AVMA, OVMA condemn abuse in undercover dairy farm footage


New farm-animal abuse footage has triggered strong reactions from the public and veterinarians.

Plain City, Ohio

-- The newest undercover video footage of farm-animal abuse triggered strong reactions from the public and veterinary associations.

“The actions depicted in the video footage from Conklin Dairy Farm in Plain City, Ohio, reflect clear and disturbing acts of animal cruelty. The actions of the individuals in the video are heinous, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Ohio’s animal cruelty law,” the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) wrote in a May 27 statement. “The Ohio Veterinary Medical Association joins all responsible and caring Ohioans in condemning the violent way these animals were treated. These rares but unsettlings actions point to the timeliness and value of the new Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. The board’s job of providing a meaningful examination and enforcement of appropriate standards for Ohio’s farm animals will help put an end to the type of egregious activities displayed in the Conkling Dairy Farm video.”

The graphic video, released this week by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals, shows dairy cows having their tails broken, being punched, kicked and stabbed with pitchforks.

The footage was shot during an undercover investigation by the group during April and May and turned over to the Union County Prosecuting Attorney, which is assisting the Union County Sheriff’s Office in a full-scale investigation. The public interest in the case has driven the prosecutor’s office to post updates about the case on it’s Facebook page.

“I understand the response to the video and the desire for immediate action, as well as the demand for felony prosecution,” writes the prosecutor’s office, explaining the restrictions of Ohio’s animal cruelty laws. “A couple of points. First, the person depicted on the video has been charged with 12 counts of cruelty to animals. This is a misdemeanor of the second degree. There are no felony criminal charges available under Ohio law. Second, the investigation is continuing by the Union County Sheriff's Office and agents of the Humane Society to determine what other charges may be appropriate. While you have seen an edited version of the video, officers are reviewing hours of raw unedited video as well as other evidence. Third, while we have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, the office responsible for prosecuting this is the city attorney. We have assisted in the investigation, and will continue to do so, the matter is within his jurisdiction.”

The prosecutor’s office also noted bond was set for the person arrested, Billy Joe Gregg, at $100,000 May 27.

Another worker and dairy owner Gary Conklin, who denounced the actions shown in the video in a written statement are not facing criminal charges at this time. Gregg has been fired from his job at Conklin, according to media reports.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says the video depicted “barbaric, inhumane and unacceptable” abuse and called for stricter adherence to humane animal-handling guidelines and standards.

“Those handling animals must do so properly. The AMVA and its members have worked hard to get good animal-care practices implemented on the ground and will continue to do so,” says Dr. Gail Golab, director of AVMA’s Animal Welfare Division. “AVMA policy clearly states that anyone who deals with animals has an obligation to stop — and prevent — all forms of cruelty to animals.”

Ohio voters in 2009 approved the creation of a livestock-care standards board to oversee farm-animal welfare issues in the state. The 13-member board, which includes four veterinarians, was appointed in April. The Humane Society of the United States, which now is condemning Ohio for its lax farm-animal welfare laws, is backing another Ohio ballot issue for November 2010 that would define what standards the board would have to develop and enforce.

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