From Abuse At Dairy Farm To Reward For Healthy Cows–UPDATE

UPDATE: The Mercy For Animals blog reported that an arrest was made for one of the workers at Conklin Dairy Farm who was documented in the video torturting the cows.  Billy Gregg Jr. was taken into custody on 12 counts of animal cruelty.


In an uncanny twist of fate, two contrasting stories have come to light on the same day about the treatment of cows at commercial dairy farms.  One story documents an extreme case of abuse in Ohio while the second story shows the decency in human nature as a supermarket chain in the U.K. launches a nationwide humane program. 


The first story comes from Ohio where the animal welfare organization called Mercy For Animals released explicit video to The Associated Press that showed workers at the Conklin Dairy Farm, “beating cows with crowbars, stabbing them with pitchforks and punching them in their heads.”


The video was recorded by an undercover investigator.  Mercy For Animals is a non-profit animal welfare group that focuses on exposing cruel practices in the dairy, meat and egg industries.  Last year they revealed abuse to newborn male chicks at an egg hatchery in Iowa.  The egg industry considers male chicks to be worthless because they can’t lay eggs and kills them shortly after they are born, but workers at the hatchery in Iowa were unnecessarily cruel and abusive to the chicks.


The new video filmed at Conklin Dairy Farms shows extreme abuse at this facility too.  It documented workers holding down newborn calves and stomping on their heads and one worker wiring a cow’s nose to a metal bar while repeatedly beating it with a second bar. 


Mercy For Animals’ executive director, Nathan Runkle said, “The documented abuse violates Ohio’s anti-animal cruelty statute.”  The group presented the video and other evidence it collected to the prosecutor’s office on May 25.


Ironically a positive story was just released in Britain from the country’s second largest grocery chain.  Sainsbury’s has launched a plan that will increase the standards for the health and well-being of cows for all of the 334 dairy farmers that supply the company with milk products.  


The plan took three years to develop and has the support of veterinarians, farmers and animal welfare groups.  And the new requirements will not translate into more cost to the consumer.


Annie Graham who is head of Sainsbury’s agriculture department said, “In the past, standards have focused on the farm environment, but we believe our scheme is unique because it uses an ‘outcome approach’ that focuses on the cow health and welfare outcomes that our customers want to see.” 


Forty percent of Sainsbury’s customers cited animal welfare as their top concern for products.


Cows will be checked twice a year by an independent veterinary team for nine key areas.   Some of these areas include: lameness, mastitis, nutrition, housing, transport and disease.  Sainsbury’s will pay for the examinations and the company will be kept updated on the condition of all the cows.



Sainsbury’s believes farmers will also benefit from the program.  They will have healthier cows that produce more milk and will ultimately save them money.  Another grocery chain called Marks & Spencer started a similar program, but they give cash rewards to the farmers with the healthiest cows.


Hayley Campbell-Gibbons of the National Farmers Union made this comment, “It is an example of the way the industry should be moving….and the good work British dairy farmers are doing.”



photo credit: thanks to Cathy, Sam, Max Mai via flickr


William C
William Cabout a year ago


W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

Amir Sardashty

I'm not sure what exactly it's asking, The question is oddly worded

Victoria L.
Victoria L6 years ago

The question is oddly worded...I'm not sure what exactly it's asking.

Lindy E.
Belinda E6 years ago

Profit and animal abuse will go hand in hand until the market (not just a small segment of it) is willing to pay more for humanely raised animal products. Or, until some genius figures out ways to handle animals humanely that do not cost more than the abusive methods.

I would imagine that abuse of livestock is due to:
1. A desire to minimize costs to enhance profits,
2. Frustration or other stress, taken out on the animals who can't fight back, and
3. Just plain meanness in some people.

Each of these causes masks the ones following. Thus, until we deal with the first one, we can't address the second. And only when the first and second are dealt with, will we expose the true, gratuitous, wanton abusers.

Elaine K.
Elaine K6 years ago

There is an economic incentive to keeping cows producing longer. A cow is not even full grown until they are 5. If they start giving milk too young it can stunt their growth and they will never give as much milk. They cannot have their first calf till they are 2 or 3 so if they were killed at 4 they would have had only 1 or 2 lactations so at the most would have produced milk for only 50% of their life. It would take an awful lot of expensive high protein feed to get them anywhere near their full potential size at 2. I went to a dairy dispersal where they were selling cows up to 15 years old to other dairy farmers. A cow sold for hamburger brings lots less per pound than they do for producing milk. If the expense of raising the cow is divided over a useful life of maybe 20 years it is much less costly than a useful life of 4 years giving no milk at all for 2 or 3 years. Dairy calves(usually Holstein) when they are first born have very small bodies and big long legs like foals and are just about worthless for meat. The older they get the more body they have and they have less and less legginess and more and more meat.There was a supermarket chain in CA back when that sold only Holstein beef because it was better than the meat from beef cattle. Raising dairy calves to produce top quality beef should produce some economic incentive. They could be raised on cows at reasonable cost. One Holstein cow could raise 4 or more calves at one time. Beef cows only raise one.

Gretchen Small
gretchen Small7 years ago

DhF: for people who are not familiar with the dairy industry, cows are "burned out" by age 4 due to the selective breeding for huge udders and hormone pumping to make the produce un-naturally huge amounts of milk. (a cow raised in a more natural environment can easily produce calves and milk to age 10 or beyond). those "burnout" cow are enroute to becoming baloney and dogfood (too tough for regular slaughter) and there is no economic incentive to not torture them. bull calves are either turned into veal or killed and sent to rendering; again no economic reason to prevent torturing them.

Diane H. F7 years ago

I would think abuse of dairy cows would be rare for a couple of reasons. When it comes even to corporate farms, we know that a stressed cow produces little (if any) milk. Cows are a major investment, and obviously, the focus must be on those measures that increase productivity. Any family farm can tell you that for good milk production, cows must feel safe and content.

Inez Deborah Altar

what is done is judged

Moertl M.
Martha M7 years ago

I voted yes but I agree with Lynndawn W.'s comment. The question is ambiguous.