An Ohio dairy farm worker was charged with 12 counts of cruelty to animals following the release of a secretly recorded video showing cows and calves being repeatedly stabbed with pitchforks, beaten with crowbars, and punched and kicked in their heads and udders.
Mercy For Animals, a Chicago-based animal protection group, recorded the alleged abuse during a four-week investigation between April and May at Conklin Dairy Farms, located in Plain City.
Shortly after the video was made public May 26, Billy Gregg Jr., 25, was arrested by the Union County, Ohio, Sheriff's Department and charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Conklin Dairy Farms reportedly fired Gregg. In a statement, the dairy said, "We will not condone animal abuse on our farm. We have launched our own internal investigation into this matter and will be conducting interviews with everyone on our farm who works with our animals."
The Mercy For Animals video is the latest instance of footage documenting alleged animal cruelty at a livestock operation. In April, the Humane Society of the United States aired scenes of alleged animal abuse at several Iowa hen farms (see JAVMA, May 15, 2010, page 1052).
MFA's undercover investigator documented a litany of disturbing scenes at the Ohio dairy farm, including workers pulling and throwing calves by their ears and twisting cows' tails until the bones snapped. Workers were caught on camera bragging about stabbing, dragging, shooting, breaking bones, and beating cows and calves to death.
"This is probably the most gratuitous, sustained, sadistic animal abuse I have ever seen," commented Bernard E. Rollin, PhD, a professor of philosophy, animal sciences, and biomedical science at Colorado State University. "The video depicts calculated, deliberate cruelty, based not on momentary rage but on taking pleasure through causing pain to cows and calves who are defenseless."
The AVMA and American Association of Bovine Practitioners were among the many organizations to condemn the alleged abuse. Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, emphasized the Association's zero-tolerance approach toward animal cruelty.
"Those handling animals must do so properly," Dr. Golab said. "The AVMA and its members have worked hard to get good animal care practices implemented on the ground and will continue to do so.
"AVMA policy clearly states that anyone who deals with animals has an obligation to stop—and prevent—all forms of cruelty toward animals."
The AVMA is urging law enforcement officials to conduct a thorough investigation and prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.
At press time in May, the sheriff's investigation was ongoing, and additional charges may be forthcoming.