By 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.
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.