Conklin Dairy Farms: An Update
By far one of the most popular stories I’ve ever written about on this blog is the incident of animal abuse at Conklin Dairy Farms in Ohio. It has consistently brought traffic to this blog since the story broke and continues to be popular to this day. I thought it would be a good idea to get caught up on with how this story eventually turned out.
Back in May 2010, a group known as Mercy For Animals (MFA) released an undercover video they had shot at a dairy farm they had randomly selected in Ohio.
The video documented animal abuse by Billy Joe Gregg, Jr., an employee of Conklin Dairy Farms. In the video, Gregg bragged about abusing cows and was seen punching cows and attacking them with a pitchfork.
The video also included a few seconds of footage showing the owner, Gary Conklin, kicking a cow that was laying on the ground.
Gregg originally plead not guilty to 12 counts of animal cruelty. On Sept. 24, 2010, Gregg plead guilty to six misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals. Gregg was sentenced to eight months in jail, ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, and was barred from contact with animals for three years. Gregg was also ordered to receive counseling through a program that specializes in treating individuals involved in animal abuse cases.
A grand jury also considered the actions of Conklin, shown on the video kicking a cow on the ground. The jury was shown the unedited version of undercover footage. The edited version of the video released by MFA to the internet had bracketed Conklin’s actions with actual abuse, lending the impression that Conklin was also participating in the abuse.
The unedited video was also seen by four veterinarians who specialize in large animal care.
The County Prosecutor said, “[The grand jury] saw the unedited video of Mr. Conklin’s actions, not the highly inflammatory version released on YouTube by Mercy for Animals.”
After viewing the video and hearing from investigators and veterinarians that concluded Conklin acted appropriately, the grand jury decided not to indict Conklin.
No evidence was ever presented that Conklin was aware of the actions of Gregg.
Regarding the footage of Conklin kicking a cow, the prosecutor said Conklin was actually acting appropriately to prevent injury to the animal. “These animals, sometimes called ‘downer cows’ must be brought to their feet. The sheriff’s office had the video reviewed by four experts, each of whom agreed that Mr. Conklin’s actions were entirely appropriate.”
The prosecutor noted that the experts were veterinarians with extensive experience in large animal care. Each agreed that delivering a sharp blow to the animal to get it to rise was not abuse. The veterinarians told law enforcement that cows that remain down are at risk of injury or death.
The grand jury also heard testimony from the undercover operative put on the Conklin Farm by Mercy for Animals, Jason Smith of Texas. Smith had told law enforcement that he did not witness any abuse by Conklin, and that Conklin did not know of the abuse by Billy Joe Gregg.
After learning of the abuse, Conklin fired Gregg the very next day. Since the incident became an internet sensation, Conklin has been the victim of death threats and threats to destroy his farm “piece by piece” by animal rights activists.
This case is closed and justice has been served. Conklin was found to have acted appropriately and did the right things, and his actions have been reviewed and cleared by industry experts and a randomly selected grand jury. I understand that the video was upsetting – it deeply affected me as well – but threats are never the correct response and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
In my previous coverage of this story, I made two points. First, how could this sort of thing happen at a dairy farm and management not be aware? I stand by that point. As I said, it was never proven that Conklin knew about what Gregg was doing. But isn’t that the point? Isn’t there a moral responsibility to know what’s going on? In a statement for the press, Conklin Dairy Farms maintained that they take “the care of our cows and calves very seriously.” That means you have to be proactive enough to be aware and not let the bad things happen. I’m willing to guess that Conklin learned a very important lesson here. He has since spoken of the importance of maintaining an employee manual that stresses things like standards of animal treatment.
The second point I made was taking umbrage that Conklin had not been charged with a crime. Here I was overzealous and I apologize for going that far. I was wrong. Conklin has been completely cleared of any wrongdoing. I accept that and I wish him well. I allowed myself to become emotional about the issue and the video and I was too quick to rush to judgment. I’ll try to be more careful about that sort of thing in the future.
Click It Or Sticky Wicket
I freely admit it. I cried like a little girl that first night in jail. They say never let ’em see weakness but I couldn’t help it. But at the same time I wasn’t oblivious. I could see the other prisoners betting cigarettes on how long I’d last. But I’d show ’em all!
The next day I was released to the yard along with everyone else. Dammit. Then a big mean looking bald guy approached me. Here it comes, I thought. This is how it ends for me.
“What are you in for, man?” he asked me.
I looked him straight in the eye. “Seat belt violations, motherfucker,” I said. “One shitload of tickets.”
They pretty much left me alone after that…
I’ll be straight up with you. I think our nation’s fixation with programs like Click It Or Ticket (CIOT) is misguided. And I’ll tell you why.
Some argue that CIOT is a violation of our civil rights. They say that government has no business in coercing us to take care of ourselves. This is especially a sticking point for opponents of motorcycle helmet laws.
Some have argued that seat belt enforcement is an invasion of our privacy because officers have to look into vehicles without probable cause.
These are interesting points that may or may not have some validity. But I say fuck all that as irrelevant. I say that safety enforcement should be prioritized based on a very simple criteria. Just for fun, I’ll call it who is the meat with the brain splatter.
This approach is a simple one and seeks to understand who is at risk, not the nature of the infraction.
Consider an idiot who drives without their seat belt. Who’s meat are they risking? Their own. If they decide to go SVA (single vehicle accident) into a tree or roll their rig, they are the ones who will suffer from brain splatter. SVAs are a special case that, unless the result of something like mechanical failure or acts of God, are generally textbook examples of self-Darwinism. The vast majority of SVAs are caused by intoxicants, excessive speed, and/or operator error.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that shoveling up the brain splatter can be disturbing, but that’s not a valid reason for prioritizing enforcement of seat belt laws artificially high. Besides, the people who scrape up brains – that’s their job. One that probably pays two to three times what I make, and with excellent benefits, too. Sorry, they can deal with it.
Note: I’m not talking about children here. The drivers of vehicles have a moral obligation to protect underage passengers. (This will be address by my hypothesis below.)
The same thing goes for motorcycle helmets, too. When I ride I always wear a helmet. You’d have to be a friggin’ moron to do otherwise. (Case in point: See Ben Rothlisberger.) My head happens to be where I store my gray matter and I’m pretty fucking partial to that shit. It’s all-important to me and oh-so-fragile and irreplaceable, so yeah, I’m going to protect it. Therefore I have never ridden without a full helmet. None of that “screw the cops” half-helmet bullshit for me.
Again, though, if you opt to ride without a helmet, who are you risking? Yourself. Sure, you might get brains on someone’s windshield but the presence (or not) of your helmet is not very likely to have a life or death impact on others.
So why the emphasis on the enforcement of laws like these? Where the friggin’ hell are the programs for things like red light runners? Ever heard of one? I sure haven’t.
The thing with red light runners is that they put the lives of other people than themselves at extreme high risk of serious injury and death. If we want to enforce some traffic laws, why the hell don’t we start with something like that?
My hypothesis is simple:
Proactive enforcement of traffic safety laws should be prioritized based on the danger to innocent people.
Drivers who refuse to wear seat belts, stupid and annoying though they may be, by far only pose a significant risk to themselves. Therefore, under my hypothesis, enforcement prioritization of seat belt laws would be minimal.
Drivers under the effects of intoxicants greatly risk the lives of innocent people, therefore proactive enforcement for that should be very high. Ditto for those who dangerously break laws like running red lights.
To this day our DUII laws are far too gutless. Yes, the enforcement prioritization is there, as it should be. There are DUII programs and funding. But the punishments are far too lax. If I had my say, upon conviction for a first offense the offender would lose their license to drive for three years and the vehicle, regardless of ownership, would be forfeit. Period. A punishment would sure make vehicle owners think about driving while intoxicated, eh? And it would force employers and friends to be highly discriminating of who they trusted with their wheels, too.
A second conviction would result in a loss of driving privileges for life and mandatory jail time.
Talking on cell phones while driving or, worse yet, texting, is rightly getting attention, too. For once, things might be working as they should. Rare, I know. When innocent lives hang in the balance due to egregious selfishness and stupidity, enforcement must drop like a hammer and the laws must have enough teeth to actually make a difference and weed out the most foolish amongst us.
Similarly, I’d drastically increase enforcement on red light runners. Too many people get impatient and take liberties with red lights that they shouldn’t. In my town the problem is at epidemic levels and law enforcement still doesn’t do jack shit about the problem. There is no funding and no enforcement prioritization. I predict it won’t be long until a vehicle is t-boned or a pedestrian is flattened and innocent lives are irrevocably destroyed.
In my experience law enforcement is supposed to have a proactive component. I’ve heard a figure that says 43% of law enforcement should be proactive. (Our local police aren’t there yet.) But the way it seems to work is that this doesn’t happen unless there is some grant that funds overtime, which is fantastically probably the most inefficient way to prosecute things like traffic safety programs. And that grant money is typically narrowly restricted to very specific applications, like CIOT, DUII or pedestrian stings. Those who give out grant money don’t want local communities making their own prioritization decisions. So the money comes with strings attached.
CIOT, for example, is typically conducted with overtime paid for my “federal highway safety grant funding.” Where is the funding for red light enforcement programs, if there even is such a thing?
Why so much emphasis on CIOT? My personal theory is that it is based on some sort of “do-gooder complex.” Some apparently see it as their role to force people take care of themselves. Sounds like they have control issues to me. Perhaps they’ll also come up with a program to enforce restrictions on Texas contributions to world cuisine like deep-fried twinkies, deep-fried pork ribs, deep-fried cheesecake, deep-fried Coke, chicken fried bacon, deep-fried banana splits, deep-fried beer, and, of course, deep-fried butter.
Fuck that. Fund the traffic safety programs that prioritize the increased safety of innocent people. The innocent must be prioritized above the moronic!
Are you a moron? Do you have a death wish? I say fine and dandy. Feel free to take yourself out, hopefully before you’ve procreated and passed along your genes. We shouldn’t spend our time, money and resources trying to stop you.
Let’s concentrate on protecting the innocent instead. Let us prioritize the safety of the innocent above the safety of the stupid.