Recently, a suspected animal abuse video was released by Animal Recovery Mission about the dairy operation at Fair Oaks Farms. The company, called the “Disneyland of agricultural tourism” in Food & Wine magazine, is being accused of “daily mistreatment of the resident farm animals” by ARM. The public on both sides of the controversial video were passionate about what they saw. Farmers and ranchers realize animal care should be the upmost importance of any operation.
Late Wednesday night, Fair Oaks Farms released this nearly seven-minute-long video from their founder, Dr. Mike McCloskey. Watch for yourself as he explains their side of the story and the many steps they are taking to correct the actions of their employees, from the past and for the future.
According to Mike McCloskey, an owner of Fair Oaks, five individuals were involved in the abuse activity. Of the five, four were employees and one was a contract truck driver. Even prior to the video being released, McCloskey says three of the employees were released due to abuse allegations. The employment of a fourth employee was terminated once the video was released, and the company employing the contract driver was told that the person was not allowed on Fair Oaks Farms again.
“It is a shock and an eye-opener for us to discover that under our watch, we had employees who showed disregard for our animals, our processes and for the rule of law,” McCloskey said in a statement following the video’s release. “The video shines a light on an area that, despite our thorough training, employee onboarding procedures and overall commitment to animal welfare, needs improvement.”
“As hard as you try, you can always end up with bad people in your organization,” he said.
Regardless of the outcome, McCloskey said he takes full responsibility for the actions depicted in the footage.
“It goes against everything that we stand for in regards to responsible cow care and comfort,” he said. “The employees featured in the video exercised a complete and total disregard for the documented training that all employees go through to ensure the comfort, safety and well-being of our animals.”
“As a veterinarian whose life and work is dedicated to the care, comfort and safety of all animals, this has affected me deeply,” McClosky said. “I am disappointed for not being aware of this kind of awful treatment occurring and I take full responsibility for what has happened. I also take full responsibility to correct and ensure that every employee understands, embraces and practices the core values on which our organization stands.”
McCloskey said, “I am focusing on putting cameras anywhere on the property where we have any animal and personal interaction. You would ask yourself ‘why didn’t I do that initially?’ Years ago when we set up our animal welfare program this was a big topic of discussion and I made the decision that as we were training our people and our values and training them about animal welfare, that I wanted to build a trust, that we trusted them to do this that we could drive our values and have them carry those values out for us, and I felt that if we used cameras we demonstrated a lack of trust in our people. That was a terrible judgment on my part.”
McCloskey says he will be adding an exhibit that will allow the public to see the video screens that show all the cameras. The new cameras will be monitored 24 hours a day and be viewable by anyone who visits the farm. Random audits will also be implemented, and the farm will hire someone to focus on continuing education on animal treatment. He says he also contacted an animal welfare organization to make frequent and unannounced visits at the farm. He says he also reached out to the county attorney to review the video and prosecute any animal abusers.
McCloskey said the organization may release more videos in the future, but he’s confident the changes they’re implementing will address any concerns those videos may produce.
He ended his video with a guarantee that this would not happen again at Fair Oaks Farms.
The activist group is calling for CocaCola to sever ties with Fair Oaks Farms. Together they produce fairlife milk. McClosky has reached out to ARM founder Richard Couto, but he has not heard back.