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Dairy Gothic: Cows Stabbed With Pitchforks at Ohio Farm

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Only five months after Mercy For Animals' undercover video at Willet Dairy aired on Nightline and inspired legislation to prevent future abuses, a new Mercy For Animals dairy video has even ag professionals crying uncle.

"While viewing this video, I was filled with disgust and anger," said Jamie Bledsoe, president of Western United Dairymen, on viewing the footage filmed at Conklin Dairy Farm in Plain City, Ohio.

"Clear and disturbing acts of animal cruelty," said the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association. "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."

"Barbaric, inhumane and unacceptable" said the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMS) in a rare press release on an animal cruelty topic.

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"If this is an accurate portrayal of what took place at the farm, we would encourage regulatory authorities to impose the most severe penalties allowed by law," said Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, AVMA's CEO and former head of the USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service.

The video, which shows cows stabbed in the face, legs and stomach with pitchforks, restrained cows beaten in the face with crowbars, cows' tails twisted until the bones snapped and newborn calves' heads stomped, even shocked law enforcement professionals.

"If there was a way this could be a felony charge, I would push for that," Rocky Nelson, Union County Sheriff told the Columbus Dispatch, calling the video "vile and disgusting."

Hundreds of phone calls and emails flooded prosecuting attorneys who said that existing animal cruelty laws made the videotaped acts only second-degree misdemeanors carrying a $750 fine and 90 days in jail.

Actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest wrote an open letter to Conklin owner Gary Conklin about the cruelty - and Alex Baldwin linked to the video on the Huffington Post saying "When you see this, you will never again doubt the necessity for and courage of the animal rights movement."

On Memorial Day, 150 police officers had be posted at the dairy because of sentiments like those of blogger Gary Yourofsky who wrote, "I am asking everyone who cares about justice and injustice to bring bolt cutters, bats, crowbars, pitchforks, hammers and wrenches to help destroy every piece of equipment the farm has, and tear down the sheds," according to the Examiner.

Undercover investigations by Chicago-based Mercy For Animals (MFA), which has filmed at over a dozen US egg farms, hatcheries, pig farms, dairy farms and slaughterhouses, are increasingly taken seriously by law enforcement officials. Proof of date, location and worker identity is always documented to address frequent charges from farmers that videotaped acts weren't on their property or weren't done by their employees. MFA investigators are also hired under their own names, not fraudulently, and call their bosses' attention to cruel acts on camera to offset charges they tolerated, abetted or staged acts.

Soon after the Conklin Dairy Farm video release, authorities arrested Billy Joe Gregg, 25, a Conklin employee, on 12 counts of animal cruelty and he is being held at the Tri-County Jail in Mechanicsburg, Ohio on $100,000 bond.

While Gregg is easily demonized - he allegedly brags on camera about how much he enjoys hurting the animals, news media are calling him the "cow beater" and a firearm was recently found in his car - the "bad apple" theory wears thin in light of the fact that every farm MFA has randomly selected for investigation has had grisly abuses.

Bigger questions than what's wrong with a Billy Joe Gregg are: why his acts only earn him a second-degree misdemeanor when his gun charge is a felony. Why animal agriculture is allowed the charade of "self-regulation." And why people continue to eat animals raised under the conditions pictured in the videos.

The video http://www.mercyforanimals.org/ohdairy/

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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