Farms beset by spies
Even humane facilities undertake precautions
Sunday, June 6, 2010 02:59 AM
By Holly Zachariah
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Dave Thorbahn knows his business is a target. Some of his 184 employees already have been offered cash to videotape what goes on inside his barns.
Who offered them the money or why, Thorbahn can’t say. It could have been someone looking for trade secrets, but he suspects otherwise. He wonders whether it was someone working for an animal-rights organization that wanted a peek inside Select Sires, a bull-semen facility with 1,791 bulls in 57 barns in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Thorbahn is president and CEO of the bovine-genetics business, which happens to have its headquarters along Rt. 42 near Plain City, with buildings directly across the highway from and beside Conklin Dairy Farms, a relatively small farm with just a handful of employees.
But Conklin’s place has been the subject of a criminal investigation since Mercy For Animals, an animal-rights group that promotes a vegan lifestyle, released on May 24 a secretly recorded video showing an employee of Conklin Farms viciously beating and abusing cows and calves.
Conklin herdsman Billy Joe Gregg was subsequently fired and has been charged with 12 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and a felony weapons charge.
Mercy For Animals’ executive director, Nathan Runkle, said an investigator working for his organization was in Ohio applying for jobs at several farms and was living near Conklin’s when he caught wind of potential abuse there and was hired.
Thorbahn isn’t so sure it was that simple.
“I have to ask myself, were they in this area because of us?” he said. “We’d be quite a plum for an organization like that.” Read More
Every farm or ranch that raises livestock is a target for the animal rights groups that use undercover videos to raise money. While it’s hard to believe that farmers and ranchers would need to protect themselves against the very people they feed and clothe, that is the sad reality. They are desperately trying to get hired anywhere they can. It’s important that farmers and ranchers protect themselves against hiring someone like this. The reason it is important is because these undercover spies won’t be there to work and take care of livestock. They will be more concerned about looking for a camera shot that they can get paid for and may play well with consumers that don’t understand animal husbandry. And, when they can’t accomplish that goal, they will simply not show up for work any longer and move to the next place, here again leaving the proper care of the livestock in jeopardy.