On June 14th, the Chicago Tribune published an opinion written by Farm Forward’s Executive Director Andrew deCoriolis in response to their coverage of an undercover investigation at Fair Oaks Farm, an industrial dairy operation in Indiana. While the Tribune’s coverage sheds light on appalling abuse documented at Fair Oaks Farm, the Tribune failed to put the abuse into context of the structural cruelty and suffering found on industrial dairy farms. Below is the unedited piece that we submitted to the Tribune.
“Perhaps the most troubling thing about the recent undercover footage released by Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) into conditions at Fair Oaks Farm is that, while appalled, I wasn’t surprised by anything I saw. If you’d asked me what I’d expect to see on a farm like Fair Oaks as a fly on the wall I would have described untrained and underpaid workers taking out their frustration on depressed and defenseless animals. I would have described the small pens (known within the industry as “hutches”) used to isolate young calves, who are separated from their mothers almost immediately after birth, in which a large percentage of calves become so distraught that they starve themselves.
“The unbearable truth is that ARM’s undercover footage depicts the routine and systematic mistreatment of animals on industrial dairy farms.
“In an apparently heartfelt recorded statement posted to YouTube in the days following the release of ARM’s undercover video, Fair Oaks’ founder and CEO Mike McCloskey expresses remorse for the animals being abused on his farms and pledges to prevent this sort of cruelty on his farms going forward. He outlines a series of new procedures and precautions which, while welcome, have much more to do with reassuring his customers than preventing cruelty to animals.
“If McCloskey and Fair Oaks were sincere about preventing cruelty to animals they would be talking about things like transitioning to group housing for calves, providing pasture access for cows, and other husbandry practices which industrial-scale operations resist due to their added cost.
“Farms like Fair Oaks exist because, at least today, it’s cheaper to invest in savvy marketing and PR professionals than it is to commit to meaningful welfare improvements that can improve conditions for farmed animals, and farms like Fair Oaks will continue to exist until we reform the regulatory environments in which these businesses exist or until a critical mass of consumers make the shift to plant-based milks. Considering the ongoing deregulation of industries including animal agriculture, at least for now, preventing this sort of cruelty to animals is simply up to each of us.”