In this file:
· What we can learn from the undercover video taken at Fair Oaks Farms
· Fair Oaks Farms animal abuse: ‘Terrible judgment on my part,' founder says
· Chicago Grocery Chain Drops fairlife Following Activist Video
What we can learn from the undercover video taken at Fair Oaks Farms
As activists wage war on animal agriculture, here’s what producers can do today to stop bad actors who abuse livestock, protect themselves from bad employees and take ownership on consumer conversations about animal welfare.
Amanda Radke, Opinion, BEEF Magazine
Jun 05, 2019
On June 4, an undercover video shot and produced by the activist group, Animal Recovery Mission (ARM), was released to the public. Some of the video footage included animal abuse that occurred at Fair Oaks Farms, an Indiana dairy operation and popular agricultural tourism destination.
In an official statement, Mike McCloskey, DVM, the founder of Fair Oaks Farm said, “It is a shock and an eye-opener for us to discover that under our watch, we had employees who showed disregard for our animals, our processes and for the rule of law. This ARM video shines a light on an area that – despite our thorough training, employee on-boarding procedures and overall commitment to animal welfare – needs improvement.
“However, as I have stated before, the fact that ARM takes months before notifying owners or authorities regarding ongoing animal abuse is concerning. I have personally reached out to ARM’s founder, Richard Couto, to discuss a more symbiotic relationship, but he has yet to reach back.
“A full investigation of all aspects of the video is underway, during and after which disciplinary action will be taken, including termination and criminal prosecution, of any and all employees and managers who have violated either our animal care practices or the law or both.”
Read McCloskey’s full statement here [link], and while you’re there, browse the comments section to gain some perspective on how the general public views the abuse and Fair Oaks’ response to the bad actors in this scenario.
Additionally, my friend Carrie Mess, a Wisconsin dairy farmer who is a strong advocate for the dairy industry on social media, offers her perspective on hiring employees and doing the best you can as a business owner.
An excerpt from a statement Mess posted on Facebook reads, “You see, when we hire someone, we aren't just trusting them with a cash register or inventory. We are trusting that whoever we hire will do the right thing by our cows. Living, breathing animals that have been entrusted to our care. We are trusting whoever we hire will not only live up to our expectations as their employer, but also to your expectations of our farm because you are our customer.
“Cows aren't always compliant. You can't reason with them. You can't explain the plan to them and have them understand you. They can be incredibly frustrating to work with at times. Cows can cause people to lose their patience and sometimes the person losing their patience is the person you hired. The person you have to trust will make the right choice when things don't go their way.
“Last night I hired a new employee. I will train him, I will have him sign an agreement to care for our ladies with respect, I will supervise him. At some point I will leave him on his own to do some work and I will put my trust in him because I have to, to get the job done. I will put my trust in him because I believe that although evil exists, most humans are good. That is the best I can do, that is the best any of us can do.”
Read her full story here [link], and again, check out the comments to gain insights on the consumer response to this video and Mess’ attempt to reach the general public and connect with them on a personal level. I think she does a great job of it, and the comments reflect that.
As we watch this situation unfold, what can we as beef producers do to eliminate instances of abuse, protect ourselves from employees who wish to do us or our animals harm and ultimately, reassure our consumers that animal welfare is a top priority on our farms and ranches?
First, let’s talk about animal abuse ...
Next, let’s talk about these undercover videos ...
Third, how can we own the conversations about animal welfare with our consumers? ...
Finally, I think this statement from the Animal Agriculture Alliance (Alliance) sums up well how many of us in agriculture are feeling about what happened at Fair Oaks Farms ...
To recap, I’ll say these four things ...
more, including links
Fair Oaks Farms animal abuse: ‘Terrible judgment on my part,' founder says
After undercover videos show abuse, Fair Oaks Farms will add cameras throughout its operations to make sure animals are treated properly, founder Mike McCloskey says
Dave Bangert, Lafayette Journal & Courier
June 6, 2019
FAIR OAKS, Ind. – With his dairy operations facing evidence of animal abuse shown in an animal rights group’s graphic, undercover video, Fair Oaks Farms founder Mike McCloskey said the farm will install cameras anywhere there are human-animal interactions to prevent similar scenes from happening again.
In a video released late Wednesday night, McCloskey said Fair Oaks Farms also will make the feeds from those security cameras live in the farm’s Dairy Adventure area so the some-500,000 visitors each year will be able to see every part of the operations at any given time.
McCloskey said he understood that people had been asking in the wake of the Animal Recovery Mission video – ones that showed workers beating and dragging calves – why Fair Oaks Farms hadn’t installed cameras in the past. He said in the video response that cameras had been part of the discussions when Fair Oaks was built not only as a working dairy farm and agritourism education center for the public along Interstate 65, an hour north of Lafayette.
But, McCloskey said, he thought Fair Oaks’ animal welfare training was strong enough that the business could trust workers and the system.
“That was a terrible judgment on my part,” McCloskey said. “The way I have to look at this is that as hard as we try, you can always end up with bad people within your organization, and this is what happened to us.”
McCloskey’s video response followed requests from the J&C and other media for interviews in the wake of the videos released Tuesday by ARM, a Miami, Florida-based animal rights group. McCloskey has not met with reporters face-to-face.
McCloskey also had released a lengthy statement Tuesday evening via the Fair Oaks social media pages, taking blame and responsibility for what was shown on the video and for a breakdown in Fair Oaks’ animal welfare practices.
The Animal Recovery Mission’s video quickly spread, with footage of workers hitting calves with branding irons, punching them and piling dead bodies.
In a report that accompanied the video, the organization said it conducted the undercover investigation between August and November 2018, when one of its investigators was hired as a calf care employee at one of Fair Oaks Farms dairy operations.
Since the report, there have been calls for boycotts of Fair Oaks products...
more, including video
Chicago Grocery Chain Drops fairlife Following Activist Video
By Anna-Lisa Laca, FarmJournal's Milk
June 5, 2019
Jewel-Osco, a chain of 187 grocery stores in the Chicago area, announced Wednesday it was removing all fairlife products because of the “inhumane treatment of animals” shown in an undercover animal activist video released Tuesday taken at Fair Oaks Farms.
“At Jewel-Osco we strive to maintain high animal welfare standards across all areas of our business, and work in partnership with our vendors to ensure those standards are upheld,” the company’s statement said. “We apologize for any inconvenience.”
Following the video’s release, Chicago-based fairlife said in a statement that the dairy shown in the video represents less than 5% of its milk supplies.
Fairlife will immediately suspend milk deliveries from that dairy and conduct independent third-party audits at its 30 other supplying dairies within the next month, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Select Milk Producers, a cooperative Fair Oaks owners Mike and Sue McCloskey helped start, and Coca-Cola partnered to form fairlife in 2012.
Coca-Cola requires "suppliers to operate with the highest degree of integrity and comply with all laws, including animal welfare laws," they said in a statement. Additionally, they expressed support for the proactive approach the McCloskeys and their teams were taking...