Conklin Dairy Farms: An Update

CowBy far one of the most popular stories I’ve ever written about on this blog is the incident of animal abuse at Conklin Dairy Farms in Ohio. It has consistently brought traffic to this blog since the story broke and continues to be popular to this day. I thought it would be a good idea to get caught up on with how this story eventually turned out.

Back in May 2010, a group known as Mercy For Animals (MFA) released an undercover video they had shot at a dairy farm they had randomly selected in Ohio.

The video documented animal abuse by Billy Joe Gregg, Jr., an employee of Conklin Dairy Farms. In the video, Gregg bragged about abusing cows and was seen punching cows and attacking them with a pitchfork.

The video also included a few seconds of footage showing the owner, Gary Conklin, kicking a cow that was laying on the ground.

Gregg originally plead not guilty to 12 counts of animal cruelty. On Sept. 24, 2010, Gregg plead guilty to six misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals. Gregg was sentenced to eight months in jail, ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, and was barred from contact with animals for three years. Gregg was also ordered to receive counseling through a program that specializes in treating individuals involved in animal abuse cases.

A grand jury also considered the actions of Conklin, shown on the video kicking a cow on the ground. The jury was shown the unedited version of undercover footage. The edited version of the video released by MFA to the internet had bracketed Conklin’s actions with actual abuse, lending the impression that Conklin was also participating in the abuse.

The unedited video was also seen by four veterinarians who specialize in large animal care.

The County Prosecutor said, “[The grand jury] saw the unedited video of Mr. Conklin’s actions, not the highly inflammatory version released on YouTube by Mercy for Animals.”

After viewing the video and hearing from investigators and veterinarians that concluded Conklin acted appropriately, the grand jury decided not to indict Conklin.

No evidence was ever presented that Conklin was aware of the actions of Gregg.

Regarding the footage of Conklin kicking a cow, the prosecutor said Conklin was actually acting appropriately to prevent injury to the animal. “These animals, sometimes called ‘downer cows’ must be brought to their feet. The sheriff’s office had the video reviewed by four experts, each of whom agreed that Mr. Conklin’s actions were entirely appropriate.”

The prosecutor noted that the experts were veterinarians with extensive experience in large animal care. Each agreed that delivering a sharp blow to the animal to get it to rise was not abuse. The veterinarians told law enforcement that cows that remain down are at risk of injury or death.

The grand jury also heard testimony from the undercover operative put on the Conklin Farm by Mercy for Animals, Jason Smith of Texas. Smith had told law enforcement that he did not witness any abuse by Conklin, and that Conklin did not know of the abuse by Billy Joe Gregg.

Source: ProgressiveDairy.com

After learning of the abuse, Conklin fired Gregg the very next day. Since the incident became an internet sensation, Conklin has been the victim of death threats and threats to destroy his farm “piece by piece” by animal rights activists.

This case is closed and justice has been served. Conklin was found to have acted appropriately and did the right things, and his actions have been reviewed and cleared by industry experts and a randomly selected grand jury. I understand that the video was upsetting – it deeply affected me as well – but threats are never the correct response and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

In my previous coverage of this story, I made two points. First, how could this sort of thing happen at a dairy farm and management not be aware? I stand by that point. As I said, it was never proven that Conklin knew about what Gregg was doing. But isn’t that the point? Isn’t there a moral responsibility to know what’s going on? In a statement for the press, Conklin Dairy Farms maintained that they take “the care of our cows and calves very seriously.” That means you have to be proactive enough to be aware and not let the bad things happen. I’m willing to guess that Conklin learned a very important lesson here. He has since spoken of the importance of maintaining an employee manual that stresses things like standards of animal treatment.

The second point I made was taking umbrage that Conklin had not been charged with a crime. Here I was overzealous and I apologize for going that far. I was wrong. Conklin has been completely cleared of any wrongdoing. I accept that and I wish him well. I allowed myself to become emotional about the issue and the video and I was too quick to rush to judgment. I’ll try to be more careful about that sort of thing in the future.

11 responses

  1. When working animals many, many times my size and weight, there are actions that ARE appropriate, if done to a human or smaller animal would NOT be. As a matter of fact, we recently intervened on an animal that was not successfully birthing.

    Due to the owner’s lack of experience (raised in suburbs, he fancies himself knowledgable of farm animals because he bought 3 acres of land and proceeds to over-fill it with his Old McDonald’s Farm dream of rural life some years ago. His 10 years haven’t taught him much, sadly).

    We attempted to save baby & mother, finally advising him to do what needed to be done to save mother. He declined, allowing mother several more hours of torture (over a day).

    Now, neither is alive, as he finally brought in a livestock vet.

    People who aren’t raised working animals don’t always see that it’s usually bucolic but sometimes harsh. I’d have put down the mother some 12 hours earlier–out of sympathy. I’ve seen “bad birthings” that looked like your worst nightmare–that saved the mother. I could give specifics but it would traumatize…Things aren’t always what they look like.

    I’m not commenting on the specifics of these men or that farm–just a thought from someone of 4 decades first-hand experience.

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    1. I agree. I often like to tell people “I grew up on a dairy farm.” The truth is that when I was a youngster I spent a lot of time at my uncle’s dairy farm but I didn’t really live there.

      What I’ve learned since I originally saw the Conklin Dairy Farm video is that there are situations where it is appropriate to motivated a “downed” animal to get up for its own good, or else the animal risks injury or even death. It might not appear to be “politically correct” but all indications based on my research are that Conklin took appropriate action to care for his animal.

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  2. Having almost no experience in caring for animals of any kind, I actually had no idea what my reaction to the original story should be. Sure, I’ve heard lots of stories about animal abuse and seeing that video with those thoughts in mind did provoke my anger a bit. But I also live in a world where lots of people attempt to blow things out of proportion for their own personal benefit regardless of the costs to others. In the end, my tendency is to take whatever I see on the news with a HUGE grain of salt, and to follow up with my own research when something strikes me as important enough to bother.

    I don’t recall if I read your original post on this issue, but the way this one reads is all the proof that I need to convince me that you’ve been on the right side of the story from the beginning.

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    1. In addition to growing up on a dairy farm, I’m also a cat wrangler. I got two of the little varmints right now. I slop ’em every morning and I’m also responsible for their litter box. I never fail to perform my duties and give them maximum love.

      In return, of course, they provide lots of entertainment and, as an added bonus, break things in my house to show me how much they care. Just a few minutes ago there was a loud crash in the kitchen. They had knocked a CorningWare dish to the floor and shattered it. They also show affection my scratching my legs when I walk by. 🙂

      I agree that much can be blown out of proportion, just like my original reaction to Conklin. In cases like that it can be wise to wait for actual facts.

      The case of the worker Gregg, however, is ironclad. He did it and he bragged about it. I hope there is a special place in Hell for those who abuse and get off on abusing helpless life forms.

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      1. Even without the experience, I love the idea of having animal friends in my life – especially cats! Unfortunately, my current pet – the Gerbil – has both a hatred for cats and severe allergies, and I just don’t trust having one around him. But I can’t put all the blame on him. I also worry that I might not be willing to put in the work required myself…

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  3. Everyone seems to have so much sympathy for the cows in this video. Why? Because you can see their suffering. If you could see the suffering that happens in factory farms (where 99% of the meat in the U.S. comes from), you would probably feel the same sadness and compassion. Ask yourself why this suffering happens at all. It happens because you want to eat meat and eggs and dairy. You might look at the footage and say it’s horrible, but you are indirectly responsible for that. Abuse like what happened at Conklin Farms is NOT unusual. It happens in factory farms all across the country. You say you feel bad and you protest it, but it’s happening so that you can have animal products because you like the way they taste, not because you need them. You are all hypocrites, unless you are vegans. Please, consider this and consider switching to a vegan diet. I have and I feel physically amazing and my conscience is clear because I know that no animal is suffering and dying for my taste buds.

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  4. I am not responsible for the abuse of those cows. I never asked a farmer to kick and punch cows.And yes there should be more humane ways to deal with them.I worked on a dairy farm and I never seen that kind of treatment. More needs to be done to correct this serious problem.Too bad the days of eyeforaneye,tooth for tooth laws are over, I think this Billy Jr should expierence the same treatment, or locked up and put away for life!

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  5. It seems to me that these people who work in these factory farms, just like Billy Jr, have a ton of stuffed anger inside them that is released on defenseless Animals and Children. There is a Hog factory Farm undercover video by mercy for animals that shows Baby Piglets being slammed onto the concrete floor to kill them and you can just see the anger in these workers coming out as they are slammed!!! These are NOT people that should be around Animals or Children!!! Billy Jr should NEVER be around animals ever again!!! How can you own a business like that and not know that severe Abuse is happening? I smell a Rat with that!!!

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    1. Society should care because anyone who does that to a defenseless animal, in my opinion, is on a fast-track to being a danger to other people, too. Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Just found that Conklin is possibly under fire… again!
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/tag/conklin-dairy/#.U9UZHUrD-ic

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    1. Thanks for the update, Erika! I guess leopards don’t change their spots.

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