engaged in animal abuse at the farms you've worked many has that been? If you read the unbiased (she does not side with either the animal rights group or the ag industry; rather, she sides with the animals) account of a woman who has worked for 30 years in the industry consulting at 100s of not 1000s of farms, mostly cattle, to improve the living and slaughter conditions (Temple Grandin's Animals Make Us Human), you'll find that she is dismayed at how rampant bad handling and even abuse is. She will even teach workers good handling techniques and then come back to the farm a year later and they're back to being awful to the animals. (You're right--there's no economic incentive, but Grandin tries to explain why she thinks abuse happens. Anyone in the ag industry should read the book.)

It's an inconvenient truth for everyone--for the ag industry and for the people who want to continue eating animal products--that animals suffer for the agricultural industry's profit and consumers' tastebuds. The only solution is to have people like you who uphold humane conditions manage farms and ensure abuse doesn't happen. As Grandin says in her book--and what the Conklin Farm video shows so well--farms CAN be without abuse if there's a directive from management that abuse won't be tolerated.

But if the owner and manager is abusing animals himself...the animals don't stand a chance.

Nanak said...

I have a very, very hard to believing that you have ever been at a dairy or pig farm in the USA. I have never seen a dairy farm where the cows aren't wallowing in shit. Nor where the calves are allowed the comfort and warmth of their mothers and the mild that is stolen from them for human consumption. the complaints about Conklin Farms have actually gone on for the past 8 years without anyone able to stop it without proof. So as much as the secret people videotaping may have hated to be patient, there was no other way to stop the abuse permanently. You are an insult and a liar. Shame on you for putting down anyone that exposes the lies you are living. How do you eat steak or drink milk humanely. There are always cattle and calves that suffer. And I suppose you also condone animal auctions and rodeos and the abuse that is part of both.

Ohiothoughts said...

The abuser Gregg should have the same things done to him that he did to the Dairy cows,
but the camera man....
If that was a child, would he have kept filming to get the good shot?
The camera man only needed one shot to take to police, seems he filmed quite alot, why is that?

MichaleenFlynn said...

Great post, Troy, thank you!

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the video. A dairy cow gives her best milk production when she is at her very happiest. If a dairy abuses their cattle, they are just shooting themselves in the foot as milk production would drop.

rachaelkathryn said...

my thoughts on this issue:

Anonymous said...

This is in no way a comment supporting abuse of animals, but I need to ask: How can we define animal rights? We can not ask animals how they should be treated, we do not know their feelings, and they do not communicate the same way as we do.

This anthropomorphism of animals is dangerous to human civilization. Animals ARE NOT humans. We do not know their needs or wants. Their wants and needs are not the same as ours - I dont see them wanting to drive a BMW, does anybody else?

Maybe they like to wallow in their own manure. Maybe they being caged up. Provide me with a means to communicate with a cow and have that cow tell me directly what (s)he wants. Until then animal "rights" activists can shove it as it is quite clear that all they want to do is push an agenda.

Anonymous said...

Nanak~ Are you living in Reality? I am surrounded by dairy farms and none are "wallowing in manure". (Sorry I edited your quote to remove your ignorant curse word, and make it correct)I don't have a lot of pig farm experience, but the one I was at was very clean. Here we have beef cattle, mostly for my kids to show. They are probably pampered more then most peoples cats and dogs.

I don't see this blog blamming the video taker for the abuse, just that they would watch and tape for so long without reporting it immediately. If anyone abused my animals or I saw someone's animals abused I would turn them in immediately on day ONE, just as I would if I saw a child abused. I would not video it for TWO weeks to get evidence and then report it, two weeks later could be too LATE.

Atrazine said...

I believe many of you do not really know how a tomato farm would look like. Yeah for city people like us, it would be very rare for us to contact with agriculture.