A major dairy producer in the US is under investigation after 'disturbing footage' was released showing its employees abusing calves.
Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) took the undercover footage of Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana - which has been described as the 'Disneyland of agricultural tourism' - and offers tours of its pastures, museum, restaurant, and hotel. It claims it provides 'complete transparency into the everyday operations of a dairy farm'.
But the investigator from ARM, who got at the facility as a 'calf care employee' in 2018, saw a different side to the picturesque, quaint agricultural image Fair Oaks portrays to its 600,000 visitors every year.
Fair Oaks, which is owned by veterinarian Mike McCloskey is an affiliate of Coca-Cola, supplying dairy products for its 'fairlife' range. Since the release of the investigation, Coca-Cola says 'fairlife has immediately stopped all sourcing from the dairy identified in the video'.
McCloskey claims employees are given in-depth training on humane care of animals. But the ARM investigator, whose job involved bottle-feeding newborn calves, assisting loading calves on transports, and disposing of the dead, says the only training they received was where to put the calves' dead bodies - and nothing more.
According to ARM, the investigator witnesses abuse 'within hours' of starting their job, with video footage showing workers kicking, pushing, and slamming newborn calves to the ground because they did not nurse from the artificial rubber nipple - preferring to suckle on workers' fingers instead.
Calves, who were kept in small pens, were not given adequate nutrition or hydration, with some dying as a result. The video also shows employees hitting, stabbing, and calves with metal bars and branding irons, as well as sitting on them - which was often too much weight for the young calves to bear. Workers, managers, and foremen were observed joking as they sat on calves, and the animals' legs buckled under the weight.
ARM adds that transportation of newborn cows was violent - with video footage showing workers throwing the animals, as well as forcefully pushing them. The result of these abuses, according to ARM, was 'pain, suffering, permanent injury, and death'.
Shockingly, the investigator says they never observed any disciplinary action being taken against any employee, although 'knowledge of the abuse was known from the workers, foremen, to upper management levels of Fair Oaks Farms'.
ARM's investigation revealed horrific abuse
ARM provided all of its evidence to the Newton County Sheriff's Office for review. Sheriff Tom VanVleet said his office has requested the names of the people shown in the video.
"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," He added in a statement.
"We have requested the names and identifiers of those terminated for animal cruelty by Fair Oaks Dairy Farms. We will also be seeking the identity of the witness to the alleged crimes that failed to report this activity for some time."
Fair Oaks Farms Founder Mike McCloskey made a statement on the video footage describing it as 'a shock and an eye-opener'. He said an investigation of the video is underway 'during and after which disciplinary action will be taken, including termination and criminal prosecution'.
"While we were made aware a couple months ago of the fact that ARM had gone undercover at Fair Oaks Farms, and had proactively made a statement, we had no idea what kind of footage had been captured or what – if any – abuse had occurred," Mike McCloskey claimed.
"It is with great disappointment to find, after closely reviewing the released ARM video, that there were five individuals committing multiple instances of animal cruelty and despicable judgement. Of the five, four were our employees and one was a third-party truck driver who was picking up calves.
"Of the four who were our employees, three had already been terminated prior to us being made aware months ago of the undercover ARM operation, as they were identified by their co-workers as being abusive of our animals and reported to management.
A statement from Coca-Cola added: "We care deeply about animal welfare, and these images left all of us at Coca-Cola with a heavy heart. Any form of animal cruelty is simply unacceptable and counter to our company values. We expect all our suppliers to operate with the highest degree of integrity and comply with all laws, including animal welfare laws....fairlife has immediately stopped all sourcing from the dairy identified in the video."
ARM says the only way to stop the kind of abuse identified in these videos is to stop buying animal products.
"As consumers, you can make your voices heard by contacting Fair Oaks Farms, Publix and Coca Cola and demand that these products, and companies cease supporting this incredibly cruel treatment upon dairy cows," the organization said in a statement sent to Plant Based News.
"One of the most significant ways that the public can contribute to change in this industry is to choose plant-based choices and discontinue the consumption of dairy products."