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Conklin Dairy Farm: A test case

Ohio is fast becoming known as a state plagued with animal abuse. One of the most extreme and well-documented cases yet involves video taken at the Conklin Dairy Farm in Plain City, Ohio.


The horrific abuse captured undercover at Conklin Dairy Farm will prove to be a test case for Ohio animal abuse laws and enforcement.

The Video

Ohio is fast becoming known as a state plagued with animal abuse. One of the most extreme and well-documented cases yet involves video taken at the Conklin Dairy Farm in Plain City, Ohio, located about 25 miles northwest of Columbus. By now, this undercover video has been seen worldwide. For most viewers it is painful to watch the unprovoked abuse on the dairy cows and their calves. This graphic video was taken over a four-week period between April and May 2010 by an undercover investigator working with Mercy For Animals (MFA). This not-for-profit group founded in Ohio by the son of a veterinarian has exposed cruel animal practices in the meat, dairy, and egg industries.

The disturbing video shows workers at the dairy farm beating cows with crowbars, stabbing them with pitchforks, twisting and breaking cows' tails, punching cows' udders, kicking "downed" cows too weak to stand and workers frequently bragging about the cruel abuse to the animals.

WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGES Below are YouTube links to news reports from around Ohio following the release of the MFA video:

Experts Respond

Experts from around the country responded to the video including respected Dr. Bernard Rollin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University remarked, "This is probably the most gratuitous, sustained, sadistic animal abuse I have ever seen."

Dr. Temple Grandin, world-renowned cattle welfare expert and advisor to the USDA, responded after viewing the footage stating, "The handling of both the calves and cows was atrocious animal abuse. These people were deliberately torturing animals and their behavior was totally sickening."

Arrests and Responses

On Thursday, May 27, Billy Joe Gregg, Jr., 25, of Delaware, Ohio, one of the Conklin farm workers was arrested. His bond was set at $100,000.

If convicted, Gregg faces up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $750 on each misdemeanor count. At his arraignment, Gregg told the judge he was a wounded Iraq war veteran. This claim has not been confirmed. In the video, Gregg is seen carrying guns into the milk house, firing them on the farm and discussing how he stole M-16 rifles from the U.S. Army while in Iraq. In a strange twist, many disabled military veterans are given service animals to help them adjust and heal. These animals provide them with comfort and support where no human could.

Both the American (AVMA) and Ohio (OVMA) Veterinary Medical Associations reacted strongly to this video. On May 27, the OVMA wrote in a statement, "The Ohio Veterinary Medical Association joins all responsible and caring Ohioans in condemning the violent way these animals were treated."

In an effort to explain the limitations in the Ohio animal cruelty laws, the Union County Prosecutor's Office writes, "I understand the response to the video and the desire for immediate action, as well as the demand for felony prosecution." He adds, "A couple of points. First, the person depicted on the video has been charged with 12 counts of cruelty to animals. This is a misdemeanor of the second degree. There are no felony criminal charges available under Ohio law. Second, the investigation is continuing by the Union County Sheriff's Office and agents of the Humane Society to determine what other charges may be appropriate. While you have seen an edited version of the video, officers are reviewing hours of raw unedited video as well as other evidence. Third, while we have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, the office responsible for prosecuting this is the city attorney. We have assisted in the investigation, and will continue to do so, the matter is with his jurisdiction."

Gregg was later charged with a felony weapons charge for having a loaded handgun in his vehicle at the Conklin Dairy Farm. The Union County grand jury on June 1 indicted Gregg on one count of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony.

Gregg is set to appear in court on August 16 on the animal abuse charges.

In another development regarding the Conklin Farm case, a protest was cancelled to take place at the farm with some surprising results. Most who responded were average concerned citizens who found a "war zone." According to The Columbus Dispatch on June 1, "About 150 law - enforcement officers, many dressed in SWAT gear and backed up by a helicopter and at least one armored vehicle, were scattered around a dairy farm that was the focus of a grisly animal-cruelty video that has gone viral on the Internet." Many saw this police effort as "overkill."

Ohio is listed as one of 10 states that doesn't classify cruelty to farm animals as a felony.

In addition, it was reported that a day after MFA aired the undercover video, state agriculture inspectors discovered an open pit with an unidentified number of dead cattle floating in the water. Jill M. Deul, an inspector with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, noted that the Conklin Dairy Farm had not properly disposed of the dead animals. Under Ohio law, bovine carcasses must be buried at least four feet underground. It leaves many to wonder how these animals died considering the abuse taking place on the farm at that time. Did anyone at the state level inquire as to what caused these animals to die?

It was also reported that since 1995, Conklin Dairy Farms has received about $36,000 in federal farm subsidies as listed in the Environmental Working Group database. In 2009, it shows the Conklin Farm received $12,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In an article by The Cincinnati Enquirer it listed some Ohio dairy farm facts (Source: Ohio Department of Agriculture):

In summary

Ohio must move forward in the way animals are treated. As the public begins to awaken to the sometimes shocking reality of pain and suffering these animals endure at the hands of man, change will come. Only then will our state move to protect and defend these defenseless beings. New laws need to be written and passed. This is not a "radical" or "extreme" idea as portrayed by some in the agriculture industry. This is the mission of the League of Humane Voters of Ohio.

Treating all living creatures humanely is "common sense compassion." It makes no sense to have separate standards for "companion animals" like cats and dogs yet excuse animal abuse in livestock or wildlife. Most civilized nations support humane treatment for humans and animals.

Ever occur to you why some of us can be this much concerned with animals suffering? Because government is not. Why not? Animals don't vote. ~ Paul Harvey

For those who seek to profit from animals using these inhumane practices, we need to establish laws to use as guidelines. Punish those who cross those lines. Moreover, it is up to us (as consumers, voters and citizens) to design a legal system that will protect the rights of these animals. Leave no gray areas for the powerful and well-connected to escape prosecution.

Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. ~ Mark Twain (from The Lowest Animal)

Most people oppose animal abuse. Therefore, we need a system that reflects the will of the people.

Ohioans were sold a system in 2009 with the passage of Ohio Issue 2 spearheaded by the agriculture industry. Their claim was to oversee "Animal Welfare" and "Food Safety." Many, however, believe the new board was designed to protect the very industry in place today. We know how self-regulation works in America. Just watch the news to see the growing list of corporations running wild.

The system in place now states its purpose is to regulate only animals for "food and fur." We still question why HORSES are listed. Efforts were made to exclude them from this board's oversight. Strangely, they still remain.

The responsibility to protect both animals and consumers is now the task of the Ohio Livestock Care Standard Board set up at the agriculture industry's request. As both consumers and voters, we have the power to make change.

Janice Kobi, LOHV Ohio


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