Fair Oaks Farm, located in Fair Oaks, Indiana, was once dubbed the “Disneyland of agricultural tourism,” according to The Associated Press. But, this title is now under review following the release of undercover footage by the animal rights group Animal Recovery Mission (ARM). The pursuit was reportedly the “largest undercover dairy investigation in history” and resulted in a number of shocking discoveries.
EcoWatch reports that mid-June, the ARM released footage of the farm which is one of the largest dairy farms in the US. The farm produces the Fairlife milk brand in conjunction with Coca-Cola, reports The Indianapolis Star. Furthermore, the farm is a popular field trip destination, drawing in more than 600,000 visitors each year.
ARM Founder Richard Couto told The Indianapolis Star that the footage was acquired by an undercover investigator. The investigator was hired by Fair Oaks as a calf caretaker at its Prairies Edge North Barn and worked on the farm from August to November 2018. “The abuse began day one, hour one,” Couto said.
According to the ARM Facebook page, the investigator witnessed the following:
“Employees were observed slapping, kicking, punching, pushing, throwing and slamming calves; calves were stabbed and beaten with steel rebars, hit in the mouth and face with hard plastic milking bottles, kneed in the spine, burned in the face with hot branding irons, subjected to extreme temperatures, provided with improper nutrition, and denied medical attention. This resulted in extreme pain and suffering by the calves, and in some cases permanent injury and even death.”
During their time at the farm, the investigator also confirmed that the male calves were being sent to veal farms. The company claims the contrary.
In response to the video, the Newton County Sheriff’s Office said it will investigate the abuse. ABC7 reports that three retailers announced the same day that they would pull Fairlife products from their stores. Those retailers were Strack & Van Til, Family Express, and Jewel-Osco.
Shortly after, Coca-Cola told The Indianapolis Star that Fair Oaks had stopped all sourcing for Fairlife from the location shown in the video. “[We] support and respect the proactive approach that Fairlife and Fair Oaks Farms have taken and we continue to stay in contact with them to lend any support they need,” said Coca-Cola.
The founder of Fair Oaks, Mike McCloskey, identified four employees and one contracted truck driver responsible for the abuse. All four have since been terminated for abusive behaviour and the driver is no longer allowed on the property.
“It is with great disappointment to find, after closely reviewing the released ARM video, that there were five individuals committing multiple instances of animal cruelty and despicable judgement. I am disgusted by and take full responsibility for the actions seen in the footage, as it goes against everything that we stand for in regards to responsible cow care and comfort. The employees featured in the video exercised a complete and total disregard for the documented training that all employees go through to ensure the comfort, safety and well-being of our animals,” he said in a statement.
Couto isn’t so convinced by McCloskey’s denials. “He is a seasoned dairyman and doesn’t need me to point out what is wrong with his company,” Couto told The Indianapolis Star. “He is playing the innocent bystander here, but it is his corporation and he knows what is go[ing] on.”
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