My thoughts on the Conklin Dairy Sales video

By Don Sanders, veterinarian, Ohio State University 

You’ve probably seen the video that’s been storming the networks and the Internet — the one of an individual beating up and torturing cows and calves at Conklin Dairy Sales in Plain City. I found it so repugnant that I turned the video off. I was angry and ready to string up the individual who was shown committing these atrocities. Several of my dairy clients reported similar emotions.

Our team at the OSU Large Animal Field Service has provided veterinary services for Conklin Dairy Sales for many years. We attend to animals there several times a week. In all of this time, no one in our group has ever seen signs of abuse on any animal at this operation.

Mercy for Animals

The video was shot by a Mercy for Animals undercover agent over a period of seven weeks. As repugnant as the abuse itself is, the fact that the videographer taped this sociopath, on several occasions, without ever calling the authorities or the owner to end the senseless violence is also disturbing. He kept the camera running. And Mercy for Animals chose to wait to release the video until the timing was right to advance their political agenda.

At the time, Ohio’s legislature was voting on key animal welfare issues, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) needed extra steam to drive its collection of signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot. The ballot issue would restrict farmers’ production practices and dictate that the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLCSB) adopts specific livestock care standards. With this issue the HSUS is ignoring the voice of Ohio voters who last November overwhelmingly granted the OLCSB the authority to define the standards.

Mercy for Animals was founded by Nathan Runkle of Champaign County, Ohio. His father, Dr. Mark Runkle, is a veterinarian. Nathan and his father were clients of Dr. Judy and me, dating back 15 to 20 years. On occasion we vaccinated their horses and dogs and examined Jersey cows they purchased from the stockyards. Nathan’s father has achieved great financial success in the computer industry, enabling Nathan to pursue his passion for extreme animal activism. Professional ethics prevent me from describing some of these extremes, which have caused great turmoil in animal food agriculture. Mercy for Animals has in this case and others indicted an entire industry for the unfortunate, isolated acts of a few individuals.

Speaking for my clients

I find this organization’s tactics repugnant, as dairy farmers have consistently earned my deep respect in my many years of getting to know them personally and professionally. I know that cow comfort is a high priority to my clients. Every dairy farmer knows that to be their most productive, cows require pampering, comfortable housing and a highly nutritious diet.

For many of my clients’ cows, life is like a day at the beach, as they lie in sand beds provided for them, contentedly chewing their cud, their eyes half closed. All the while the dairy farmer works like the dickens.

Nearly all of my dairy clients schedule weekly or bi-weekly routine health care visits. In addition, we vets serve as the equivalent of an urgent care program, 24/7, between the regular visits and when cows have special needs such as calving. Plus, each cow receives vaccinations two or three times a year to ensure she doesn’t catch something contagious. Cows also get once or twice annual pedicures and special attention when they develop a sore foot between appointments.

The special treatment begins at birth. Calves receive their mama’s first milk, called colostrum, within six hours of coming into the world. Dairymen know very well that a calf gets its best start in life from that first milk, which is chock full of antibodies, protective proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Dairymen committed to consumers

This special care results in a superior product for consumers. Dairy farmers are very concerned about providing the public, healthful, nutritious food. They withhold from the market the milk of cows that require medication, antibiotics or other treatment — until the milk tests free of residual medication. Milk is sampled at the farm before it’s loaded for shipment and then again at the processing plant to double check against residues. All of these precautions are taken because America’s dairy farmers are diligent, take pride in their product and have a deep passion for the animals in their care.

Guilt by association?

An entire dairy operation, whether involved in marketing dairy replacement animals or producing milk, can go down the drain overnight when a rogue employee chooses to act out his aggressions. And our entire nation and world are in a furor, unjustly linking the entire American dairy industry to the actions of one individual. If only our nation and the press reacted so strongly against a pedophile abusing dozens of children. Where are you, Nathan Runkle, when we really need you?

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