Conklin Dairy Farms: The Westboro Church Of Agriculture
Last Wednesday, an Ohio dairy farm worker – Billy Joe Gregg, Jr. – was arrested on 12 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty following the release of an undercover video taped by Mercy For Animals (WARNING: video is extremely graphic and disturbing). It shows Gregg allegedly stabbing cows in the udders, sides and head with pitchforks, snapping tailbones, throwing newborn calves to the ground and punching them in the head, and striking cows in the head and legs with crowbars (some of them apparently restrained for that purpose). Gregg was the only employee arrested yet the video clearly shows owner Gary Conklin repeatedly stomping a helpless calf with his boot while the animal was down. Conklin issued a statement indicating that anyone found guilty of improper conduct would be fired.
One of the most disturbing details about Gregg is this: apparently Gregg is enrolled in community college, studying to become a law enforcement officer. A law enforcement officer. How would you like to dial 911 and have THAT show up on your doorstep? Gregg requested the court to let him out on bond because he “had his own animals to take care of” and was “a disabled vet”. Signs of his disability are not apparent in the video showing him beating the cattle for extended periods of time.
Conklin Dairy Farm was chosen at random by Mercy For Animals to demonstrate the weakness of the state’s animal cruelty laws, especially with respect to farm animals. Despite the horrific abuse inflicted on the cows and calves, Gregg won’t be charged with felonies. Union County’s sheriff, Rocky Nelson, called Gregg’s actions “vile and disgusting” and told the press, “If there was a way this could be a felony charge, I would push for that.” Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy For Animals, said “This case graphically illustrates the often cruel and abusive plight farmed animals in Ohio face. We must adopt stronger and stricter state and federal laws to prevent and discourage farmers from abusing and beating animals.”
Outrage over this situation has been profound. A planned protest scheduled for Memorial Day was headed off by local law authorities due to the hostilities expressed toward Conklin’s owners and other staff. Mercy For Animals opposed the protest as well, urging the public to let the legal system deal with the facts. Outrage expressed online has been extreme.
Like every other industry, the business of raising animals for food has its dark side. This article by Gene Baur at Farm Sanctuary details the weakness of Ohio’s laws. While stories of puppy mills and dog-fighting frequently make the headlines, Americans hear little about the process of livestock handling. Mercy for Animals has filmed and exposed a number of atrocities in the industry that pertain to the customary and sanctioned treatment of food animals. Organizations like the Animal Law Coalition support passage of H. R. 4733, Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act which would legislate more humane treatment of livestock. Just last week the Ohio legislature passed H. B. 55 which directly addresses some of the animal cruelty concerned raised by the torturous conditions at Conklin Dairy.
So why does this situation pertain to the average American, since most people would harshly condemn Billy Joe Gregg’s actions anyway? Because taxpayers have helped support it. That’s right; taxpayers have contributed over $35,000 in farm subsidies to Conklin Dairy from 1995 to 2009. $27,666 of that subsidy money was targeted for the dairy program. How much of that money was spent on the wages (or any other business category that contributed to the wages) of Billy Joe Gregg, the alleged sadist who was filmed ritualistically abusing the cattle?
At the very least we must demand the humane treatment of the animals we raise for food. Many organizations advocate that individuals avoid animal products and follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but the insatiable American appetite for burgers , barbecue, and chicken nuggets makes this impractical as a wide-scale strategy for disciplining the livestock industry. What is more practical is the legislation presently being considered and the example set forth by Dr. Temple Grandin.
Grandin, widely known as an autistic and autism advocate is also one of the country’s leading experts on livestock handling and was recently the subject of an HBO movie. Over half the beef cattle in America live in facilities designed by Dr. Grandin, who emphasizes stress reduction and humane treatment on their journey to slaughter. Her expertise extends to swine and other livestock and an excellent article entitled “Animals Are Not Things”.
This writer finds it sad commentary that we need to be reminded “animals are not things” and the people who raise the animals we kill for food need to have their compassion and humanity questioned. Have some of us become so desensitized to the humane treatment of animals we don’t even see them as living creatures who feel pain? Perhaps so. I, for one, will vote with my wallet and my conscience. I’ve been a pescetarian since last Friday – no dairy, no meat, no eggs – and it’s wonderful. Am I an omnivore? Yes. Would I eat a free-range organic chicken that had been treated well and humanely slaughtered? Maybe someday. Will I eat and drink the sorrow and suffering hidden behind the veil of laws shielding agriculture,factory farming, and sadism? No. Billy Joe Gregg cost the dairy industry several customers – a small dent, perhaps, but a dent nonetheless.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2010 Liberaland