Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guest Post: Undercover Agendas

Mike Haley is a fifth generation farmer in Ohio.  Together with his wife and father he manages a small herd of purebred Simmental cattle, in addition to raising corn, soybeans, and wheat.  Mike is active in social media and agriculture advocacy and can be found on twitter @farmerhaley

Tuesday night I watched a horrendous video of a farm employee blatantly and purposely beating dairy cows and calves.  It is hard to describe everything that I was feeling; I was enraged, mad, speechless, and in the end I could barely keep from crying.  That video in no way depicts the way I treat my cows, or the way in which the vast majority of farmers would treat their livestock.  I personally can guarantee that it is the worst thing I ever seen or heard of happening on a farm in Ohio, or anywhere else around the country.

The video never left my mind today as I took care of my livestock and tended to my hay.  I don’t know who the individual was that was in the video.  I don't know if he was employed by Mercy for Animals, or if he was just that sadistic.  I do know he deserves to be punished and am glad to hear that he has been charged with 12 counts of animal abuse with investigators looking into more.

With that said I would also like to share my thoughts about Mercy For Animals, their agenda, and how poorly they handled this whole situation.  First, I am appalled by the fact that they were documenting the same abuse week after week, for almost a month, before handing the evidence over to authorities.  A representative from Mercy For Animals made the excuse that they needed “enough time to document the cruelty and that it was an ongoing pattern of abuse, and that the owner had knowledge.” To me this is a weak statement.  I feel that they needed enough time to get enough video footage to further their agenda, and taking it to the authorities right away would have meant that they received less attention.

Secondly, I am appalled by not only Mercy For Animals, but statements by PETA and other animal rights groups.  These organizations stated that this is common practice on farms across the U.S. and suggested, as put in the end of the video, that we “ditch milk”.  Now, I may be a farmer, but it seems that it would be common sense to anyone that the images on this video are acts from a deranged individual and would not be commonplace on any farm.  In fact, acts like these will put a farm out of business quickly, as stressed out cows will not produce milk very well.  I am not the first to admit that there are some whacko’s that don’t take care of their animals.  There are also parents that abuse children and that don’t mean all parents are child abusers.

My third point about Mercy For Animals' handling of this case is the way they released it.  It screams of a group trying to push an agenda, not making an effort to stop the abuse on the farm.  Any investigator would know not to simultaneously release undercover footage until after investigators had a chance to gather enough evidence to convict.  As of right now the farm owner has not been charged.  Part of me wonders if he will be as investigators may not have enough evidence from one scene of video that is black and white and hard to make out.  For the record, if the farm owner was abusing his animals, I hope he gets his punishment as well.

Living and farming in Ohio, animal abuse has become a touchy subject for the past few years, mainly because groups like Mercy For Animals lobbying to pass laws that would micro-manage how we operate.  I am frustrated about how these groups are using this to further their agenda and the legislation they are trying to pass in Ohio this fall.  Their proposed legislation, as Ohio Director of Agriculture Boggs pointed out "their ballot initiative would not have prevented this action from taking place at all."  Don’t worry though; Mercy For Animals and the Humane Society of the United States are already working this video into their campaign – which also makes me curious about the motive for the undercover sting in the first place.

I encourage everyone to take the correct course of action.  First, treat your animals with respect, take care of them as if you were on a reality TV show that everyone can tune in to watch. Second, if you hear of, see, or suspect animal abuse, report it.  Third, stand behind the Ohio Livestock Care Board that was voted in last year as a way to create new standards for how livestock are treated in Ohio as well as enforcing, investigating, and creating stiffer penalties to those that do participate in these horrendous acts.  We can’t turn our back on abuse.  It's wrong, immoral, and anyone participating in it will meet their fate sooner or later (hopefully both).  Glad to get that off my chest, I feel a little better now, but I am still mad and upset.  Funny thing is I am also kind of relieved that the undercover sting happened.  Even though Mercy For Animals may have done this for the wrong reasons, personally I am glad that those cows are no longer being abused.

About Me

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Jeff Fowle is a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He and his wife Erin and son Kyle raise registered Angus cattle, Percheron draft horses, warmbloods, alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay. They also start and train horses for riding, jumping, and driving. Their family run ranch has incorporated many environmentally beneficial and water efficient technologies and management strategies. Jeff attended college at Colorado State University for two years and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for four and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Following college, he worked in Washington State for a year as a herdsman for BB Cattle Company and then returned to Etna, California in 1995 to own and operate KK Bar Ranch and Siskiyou Percherons. The latter was started by his grandfather, Clarence Dudley, who devoted much of his time to the Percheron Horse Association of America, specifically to developing their youth education program.