STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Fair Oaks Farms is under investigation after an undercover animal welfare activist captured footage of employees abusing calves

An undercover investigation by an animal welfare group has unveiled abuse at Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana.

Posted: Jun 7, 2019 9:02 AM


The biggest dairy producer in Indiana is under investigation after an undercover animal welfare investigator released video of employees abusing calves.

Fair Oaks Farms is a popular agritourism destination and provides daily tours for people to "explore our dairy farms for a fun-filled look at the life of a cow," according to its website. It also belongs to the company that produces fairlife milk products distributed by the Coca-Cola Company.

However, an Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) investigator who gained employment working with calves at Fair Oaks Farms captured graphic footage that visitors probably don't glimpse on their tours.

ARM's video depicts employees kicking, pushing and slamming to the ground newborn calves that did not nurse from the artificial rubber nipple during the feeding process.

Calves were deprived of adequate nutrition, and the video shows employees stabbing and hitting calves with steel rebars and branding irons, ARM said. In addition, employees would sit on the calves, which was often too much weight for the animals to bear.

Transportation of newborn calves was violent, ARM said. In the video, employees are seen throwing calves into the trailer or forcefully pushing them in.

Law enforcement is investigating the allegations

Newton County Sheriff's Office launched an independent investigation into allegations of animal cruelty. It said it has requested the names of the employees in the video and is looking for people who witnessed the animal cruelty and failed to report it.

"We acknowledge the need for humane treatment of animals and the need to hold individuals that have gone beyond an acceptable farm management practice accountable for their actions," Sheriff Thomas VanVleet said in a statement.

Newton County Prosecutor Jeff Drinski said he will most likely file charges against the perpetrators on Monday once the former employees are located.

Farm founder: Employees responsible for abuse were fired

Fair Oaks Farms founder Mike McCloskey said five employees were responsible for committing multiple instances of animal cruelty. Four were Fair Oaks employees, and they have all been terminated, McCloskey said.

"I am disgusted by and take full responsibility for the actions seen in the footage, as it goes against everything that we stand for in regards to responsible cow care and comfort," McCloskey wrote in a Facebook post. "The employees featured in the video exercised a complete and total disregard for the documented training that all employees go through to ensure the comfort, safety and well-being of our animals."

Fair Oaks Farms said in April that it had commissioned an independent auditor to review its animal welfare practices and the audit had come back favorably.

In a statement, fairlife has suspended milk deliveries from the dairy identified in the video.

"The dairy identified in the video represents less than 5 percent of fairlife's total milk supply. Approximately 30 dairies support fairlife; therefore, we are visiting all supplying dairies in person and conducting independent 3rd party audits within the next 30 days to verify all animal husbandry practices at the farms, including all training, management and auditing practices," fairlife said.

"At The Coca-Cola Company, we take animal welfare very seriously. We expect our suppliers to operate with the highest degree of integrity and comply with all laws, including animal welfare laws," Coca-Cola said in a statement. "We have been in contact with fairlife about this situation and have full confidence in their management team to urgently address this issue with Fair Oaks Farms, which is a third-party supplier to fairlife."

Retailers drop fairlife

Several supermarket chains are pulling fairlife products from its shelves, including Jewel-Osco, Family Express and Tony's Fresh Market.

"At Jewel-Osco we strive to maintain high animal welfare standards across all areas of our business, and work in partnership with our vendors to ensure those standards are upheld," said a spokeswoman for the company, which has 187 stores throughout the Chicago area, Indiana and Iowa.

Family Express, which operates convenience stores throughout Northwest and North Central Indiana, discontinued all fairlife products and picked up Organic Valley as its new milk products supplier.

Drug allegations

While most of the public outrage has focused on the allegations of animal cruelty, ARM also wrote in its report that they suspect marijuana plants are being grown on Fair Oaks Farm property. Additionally, ARM alleged that employees smoke and sell marijuana and cocaine while working.

McCloskey denied that drugs are grown and sold at Fair Oaks Farms.

"The plants featured in the video are an invasive perennial species that is rampant on farms all over the Midwest," McCloskey said. The owner did acknowledge that there has been employee drug use on the properties but it was addressed by law enforcement.

More than 600,000 visitors flock to Fair Oaks Farms, located about 75 miles south of Chicago, every year. The farm has 36,000 cows and is a popular agritourism destination, with a museum, restaurant gift shop and hotel surrounding it.

Terre Haute
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 72°
Robinson
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 70°
Indianapolis
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 75°
Rockville
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 69°
Casey
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 74°
Brazil
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 72°
Marshall
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 72°
The Heat Continues
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 147865

Reported Deaths: 7026
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook927814630
Lake10007423
DuPage9364475
Kane7877275
Will6957320
Winnebago310996
McHenry212097
St. Clair2037137
Kankakee131165
Rock Island106129
Madison104269
Kendall100021
Champaign96015
Boone61021
DeKalb58220
Peoria56728
Sangamon45532
Jackson34019
Randolph2887
McLean28513
Stephenson2785
Ogle2754
Clinton24217
Macon23622
LaSalle22817
Union19619
Whiteside19615
Coles17817
Grundy1775
Iroquois1645
Tazewell1528
Knox1470
Warren1450
Monroe13713
Cass1367
Williamson1334
Adams1311
Morgan1303
Jefferson10717
Lee1032
McDonough10215
Henry981
Pulaski790
Vermilion792
Marion700
Macoupin583
Perry581
Douglas540
Unassigned530
Livingston522
Montgomery491
Christian474
Jasper477
Jo Daviess471
Ford401
Woodford362
Jersey351
Franklin310
Bureau302
Menard250
Mercer250
Fayette233
Mason230
Wabash230
Alexander220
Carroll212
Washington210
Johnson200
Piatt200
Effingham191
Hancock191
Moultrie190
Shelby191
Crawford180
Logan180
Cumberland170
Bond161
Clark150
Fulton150
Massac150
Wayne141
Schuyler130
De Witt120
Marshall110
Brown100
Edgar100
Greene90
Saline90
Henderson80
White80
Lawrence70
Hamilton60
Richland40
Stark40
Gallatin30
Out of IL30
Pike30
Clay20
Edwards20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 48524

Reported Deaths: 2698
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11682684
Lake5180242
Elkhart330146
Allen2798132
St. Joseph196466
Cass16389
Hamilton1563101
Hendricks1410100
Johnson1288118
Porter73237
Tippecanoe7268
Madison65964
Clark65544
Bartholomew58644
LaPorte58026
Howard57757
Kosciusko5494
Vanderburgh5486
Marshall4904
Noble48228
Jackson4723
LaGrange4709
Hancock45035
Boone44543
Delaware44550
Shelby42625
Floyd38144
Morgan32931
Monroe30028
Grant29526
Montgomery29420
Clinton2892
Henry27415
Dubois2736
White26510
Decatur25032
Lawrence24625
Dearborn23823
Vigo2358
Harrison21822
Warrick21829
Unassigned193193
Greene18932
Miami1832
Jennings17611
Putnam1698
DeKalb1624
Scott1627
Daviess14317
Wayne1406
Orange13623
Perry1299
Steuben1292
Franklin1248
Jasper1212
Ripley1177
Wabash1122
Carroll1102
Fayette997
Newton9810
Starke933
Whitley925
Gibson812
Huntington812
Randolph794
Wells731
Fulton721
Jefferson722
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Owen491
Benton480
Sullivan451
Posey420
Brown391
Spencer381
Blackford372
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton321
Switzerland270
Parke230
Martin220
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110