Newton County, Indiana, prosecutor Jeff Drinski said on June 18 that a witness to the alleged abuse of dairy cattle at Fair Oaks Farms has come forward, claiming that an Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) employee who made the undercover videos of abuse -- which went viral -- at the farm's dairy operations encouraged or pressured workers to do what they did, The Journal and Courier reported.
“Newton County has one former Fair Oaks Farms employee under arrest and two others are wanted on charges tied to the abuse seen in videos that first appeared from ARM on June 5,” the report said.
I want to restate that the way the animals in the video were being physically handled was undeniably revolting and we can potentially blame ARM for that. I’d like to say I’m surprised. I’d like to think that this information will go viral the same way that the abuse videos did, but I don’t believe it will.
People deserve to know that this so-called animal activist group not only held on to their video for months before releasing it, but it also encouraged the harm of animals. This is something that no agriculture enthusiast would ever do or encourage because, let’s face it, a healthy, well-taken-care-of animal is more profitable than one that is not well cared for.
Unfortunately, bad news sells, and ARM was successful in creating an uproar around the livestock industry. They are against “factory farms,” and with Fair Oaks being one of the largest dairy farms in the U.S., they are bound to draw the attention of organizations like ARM. That is sad because transparency has always been Fair Oaks' mission and one that I have personally admired.
In my first blog about the Fair Oaks situation, I said ARM had a hidden agenda and, unfortunately, I was right. The activists are not going anywhere, and the industry cannot afford ongoing viral outrage.
Personally, I would think that the organization's mission should be animal welfare, rather than destroying an industry. But if that was the case, not only would they have come forth with their evidence immediately, but they sure wouldn’t have encouraged such behavior for their own agenda.
I’d like to praise Fair Oaks for their response to the situation, one in which they offered animal activists back to the farm.
“We really wish that groups like this understood that they are welcome also to come and share with us their thoughts of our practices and our management and allow us to have a dialogue with them where we could interchange our thoughts with theirs," Fair Oaks Farms founder Mike McCloskey said in a Hoosier Ag Today article. "I’m sure they’ll teach us stuff and help us become better at what we do because it is that transparency that has helped us to continue to be open with our practice and listen to everyone. It’s all, at the end of the day, about producing great products while taking great care of our animals, our land, our people in our community, and that is who Fair Oaks Farms is.”
I have encouraged farmers to be transparent, to teach the general public how much farming means to those who spend their life doing it, to help consumers better understand the products we are providing. However, instances like this make all that hard.
I hope agriculturalists will keep sharing their farm stories, use social media to build trust and, beyond all, create a personal message that consumers will resonate with and build emotion because -- like it or not -- emotions won in this viral scenario.