altJust in time for National Dairy Month, an animal-rights organization has pounced on the dairy industry.

Mainstream and social media is ablaze with the story of the Animal Recovery Mission’s “undercover investigation” of the mistreatment of calves at the Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana.

I have watched the video, and I find it very upsetting. If I had treated a calf, or any animal, like these workers, my dad would have whooped me five times worse.

The video claims there is “widespread abuse” on the farm, but the same four workers were filmed time and time again – for three months. For three months, the person planted by ARM never confronted the workers who were harming these calves; they watched and waited. Because they did nothing to stop the actions for three months, the person recording the workers is just as guilty and those who are tossing, kicking and punching the calves. As of this writing, charges have been filed against three of the workers. I expect more charges to come.

Fair Oaks Farms founder Mike McCloskey said they were made aware of ARM’s undercover operation months ago, but were not aware of what footage was captured by the group until it was released to the public. They said they were “disgusted by and take full responsibility for the actions seen in the footage.” McCloskey went on to say the actions of the employees “goes against everything that we stand for in regards to responsible cow care and comfort.”

The statement also says of the four farm employees on the video, three were terminated prior to management becoming aware of the ARM operation because co-workers reported their actions. When the video was released, the fourth was terminated. I’m speculating more employees may be in the unemployment line as this story unfolds. If not already in place, I suspect there will also be stricter background checks and vetting at Fair Oaks Farms before hiring.

In some ways, the video is misleading. Trying to teach a calf how to suck on a bottle can be misconstrued as “force feeding,” but punching a calf will never help it learn to take a bottle. Branding is also a common practice on farms and ranches, and calves and cows do die even with the best of care. These are the not-so-pretty parts of life on a farm.

The Fair Oaks Farms incident is having a ripple effect on the entire dairy industry. Fair Oaks Farms sold its milk to Fairlife, and stores are pulling the product from shelves. Fairlife has suspended deliveries from the farm, but Fair Oaks’ milk was less than 5 percent of the company’s milk supply. The actions of four employees, a cameraman and a truck driver have now impacted about 30 other dairy farms that supply milk to Fairlife.

Animal rights groups are having a field day with the release of the video, calling for the boycott of dairy products because of the “cruelty” on dairy farms. There are many, many dairy farmers across the country, good dairy farmers, who are struggling to keep their farms going. Associating those good farmers with the hired hands on the video isn’t fair.

I have many dairy farmer friends. I’ve seen some of them break down because of the loss of a cow or kick themselves because they couldn’t save a calf. I’ve seen the heartbreak of that trailer driving away with 30, 40, 50 years of breeding that will never return to their farm. It’s as if they lost a part of themselves.

I want to thank all of my friends who are dairy farmers for all their hard work, and every other farmer and rancher who spends countless hours caring for their animals.

Agriculture deserves better than this. You deserve better than this.

Julie

Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at editor@ozarksfn.com.

Julie Turner-CrawfordEditorial / Opinionsdairy industry,Fair Oaks Farms,Indiana,Julie Turner-Crawford,National Dairy Month,The continued battle,undercover investigationJust in time for National Dairy Month, an animal-rights organization has pounced on the dairy industry. Mainstream and social media is ablaze with the story of the Animal Recovery Mission’s “undercover investigation” of the mistreatment of calves at the Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana. I have watched the video, and I...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma