Fair Oaks Farms and several past employees are under investigation after undercover footage of animal abuse was published by Animal Recovery Mission on June 4, 2019.
Fair Oaks Farm in Fair Oaks, Indiana is the largest dairy in the United States and the nation’s largest agritourism destination. The farm has a joint venture with Coca-Cola Company.
According to its website, Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) is a vanguard not-for-profit organization, dedicated to eliminating extreme animal cruelty operations worldwide. Its mission is, “to be an uncompromising defending force for the welfare of animals, in addition to putting an end to and preventing pain, suffering, and torture inflicted as a result of inhumane practices.”
Richard Couto is the founder of the ARM and an animal cruelty expert. Couto exposed Fair Oaks Farms in what he refers to as “Operation Fair Oaks Farms,” calling it, “the largest undercover dairy investigation of all time.” The video details the horrifying abuse hidden inside the dairy industry.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
An undercover investigator working for ARM gained employment and filmed the experience. Couto said he has never seen such consistent, constant abuse by everyone they had contact with at Fair Oaks Farms.
“When you throw out the dead you always have to go this way [back way],” a Fair Oaks farmworker said to the undercover investigator in the video. “For them, if the tourists come this is bad for the company. If you bring the dead calves. Do you understand?”
The most heartbreaking scene of the video comes when footage shows calves being left in extreme heat, dying in temperatures as high as 113 degrees in the video. Mothers can be heard calling for their calves so intensely that they lose their voice.
Couto suggests that, in order to stop the abuse, Fair Oaks Farms must be shut down. He is also pushing for Coca-Cola to get out of the dairy industry and urges consumers to stop buying products from them or to stop buying dairy in general.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Founder of Fair Oaks Farms Posted a Response Video
“Watching this video broke my heart and created a sadness that I’ll have to endure for the rest of my life,” said Mike McCloskey, owner and founder of Fair Oaks Farms. “I’m sorry and I apologize for the footage in this video.”
In the video, McCloskey sits at a table with his hands crossed in front of a lavish fireplace. He promises that nothing like this will ever happen again at Fair Oaks Farms. He will be taking several steps to ensure a safe environment for the animals and employees.
Fair Oaks Farms will be installing cameras so they, as well as the public, will be able to see the entirety of the farm at any given moment. McCloskey will welcome frequent, unannounced audits from one of the best animal welfare organizations in the country. He expects to see the auditor, who will have total access to the operation, every two to four weeks. McCloskey is also working with prosecutors in an effort to punish any animal abusers.
“It is important that every employee understands that if there is any animal abuse whatsoever, they will be prosecuted.”
McCloskey did not address the claim that the use of illegal narcotics is widespread and very apparent at Fair Oaks Farms. There is footage of marijuana plants on the property.
2. The Employees in the Video Have Been Terminated
According to a statement released by Fair Oaks Farms on its Facebook page, three employees are responsible for the overwhelming majority of offenses seen in the ARM video.
Per McCloskey’s video and statement, every employee goes through animal welfare training before they begin their job and participate in continuous education training throughout the year. Employees also sign a document in which they agree to report any animal cruelty to a supervisor.
The three employees had all gone through the training, and all three been reported for animal abuse. They had been terminated three months prior to the release of the undercover video footage.
“You can always end up with bad people within your organization,” McCloskey said. “And this is what happened to us.”
3. Fairlife Has Suspended Milk Deliveries From Fair Oaks Farms
Fairlife CEO Mike Saint John released a statement regarding the immediate action he is taking to address the situation at Fair Oaks Farms.
Fairlife has suspended all milk deliveries from Fair Oaks Farms until new guarantees are in place. Similar to Fair Oaks Farms, fairlife is now increasing animal welfare training and support programs for all supplying farms to ensure policy awareness and adherence, including annual re-certification requirements. They have also significantly increased unannounced animal welfare audits requirements for suppliers to 24 audits per year.
Fairlife is demanding that supplying farms institute a zero-tolerance policy for animal abuse. The policy orders individuals who violate this policy to be terminated and referred to law enforcement for further investigation.
“Fair Oaks Farms is just one of 30 farms that contributes to fairlife’s total milk supply, any single instance of abuse is unacceptable,” Saint John said in the statement.
4. Coca-Cola Company Has Not Commented on the Future of its Partnerships
“We care deeply about animal welfare, and these images left all of us at Coca-Cola with a heavy heart,” the statement reads. “Any form of animal cruelty is simply unacceptable and counter to our company values. We expect all our suppliers to operate with the highest degree of integrity and comply with all laws, including animal welfare laws.”
Coca-Cola’s statement included the actions and commitments Fair Oaks Farms and fairlife have made so far, however, the company has not commented on how it will proceed regarding its partnerships with them.
“I believe Pepsi has gained hundreds of thousands of new customers today as many of us loyal coke customers will no longer support you @Coca-Cola Company – I know I won’t even drink a coke if it is given to me free,” Amie Vernon wrote underneath the company’s #WorldEnvironmentDay post on Facebook.
Coca-Cola said it is taking steps to ensure that internationally recognized animal welfare standards are appropriately embedded into its Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principles, Supplier Guiding Principles, and auditing processes from now on. The company recognizes that consumers have high expectations of its conduct and products. Coca-Cola is at a crossroads when it comes to improving animal welfare across the dairy industry.
5. People Are Reacting to the Scandal on Social Media
One Twitter user suggests supporting local farms and small business.
Another user pleads for people to stop drinking dairy milk altogether, adding that Fair Oaks Farms is likely not the only dairy to treat animals in this way.
Another user films herself pouring fairlife milk down the drain, suggesting that she will never purchase their goods again.
Similarly, another user tells Coca Cola that she will not purchase any of their products until its relationship with Fair Oaks Farms is terminated. She is not the only one to tweet at the brand.
Another user wants people to take into consideration all of the good that happens at Fair Oaks Farms and suggests they read McCloskey’s statment.