CLEVELAND - A worker has been arrested after an animal welfare group released a video Wednesday it secretly recorded of workers beating cows at an Ohio dairy farm.
The video was recorded in an undercover investigation over the last 4-5 weeks at Conklin Dairy Farms Inc., said Mercy For Animals, a not-for-profit group that publicizes what it calls cruel practices in the dairy, meat and egg industries and promotes a vegan diet.
The video shows workers holding down newborn calves and stomping on their heads. It shows one worker wiring a cow's nose to a metal bar near the ground and repeatedly beating it with another bar while it bleeds.
Union County Sheriff Rocky Nelson announced Wednesday afternoon that 25-year-old Billy Joe Gregg of Delaware County was arrested and charged with 12 counts of cruelty to animals, a second degree misdemeanor.
Sheriff Nelson said deputies were called to Conklin Dairy Farm at 6 a.m. Wednesday to provide security for an employee termination. After learning the nature of the termination, the sheriff’s office conducted its own investigation and made the arrest.
Other charged may be filed in the case, according to the sheriff. Conklin Dairy Farms, a fourth-generation family operation based in Plain City, said it takes the care of its cows and calves very seriously and had reviewed the video.
"The video shows animal care that is clearly inconsistent with the high standards we set for our farm and its workers, and we find the specific mistreatment shown on the video to be reprehensible and unacceptable," Gary Conklin, of Conklin Dairy Cattle Sales LLC, said Tuesday night in an e-mailed statement. "We will not condone animal abuse on our farm."
The company said it would interview its farm workers and anyone found to have willfully abused the cows or calves would be fired.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture said some milk is sent to Minerva Dairy in Stark County, where it’s used to make cheese. A spokesperson for Minerva Dairy Cheese said they only started using Conklin milk last month, but will stop doing business with Conklin Farms immediately.
Last year, Mercy For Animals, which is based in Chicago, released a video showing workers at an Iowa egg hatchery tossing male chicks into a grinder. Industry groups said such instantaneous euthanasia was a common practice because male chicks can't lay eggs or be raised quickly enough to be sold for meat.
Mercy For Animals' executive director, Nathan Runkle, said the cow video was shot between April 28 and Sunday by an undercover worker at the dairy, about 25 miles northwest of Columbus. He said the documented abuse violates Ohio's anti-animal cruelty statute.
The group presented the video and the evidence it collected to the prosecutor's office in Marysville. The prosecutor's office didn't respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press late Tuesday.
To watch the video from the group, go to:
The following statement is issued by Conklin Dairy Cattle Sales LLC:
"As fourth-generation farmers, our family takes the care of our cows and calves very seriously. We take equally seriously the allegations that have been made about our farm operation and the mistreatment of our animals.
"We have conducted an initial review of the video that the activist group has released. The video shows animal care that is clearly inconsistent with the high standards we set for our farm and its workers, and we find the specific mistreatment shown on the video to be reprehensible and unacceptable.
"We will not condone animal abuse on our farm. We have launched our own internal investigation into this matter and will be conducting interviews with everyone on our farm who works with our animals. We already have terminated the worker involved who was seen to have willfully abused our cows and calves.
"We are cooperating fully with law enforcement authorities overseeing this situation. Further, our farm will institute immediate retraining of all those who remain on the farm and who work with our animals.
"The trust of our customers in the way we operate our farm, care for our herds and produce quality, safe milk is of critical importance to us, and we will work to maintain that trust as we address this issue."
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement:
"The people who committed the sadistic and barbaric cruelty documented by Mercy for Animals at an Ohio dairy should have the book thrown at them. These deeply disturbing attacks against helpless animals should be troubling to anyone with any level of decency. Given the anemic state of Ohio's anti-cruelty laws, it is time for the Legislature to upgrade these statutes so judges and prosecutors have the tools to handle people who engage in malicious cruelty, including to farm animals."
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