Vegetarian or not, you should learn about where your animal products are coming from.
To be an animal rights activist, I don't think you need to be a vegan; however, if you choose to consume animal products then you should get to know where your animal products come from, and that those places treat their animals humanely.
Otherwise, you're putting money in the pockets of those who may not deserve it. Case in point: Conklin Dairy Farms.
In the last few days, Conklin Dairy Farms worker Billy Joe Gregg Jr. has been charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty for sadistic behavior toward the dairy cows he earned a living from.
An investigation into the cruelty reported at the Plain City, Ohio dairy farm includes nearly 20 hours of undercover camera footage (shot between April 28 and May 23) provided by Mercy for Animals, a not-for-profit group that publicizes what it calls cruel practices in the animal product industry and wide promoter of a vegan diet.
Apparently Gregg wasn't the only abusive worker in the footage. Over on The Columbus Dispatch, Holly Zachariah and Alan Johnson reported:
Although industry leaders say Conklin is a man of experience and integrity, no one came forward yesterday to defend the abuse seemingly inflicted by him and at least two employees in a graphic, nearly four-minute video released by Mercy For Animals, an animal-rights group based in Chicago.
One scene in the video showed a man identified as Conklin kicking a sick or injured "downer cow" in the head several times.
Over on Mercy for Animals' blog, they reported that Gregg and other dairy farm workers captured the following acts on a hidden camera implanted for several days:
Violently punching young calves in the face, body slamming them to the ground, and pulling and throwing them by their ears
Routinely using pitchforks to stab cows in the face, legs and stomach
Kicking "downed" cows (those too injured to stand) in the face and neck - abuse carried out and encouraged by the farm's owner
Maliciously beating restrained cows in the face with crowbars - some attacks involving over 40 blows to the head
Twisting cows' tails until the bones snapped
Punching cows' udders
Bragging about stabbing, dragging, shooting, breaking bones, and beating cows and calves to death
The bottom line is while Conklin Dairy Farms has fired Gregg, and is doing their best to salvage the reputation by condemning the video, this can't be that big of a surprise. I have a hard time believing they were absolutely clueless of this behavior. After all, their livelihood is dairy, so shouldn't they be first to know how their cows are being cared for and treated?
It shouldn't take an investigative video leaked on YouTube for this dairy to learn what's going on with their cows.
And while Gregg is undeniably scum of the earth, I think Conklin Dairy Farms should also be held responsible. Whether they were aware of this sadism or not, they should have been.
What can we learn from this?
It's really quite simple. Know where your dairy, meat and eggs come from. There are a lot of quality farms out there that take good care of their animals. Find them, learn more about what they do and support them even if their products do cost more.
After all, the more money we put into farms that treat their animals like this, the more we promote this behavior.
- Lindsay Barnett of The Los Angeles Times' Unleashed - Ohio dairy farmworker charged with animal cruelty after advocacy group releases undercover video
- Daelyn Fortney of This Dish is Veg - Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest pen open letter to Conklin Dairy Farms
- Brian Palmer of Slate asks "Cow Whipping: How violent can a farmer get with his livestock?"