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Pitchfork Wielder on Dairy Farm Receives Light Sentence

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Last May he might have been the most hated man in America.

Billy Joe Gregg, a worker at Conklin Dairy Farms in Plain City, Ohio was filmed holding down newborn calves and stomping on their heads and wiring a cow's nose to a metal bar to beat it repeatedly with a crowbar. He also stabs cows with pitchforks and twists their tails until the bones break, in an undercover video.

Public reaction was swift and unforgiving. Celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Guest and Alex Baldwin spoke out. Legislators framed tougher cruelty laws. Police had to be stationed at the farm over the Memorial Day weekend because of fear of reprisals.

Conklin

Even sheriff deputies were aghast and both the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMS) requested that Gregg, 25, be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

But last week when Billy Joe Gregg, in a red striped prison uniform, pled guilty in Marysville Municipal Court to six counts of animal cruelty - he had been charged with 12 - and received eight months in jail and a $1,000 fine, it became apparent what the limits of those laws are.

Not only will Gregg by a free man by May, a year after his deeds, perhaps to pursue his reported aspiration of becoming a police officer, the farm which employed him and tolerated his actions is also buzzing along.

In July, Union County prosecuting attorney David Phillips said no charges would be filed against Conklin Dairy owner, Gary Conklin because "in context, Mr. Conklin's actions were entirely appropriate."

In what context is beating tied down animals appropriate?

Phillips also accuses Mercy For Animals, whose undercover investigator shot the video, of allowing "the abuse to continue unreported and the animals to suffer."

(A Farm and Dairy editorial about the Conklin investigation in June also accuses the animal welfare group of allowing the abuse to continue, even suggesting that Gregg might be "paid" by MFA and "a supporter.")

Not everyone is happy with the sentence.

"The fact that Billy Joe Gregg is going to spend such a small amount of time is a disgrace," Steffen Baldwin, an attorney for the Union County Humane Society said, according to Central Ohio's WBNS-10TV news.

"Gregg's punishment is a slap on the wrist compared to the suffering endured by his animalfs victims," says MFA's Executive Director, Nathan Runkle. "It's an outrage that in Ohio it's a mere misdemeanor to sadistically assault farmed animals and break their bones and this case should serve as a wake-up call to strengthen animal cruelty laws."

Even a blog on the normally sardonic New York Magazine weighed in, noting that Gregg is only "barred from contact with animals for three years and must receive psychological counseling," for what he did to "helpless" animals. "Where are the zealots espousing eye-for-eye justice when you need them?"

The very disturbing video can be seen here: http://www.mercyforanimals.org/ohdairy/

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

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