NEWTON/JASPER COUNTY — The animal rights group Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) released a video and a series of statements Tuesday, showing the mistreatment of animals at Fair Oaks Farms.
Fair Oaks Farms founder Dr. Mike McClosky issued a statement Tuesday, admitting “with great disappointment” that at least five individuals connected to the farm had committed “animal cruelty and despicable judgement” on multiple instances.
The videos and information were collected as part of an undercover investigation into Fair Oaks Farms by members of ARM. McClosky said he was not aware of the animal abuse exposed by the undercover footage. However, he added that three of the employees shown in the video abusing animals were allegedly terminated prior FOF being made aware of the ARM operation.
ARM’s undercover investigation of Fair Oaks Farms took place between August and November of last year, according to the organization’s own report, available at animalrecoverymission.org.
The investigator was hired as a calf care employee at Fair Oaks Farms’ North Barn, charged with bottle-feeding newborn calves, helping to load newborn calves on transports and dispose of the dead calves. While working, he used surveillance equipment to capture the routine of workers and the manager of the company.
ARM claimed that the investigator never received training prior to handling calves or throughout their time at Fair Oaks Farms, despite repeated claims by McCloskey that all employees receive training in animal care and safety.
Animal abuse allegedly began within the “first few hours” of the investigator’s employment. Calves were thrown in and out of their huts. The newborns were also pushed, thrown, slapped, kicked and slammed to the ground if and when they did not nurse from an artificial rubber nipple supplied during the feeding process.
ARM claims the abuse “was known from the workers, foremen to upper management levels” of Fair Oaks Farms. Calves also allegedly received no medical treatment. In videos taken by the investigator, they can be seen in huts with temperatures as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, with some eventually dying.
Calves born with visible deformities could also be seen being housed and grown like the others. Some were struggling or unable to walk.
Employees were allegedly told to shoot calves too sick to produce milk by using a small-caliber weapon. Several allegedly did not die instantly and were left to die slowly and painfully from a gunshot to the head.
Newborn calves are shown being transported off the property by a trailer, during which they are handled roughly by employees. ARM claims that Fair Oaks Farms managers and direct supervisors “witnessed and took part in this inhumane handling” while loading and unloading calves.
The videos further depict marijuana plants on or near the Fair Oaks Farms property, as well as employees harvesting, smoking and selling it, sometimes while working. The investigator was also allegedly asked multiple times if he was interested in snorting cocaine or buying illegal narcotics from managers.
A copy of the investigation report has been sent to the Newton County Sheriff’s Office for review.
Four of the five individuals specifically accused of animal abuse by McClosky were Fair Oaks Farms employees, and the last one was a truck driver working for a separate company, whose job was picking up calves.
McClosky stated that three of the four employees had already been terminated, prior to Fair Oaks Farms being made aware of the ARM operation. He said the four employees “were identified by their co-workers as being abusive of our animals” and then reported to Fair Oaks Farms’ management.
McClosky claims the fourth employee’s animal abuse had not been caught by management prior to ARM’s video being released, but he said the employee was terminated as of Tuesday.
McClosky said the truck driver’s transportation company will be notified of the alleged animal abuse and that “he will not be allowed on our farms again.”
“I am disgusted by and take full responsibility for the actions seen in the footage,” McClosky said, “as it goes against everything that we stand for in regards to responsible cow care and comfort.”
He went on to say that “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.”
McClosky said that the ARM video “shined a light on an area that — despite our thorough training, employee on-boarding procedures and overall commitment to animal welfare — needs improvement.”
In regard to the drug use depicted in the video, McClosky said the plants featured in the video “are an invasive perennial species that is rampant on farms all over the Midwest.”
The individual seen smoking by a barn and using drugs in a truck was allegedly turned in by his co-workers to one of the farm managers, who notified local law enforcement about the drug use, for which a police report is on file.
A full investigation of the actions depicted in the video is now allegedly underway by Fair Oaks Farms. McClosky said this may result in further termination and criminal prosecution of any employees or managers.
“I am and will continue to be deeply involved in the resolution of this matter, down to every one of our employees,” McClosky said, “so that I can guarantee that these actions never again occur on any of our farms.”