07 June 2019

Trigger warning: animal abuse

I couldn't watch all the way through.

Summary from The Guardian:
Undercover footage showing young dairy calves being kicked, violently thrown, having their heads stamped into the ground and suffering from heat exposure at a US farm known as the “Disneyland of agricultural tourism” was published this week.

Every year, more than 600,000 tourists visit the Fair Oaks Farms Dairy Adventure, a working dairy farm of 15,000 cows a few hours south of Chicago, Illinois. The farm, with its museum, restaurant and hotel – deemed the “Disneyland of agricultural tourism” this year by Food & Wine – sells a vision of quaint rural life: “It’s where families can view pastures dotted with dairy cattle” and “watch as a piglet is born” before they “top off this idyllic country day with a scoop of ice cream or a pork chop from Fair Oaks Farms’ restaurant”.

The farm is independently owned by veterinarian Mike McCloskey, but it is an affiliate of the Coca-Cola company, with which it produces a nutrient-dense milk product called “Fairlife” and other popular dairy products including Core Power Protein shakes. McCloskey, who co-founded the business with his wife, Sue, has stated that their farm provides in-depth training on humane care of animals.

ARM’s undercover investigator got a job at Fair Oaks as a calf care employee in 2018. The investigator reported that they received no training other than where to put the calves’ dead bodies. Furthermore, violence towards the animals appeared to be commonplace, typically stemming from frustration over the calves’ unwillingness to feed from artificial nipples.

Video footage captured between August and November of 2018 appears to show workers beating, kicking, and throwing the bloodied and emaciated baby animals as their mothers go hoarse calling to them from separated barns.
Primary source material here, with an extensive photo gallery.

Sort of related:



The title is one of the penultimate lines from The Court of Tartary, a fantasy by T.P. Caravan first published in 1963. In the story, a professor of English literature "awakens" to find his mind is entrapped in the body of a cow, and the herd seems to be destined to the slaughterhouse.

"Edward Harrison Dunbar, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., L.L.D., member of the Modern Language Association and authority on eighteenth century literature, was not prepared for the situation in which he found himself: it had never been mentioned by any of the writers of the Age of Reason....

And even as he ran he wondered if he couldn't prove that Edward Young was the true author of the third book of Gulliver's Travels, because he knew that if he stopped thinking scholarly thoughts about the eighteenth century he would have to admit that he had turned into an animal. So as he ran he considered the evidence turned up by the publication of the Tickell papers and the discovery of Swift's old laundry lists and Night Thoughts and the graveyard poets and Gray's Elegy and the lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, and he had to admit that he was an animal....

There was no point in approaching his difficulty through the scientific method: he knew no science. There was no help for him in metaphysics: he had cleared his mind of Kant. Nor could the classics aid him: he had read Ovid, of course, and the Golden Ass, but he didn't see how they bore on his problem. And — he hated to admit it — nobody in the eighteenth century seemed to have wondered what would happen to a scholar who woke up and found himself a cow. All right. That left only his own experience to fall back on. But, being a professor, he had never had any experiences..."
He decides to use his hoof to draw a triangle in the dust.  Then... if I've piqued your curiosity, you can read the full story in ten minutes fulltext online at Scribd.


  1. I've read several news articles about this, including a couple that address ARM's questionable tactics and another that said law enforcement investigating another witness who failed to report the abuse. The article about ARM's tactics said there was a habit of continually filming and letting the abuse continue. Another article said the farm's owner had fired several employees for the abuse PRIOR to being made aware of the video.

  2. I live in New Zealand, a country that depends on it's tourism and it's dairy.
    The mistreatment of the male issue of the cows is rife here, mostly undocumented due to, well, there are not many people watching, out on the farms.
    To get milk from a cow the cow needs to have had a baby, hence the cows are impregnated often so as to keep them in milk. Female offspring are fed liquified milk powder from plastic teats, and grown to enlarge the herds, while their mother's milk is trucked away to make cappuccinos and whatever else we humans want, from the mother's milk of a different species.
    Male offspring are used for pet food, but before they get that far they are forcibly thrown into holding cages to wait for the pet food truck to come, which is often days later, leaving those big eyed beautiful creatures to suffer the pain of broken limbs and worse, often in the hot sun, or freezing winter wind.
    I can't watch the above video, I live in a provincial town here in NZ and see often enoughthe cruelty of man towards animals.
    My outspokenness has made me few friends, even my mentioning that the cattle would fare better with even a little shade from the sometimes 34 C degree heat that hits the fields during summer ends with some moronic cattle farmer trying to stare me down.
    Put up a video of a cattle farmer being kicked to death and I will watch it smiling.
    But a video of innocent cattle, earth creatures just as we are, being hurt just breaks my heart.
    It is proof there is no god.
    I hope many people watch the video and it in some way facilitates a change in the way humans treat animals.

  3. Thank you for posting this. I need to be reminded. This did it.

  4. I am somewhat sceptical, and concerned to see this circulating without information about the group that released the video, or the responding statement made by the farm's founder.

    The group that made this video is part of the "animal rights movement", the stated goal of which is to remove all animals from human captivity. That includes zoos, farms, house pets, everything. The only excepion they make is for their own "sanctuaries," where they keep "rescued" animals - these in quotes, because sanctuaries are under significantly less regulation than zoos OR farms, and the rate at which animals are mistreated in sanctuaries is correspondingly much higher. The animal rights movement also includes PETA, which is more widely known for extremist stunts and shock-tactics advertising, but smaller and less-notorious animal rights organizations are still able to gain significant publicity.
    The counter-movement, from those involved in animal care who would like to see conditions improve for animals in human care but would not like to see the end of zoos, house pets, or animal agriculture, is the animal welfare movement. This movement is responsible for almost all recent advancements in laws protecting domestic animals, but gets less publicity, because they don't use shock tactics.

    Animal rights organizations use videos like this to push for the end of animal agriculture. As in this case, they send in undercover investigators to film footage of operations. In many cases, if abuse is not actually happening, they will bribe employees to abuse the animals while they film (as happened in a video of a sheep transport operation that was going around a while ago.) In this case, the abuse may have been happening anyway - four employees were responsible for the abuse, and three of them had been reported by their co-workers and fired months before this video was released. The fourth had dodged that internal investigation and was fired based on the content of the video. As the farm owner points out in his statement, this employee could have been caught months earlier if the "investigator" filming the video had reported them at the time. That, combined with the fact that they stood aside filming rather than attempting to intervene, raises significant questions about the actual ethics and motives of the investigation.

    It is true that sometimes people who have a desire to commit violence will find their way into animal care positions, to take these urges out on the animals. This is a known problem, which is why internal oversight and reporting procedures exist on farms. In this case, those procedures were not sufficient, and the farm is now updating them. While I would agree that these procedures probably need to be more rigorous in general, as would many in the industry, the making of this video does not actually further this goal. The video attempts to portray this treatment of calves as "normal" and generalize it to all farms and farm workers, in order to stir up hatred and revulsion of farming, and further their goal to end animal agriculture entirely.

  5. Other aspects of this video also manipulate facts - or present outright lies - in order to provoke emotional responses. The seperation of calves from their mothers is routine, but not traumatic. Dairy cows have been bred to have little to no maternal instinct, and are likely to ignore calves or even kick them if they try to nurse. The first milk produced in the hours after birth - called colostrum - is critical to calves' development, especially the development of the immune system. Colostrum is harvested from the cows, tested to insure quality, and distributed to the calves - studies show this ensures they get the necessary quantity and quality, as compared to natural nursing, in which a certian percent of calves receive insufficient colostrum for various reasons. After this, calves are fed milk from the milking tank. Milk production is dependent on nursing pressure, so a cow who is milked frequently will produce more milk, enough to feed the calf and retain some to sell. This is probably an adaptation that exists to allow cows to raise twins. Neither the cows or calves suffer from seperation, the cows are uninterested in motherhood and tend to exhibit less stress in a clean and gentle modern milking setup than when being tugged at and chewed on by calves. The calves are initially kept seperated from the adults, which dramatically reduces their chances of getting sick. They are given plenty of nurturing and affection from human caretakers - the vast majority of people who work with animals choose to do so because they like animals, not because they want to hurt them - and human nurturing also makes them more comfortable with and tolerant of humans as adults. Yes, young males are sent off to be raised for meat, because bulls are dangerous to keep around. The vast majority go to spend their young life on the range, then spend about 6 months on a feedlot before being humanely slaughtered. There are quite a lot of regulations surrounding the humane slaughter of meat animals, and significant improvements have been made in recent years towards making slaughterhouses less stressful for the animals. Anyone is free to make their own decisions on whether meat is ethical in general, but it is very rare at this point for calves to be raised as veal, or to be mistreated as part of the meat-rearing process.

    Most drastically absurd, the video attempts to pass off an invasive plant found across the midwest as "illegal marijuana" being secretly grown by the farm. This is pure sensationalist fake news. If they succeed in convincing people that this is true, they can claim that nearly any farm is growing "illegal marijuana," because invasive plants are absolutely everywhere. I hope the absurdity of this claim, if nothing else, will lead people to consider how willing to twist the truth the makers of this video actually are.

    Tl;dr: Yes, the content of this video is horrifying, and it is terrible that calves were treated this way. However, this treatment of calves is far from normal, and farms fire abusive employees whever they are made aware of them. Any attempts to portray this treatment as normal, or fundamental to animal agriculture, exist as part of an ongoing propaganda campaign which people should be aware of and maintain scepticism towards. This video was produced by an organization that is known to be part of the propaganda campaign, and at least some of the content is blatantly false.

    1. "... farms fire abusive employees whever they are made aware of them."

      Oh, how I wish that was anywhere close to being true...



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