Home > Animal Welfare, HSUS > Guest Post: Undercover Agendas

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.
  1. May 27, 2010 at 4:24 AM

    Mike,Nice post…couldn't agree with you more.As a farmer myself, it boggles the mind what these idiots were thinking…what happened to their sense of stewardship? Where was the owner of this family farm while all of this was happening for a month? I know we all get busy, but it appears to me as if ownership entrusted a group of laborers with his most sacred responsibility and was not following up to make sure the animals were being properly managed.Here's a bigger question that I have based on all the recent video evidence that has been released the last couple of years: Is this a systemic problem? With nearly everyone toting around a cell phone that doubles as a still and/or video camera (even a Hillbilly like me has a phone with digital DVD quality video inside) is this just getting more attention, or are on farm abuses on the rise? Can this be directly attributed to such low farm gate pricing on product? Does the economic downturn play a role here?I have one that haunts me as well…a few months ago a farmer near me went into his barn with his hunting rifle…shot all 50 cows in the herd and then killed himself. His note he left indicated that the economic stress was more than he could bare, and that he saw no way out.As this pattern of "99 cent food" in our society continues, will the stress brought to farmers perpetuate these kind of events, or are they entirely unrelated?THAT is what keeps me up at night….the fact that without a complete change in how our food makes it to the table (and how much we pay for it) could continue to bring more stories into the public light of similar ilk. These extremely random, highly publicized events are SO uncharacteristic of the profession, and yet they somehow seem to dominate and mold public opinion. That, of course, is where you and I come in….we must make it part of our life mission to assist in turning the tide on such public perception by using SM platforms to highlight all the good that the farming lifestyle brings to our families.We pray together with grace that those animals no longer suffer, and demand swift prosecution of the culprits, owners and all.Best to you, Sir, I admire and respect all that you do for your neighbors and your country.Regards,Dean Sparks@OrganicMilk1www.getnymilk.com

  2. May 27, 2010 at 4:26 AM

    Well said Mike! Jeff, thanks for having Mike here to post this. I too have been very disturbed by what I saw. To say the least. I have been in many dairies large and small and while cows in that foreign environment day after day can be panicked or stubborn and often maddening, certainly nothing ever warrants the abuse those poor animals in the film were subject to.I, too, wondered how the Mercy For Animals person could just stand there. IF their agenda is really to stop the suffering of animals then they should have done what you and I both would have done….taken the nearest 2×4 and hit the S.O.B abusing the cows & calves. It's one thing to shove or poke a cow whose standing on your foot or tackle a calf who is careening his way into somewhere dangerous, but systematic abuse handed out with apparent pleasure is either the product of a dysfunctional work environment or a system which promotes the view that livestock are somehow a unit–like boxes in a warehouse–and not living, producing beings. It seems, in this, case it is perhaps both.I left my screen numb last night and headed out for milking. My cows may have benefited from the mental torture I have undergone just viewing such a thing….they can do no wrong. I stood among them, leaned on them and scratched their favorite places for far too long.What has gone on in one small farm in one state is not typical of all states or farms, small or large–thank God. But it does, unfortunately, serve as a reminder of the disconnect there is in agriculture–between both the public & farms and within the farming community itself. How could the owner of that diary not known what was going on? How could he have not condoned it or participated in some level? A simple check of the condition of the cattle would show it. A simple walk around during the day would have exposed it. The milk yield records would have shown it…and any farmer worth his salt would have investigated why. There are no words for it.

  3. May 27, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    Go to http://www.hsussucks.com Read the Black Egg article under the articles tab, then read the DHS Terrorism Report under same tab. Mercy For Animals is manned by "ex" ALF (terrorists) members. You think we should take their videos on face value? Where is the Atty General on this attack against farmers supposedly protected under the AETA (Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act)? Probably too busy getting $$$ from H$U$ for their campaign coffers. Vote them all out.

  4. May 27, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    The Animal Prohibitionists are behind on their signature-gathering effort. What kind of person endures a month of witnessing such sickness without contacting authorities and putting a stop to it? A person who needs more signatures to push an agenda. Putting this image of a farmer in the minds of Ohio citizens is a manipulation, at the expense of those poor animals. Shame on them!

  5. May 27, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    Kudos Jeff Fowle for your Guest post by Mike HaleyThank you Mike for speaking up. I am a seventh generation USA farmer/rancher Southern California Annie Haven @GreenSoil fed up with HUSU

  6. May 27, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    In my opinion as someone who has a small farm with livestock, Mercy for Animals goes too far calling for everyone to be vegans. At the same time, agribusiness pushed forward a constitutional amendment in Ohio that was designed to limit any type of further legislative oversight. Now an appointed commission makes all state decisions concerning livestock care, thus raising the political stakes.I think that we all need to seriously consider the consequences of large corporate CAFOs operated by those who do not own the animals and often are underpaid and how low morale and low pay contributes to the abuse some (not all) animals experience. Furthermore, Mercy for Animals has a great issue that will play in the popular media as long as acceptable practices include such small pens/cages that the animals cannot even turn around. As long as farm organizations circle the wagons against such honest discussions, organizations like Mercy for Animals will continue to have issues to publicize like that which everyone on here agrees is criminal activity that should be punished.

  7. May 27, 2010 at 7:42 PM

    Thanks for putting this out there Mike. I can't watch the video, just the few minutes on tonight's news you tweeted was enough to make me sick. Glad the news also talked with another farmer outraged by the guy who was proud of his abhorrible actions. I would prefer to think it was all agenda driven but know that there are sometimes horrible people doing horrible things. Agenda-driven or not, this is horrible.

  8. May 27, 2010 at 10:31 PM

    I was right there watching the video, and I can't even really find concrete words to describe the feelings it prompted. Then again, I'm not sure I really need to find words, because blog posts like this can say it for me with so much more power. (Granted, I did blog indirectly about it, but I couldn't actually write my response…I couldn't sum it up, I couldn't wrap my mind around what I wanted to say.) Thanks for sharing your experiences, feelings, and outlooks with us, Mike. Also, thank you to Jeff for featuring Mike on your blog. I respect both of you gentlemen to the utmost level, and appreciate that folks like you can share your lives on the Internet day in and day out to show the world the good in agriculture. Especially in light of negative situations, like the one talked about in this post.

  9. May 28, 2010 at 4:46 AM

    Thanks everyone for their comments and taking time to read my post, its very much appriciated.

  10. May 28, 2010 at 5:08 AM

    Ray,You make some very good points, but I would like to talk a little more about the livestock care board and clarify some of the points you have made.The Care Board was designed as a way to constantly measure and improve the way that farm animals are raised in Ohio. You are correct, it was in a response to Animal Extremist groups threatening to push their agenda in Ohio, but was not to stop them from coming (as we see with their current initiative) but as a way to show and prove to citizens that somebody is making rules and regulations that livestock owners have to follow. To say agribusiness pushed it forward is a fallacy, Ohio Farm Bureau backed the initiative, an organization that has 2/3 of Ohio farmers as members. In my region of the state you could not go by a farm without seeing a sign in support of the livestock care board, These where farms ranging from 5 to 2,000 acres consisting of fruit, vegetables, grain, and livestock. In addition, this board don’t make all the decisions, all the previous entities of animal abuse and enforcement by local authorities and humane shelters still exist, as well as a judicial system that allows for future changes to be made when needed.As far as livestock abuse, size is irrelevant as this incident proves as it was on a smaller farm. No law, especially the one that is being backed by Mercy For Animals right now will have prevented it.

  11. May 28, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    Thanks for the post Mike. It angered me so much to watch this video that I was almost unable to watch the whole thing as well. As the future son-in-law of a third generation rancher (praying that God will grant us the good fortune to be the fourth generation) I can not even fathom ever treating one of our calves or cows like the individuals shown in this video. I am with you in your sentiment Mike, that this video has been on my mind all week wondering how someone could treat one of God's creatures in this way. It worries me that I and other livestock raising families will be judged by the mistakes individuals like those featured in the video for a long time to come. I wonder how we can show the truly positive character that the great majority of farmers and ranchers exhibit on a daily basis. Furthermore, I am worrisome for livestock agriculture when farmers and ranchers have an extremely difficult time finding quality individuals to hire. Video events like this make it too ease for extremist groups to associate this type of behavior directly with farmers when in reality, most of the abuse related videos that I have seen depicted by hired labor. If, in fact, Mr. Conklin is guilty of personally abusing his animals, then he should be convicted to the extent of the law. However, cases like this show how difficult it is to pass on animal husbandry values to people who are merely collecting a pay check.In the end, I am saddened by events like these. Working with animals is such a blessing and I am glad I was able to see such an extreme case in order to help remind me of the great responsibility that has been placed in my hands while caring for God's creatures. If you doubt all the farmer and rancher input seen on this blog, please do your own research and go to meet a local farmer or rancher. I can almost guarantee that you will be enriched by the experience watching people who love and respect animals while working with them every day of their life.

  12. May 28, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    It's interesting reading the small farmers speak out against the treatment of animals at Conklin Dairy Farms and then immediately point a finger at the videographer. Let's say the videographer captures the first act, then confronts that worker and the owner….they then out themselves and the worker gets maybe a warning and the business and the abuse would go on as usual. Allowing enough time to gather evidence of systematic abuse and the involvement and knowledge of such acts by the owner can put a stop to it at that Dairy Farm (which should be shut down) and other farms that this has the potential of happening at as well. Thank god they stomached through what had to be an agonizing time at that Dairy Farm. Now enough evidence has been gathered to put that monster away for a while, shut down that farm, and remind farmers that do not consider humane treatment a priority, that they need to get their act straight.As a once proud meat eater, I know will consider an alternative diet and lifestyle. Not only because sick abuses like these occur, but the reaction of other small farmers is political in nature…..point the finger at the cameraman. The public isn't going to buy it and neither should you, it's a damn red herring and you know it.Focus on the real issue and trying to distract it with your finger pointing, only makes you look worse.

  13. May 28, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Hello. I just want to say that this was an awesome blog you wrote about that horrendous video I viewed yesterday. Unlike most of your commentators on this blog, I am not a farmer, don't live on a farm and have no intentions of becoming a vegan. I am a mother of two living in New York and was appalled by what I saw on that video. Like most, after viewing the abuse of those helpless cows, I felt sick to my stomach. I felt disgusted about the milk I have sitting in my refrigerator and the beef in my freezer. I felt like I could never again enjoy a glass of milk or a good steak. I also felt like Farmers were ungrateful and mean to their "gifts" from God. I felt like we (consumers) were all being lied too by the farm industry and that livestock all over the country were being mistreated and just simply used to the fullest and taken advantage of. I felt like they were only being looked at as "meat" for the masses and money in their pockets. With that said, I woke up this morning and could not stop thinking about those eyes. The cows I saw on the video haunted my sleep and I couldn't get their sad eyes out of my head. I felt like I needed to know more, find out why, find out how this happened and whether or not it happens all the time. In my search to find out more and to get more answers, I came across your blog and after reading what you wrote and what your fellow farmers have commented on I have come to the conclusion that it is not a practice that all farmers use. Not all livestock in the U.S. are mistreated and beaten to death by their owners. That video is about one farm and a few hired hands. I am also very upset to find out that the video was shot over a month. I don't understand why someone did not hit that guy over the head with a friggin 2×4 for real. How could someone just stand by and watch this abuse for a month? How could that same person go home and close his eyes and fall asleep? How could you just stand there and listen to the cries and howls coming from a newborn calf being kicked and beaten for no apparent reason? That person is just as much to be blamed for the abuse. I shared that disgusting video on my Facebook account for all of New York to see. You would not believe the outrage and anger it provoked in a lot of us "Yankees". But please know that you are not being blamed and grouped into one. Caleb wrote : "It worries me that I and other livestock raising families will be judged by the mistakes individuals like those featured in the video for a long time to come." I would like to say that you are not being judged. At least not here in NY anyway, I think people in general are smart enough to see and realize that this is one farm and farmer and hired hands that have committed this insidious act and we do not blame you all. Thank you Farmer Mike for posting such a wonderful blog, you have truly put my mind to rest or atleast to ease for the time being and please keep up the good work.

  14. May 28, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    TheShockologist:Again, this act was horrendous, sadistic, and completely unnacceptable. I want to see the abusers punished, if possible, worse than you do.I still see no reason why after the undercover agent saw abuse, and concluded that the owner had knowledge of it that he didnt immidiately take his evidence ot authorites. In Ohio that would be the local humane society, SPCA, or sherriff (all three if need be) and soon the Ohio Department of Agriculture as the new care board gets set up. Animal abuse is unnaceptable and I will not try to make excuses for it, futunately I do live in a state that has several means to rectify a problem when it occurs.

  15. May 28, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    Nessa,Thank you for your kind words, I am glad that you took the time to look beyond the actions that we both witnessed in that horrible video. If you have any further questions about farming please dont hesitate to come back here for answers, if you cant find what you are looking for you are always welcome to send an email to either Jeff or I.

  16. May 28, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    Mike,The common thread among us is the heartbreak we feel for those poor cows.I can't get the sound of their moos out of my head. They just stood there and took it. So sad. Poor sweet things.I see he has ties to Oregon…I better never run into him 😉

  17. May 28, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Thanks Heather,I two have not been able to get the images out of my head. You do raise a good point, the cows did not behave like an animal that was routinely abused. I dont know the facts, but the way the cows where acting gives me hope that possibly, hopefully the shameless abuse was not happening for long.

  18. May 28, 2010 at 8:02 PM

    Mike, you're criticizing the messenger. To say Mercy has a hidden agenda is just plain wrong. They gathered enough footage to take to the DA to make a case and they were successful. I'm glad you're outraged, help close the bad apples and invite folks in for tours of your farm like my suppliers in Tennessee do.

  19. May 28, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    if you have a problem with the "hidden agendas" do you own undercover work. We tour Tennessee farms for fun and relaxation and those are the farmers we buy our meat, produce and dairy from. Makes sense to this family.

  20. May 29, 2010 at 5:48 AM

    Steve,I am glad that these crimes have been brought to light. Yes, I am critising the messenger because of their message. Its not really that hidden, the last scene in the video and MFA's website is pretty clear that their message is to create an illusion that this kind of behavior is commonplace and the only way to correct it is to become a vegan. If you have concerns about how the food you purchase is raised, I strongly suggest you do as Steve B says and visit some farms to see. I have never turned away visitors from my farm, and doubt many farmers would if you ask nicely.

  21. May 29, 2010 at 7:17 AM

    I understand your frustration, but why do you need to fabricate things in order to further your agenda? You write that HSUS "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'." Where in any of its messages about the Conklin cruelty case did HSUS state that? You invented it out of thin air. Let's please stick to the facts.

  22. May 29, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    Tim,Thanks for your comments. I clearly remember Mr. Shaprio on the Cleveland news implying this was not uncommon practice. Upon further investigation and listening to later interviews by Andy Vance at ABN with Mr. Shipiro he acknowleged the video depicted abuses that fall under current Ohio law and that such acts would not be addressed by the legislative measure his organization is seeking to place on the November ballot.I have made a correction in the blog post above.

  23. May 29, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    Jeff, it's honorable of you to alter the blog upon realizing that there was a factual error in it. Thank you for that. Again, my interest here is not in defending animal welfare groups or Conklin; I'm just interested in us all sticking to the facts. I didn't see any press statements from PETA on this case at all, let alone them saying that stabbing and otherwise brutalizing cows is routine on all dairy farms. Perhaps I missed something.

  24. May 29, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    Tim D.No problem, I have no interest in spreading lies. The comments form PETA came off their website, doubt it hit any big news. Also, Farm Santuary joined the bandwagon today with a press release flat out saying that this abuse is common practice on all farms. To me Americans are smarter than that and actually loose faith in an organization for making such acusations.Mike

  25. May 29, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    Tim D.FYI: The original post was written by a close friend of mine Mike Haley and he has been doing all of the moderating thus far. I appreciate your participating in this discussion. Important topic & points being discussed in a professional manner. Have a great weekend.

  26. May 30, 2010 at 1:52 AM

    IF this turns out to be yet another staged AR video created to destroy good people and pass that H$U$-backed initiative in Ohio (and more legislation elsewhere), that fact will have to be heavily publicized to make up for the damage it's already caused in so many minds. IF the film scenes are found to have been staged, I'd imagine the Conklins have a huge civil lawsuit against MFA, the videographer and the abuser(s). IF so, I hope some fantastic ag attorneys volunteer their services pro bono.But: IF it's a reflection of normalcy on that farm – how in the world could that family live with itself?? For that matter, how could the videographer, IF he actually likes and cares about animals, sit on the film for a month without contacting the police or animal control? Why did he go to MFA first instead of to someone who could immediately stop the abuse? Why didn't he *mercifully* protect those cows and calves???NegotiationIsOver, a very radical ALF-like organization, posted yesterday asking people to show up at the Conklin dairy Saturday and dismantle it piece by piece – and bring weapons "to protect yourself (SELF-DEFENSE) from Conklin, his violent cohorts and the police department…" The post is still up tonight, though for how long I don't know.Google 'ALF Conklin dairy' and you'll find some pretty scary sites. Do be careful if you visit them; your IP and other info will undoubtedly be tracked. I'm just saying…

  27. Tom
    June 4, 2010 at 5:12 AM

    You know it's a setup by the way that the perpetrator talks into the camera. They would have been better off marketing it as an over-the-top depiction of what they think happens on a farm.I don't think that the cows were acting as if they were being hurt badly during the video. Animals tend to move away from pain. If they do not move away, what is happening to them is not painful. This doesn't make it safe to kick a cow in the udder even if it's not painful. The perp was probably another undercover operative.

  28. Tom
    June 4, 2010 at 5:28 AM

    It's a mixed bag. Every scene looks staged except that some of the abuse looks very genuine. Once I see that it's staged I tend to see fakery but this looks like they staged real abuse, the way that Alex Pacheco could have fed the monkeys at Silver Springs and chose not to.Even if these abuses are going on I will trust the dairy industry, which actually works with the animals and depends on the results of its care, before I will trust the conflict industry that depends so much on lies.The "ditch milk" message is at the end of the video.

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