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Fair Oaks Farms

FAIR OAKS — Mike McCloskey said he wished an animal activist organization that spent nearly six months clandestinely filming the operations of Fair Oaks Farms would have just knocked on his door.

Instead, McCloskey, co-founder of the farms, said Thursday, he's concerned the undercover footage may be used inappropriately and misinterpreted by the public.

"We wish people like them would knock on our front door. We are open to everyone. We work to be transparent," McCloskey said.

He would not elaborate on how he learned the animal activist organization infiltrated the farm.

Fair Oaks Farms is a 40-square-mile dairy farm and Midwest tourism attraction/event venue that has multiple restaurants and exhibits.

McCloskey said a third-party agency, called in by the National Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) on Monday to review the group's operations, told him Wednesday night it had completed its review and found no issues with the operations. He is awaiting a written report by the group.

FARM contracts with third-party evaluators independent of the dairy industry to conduct operational reviews.

Calls and an email to a FARM representative were not returned Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday, Fair Oaks Farms management posted a lengthy statement on its Facebook page about the incident at the farms at 856 N. 600 E. in Fair Oaks.

"At Fair Oaks Farms, we pride ourselves on consumer transparency — not only when it comes to the dairy products we produce, but also regarding the cows, people and farming that are behind those products. It is with that philosophy in mind that we would like to inform our trusted consumers, visitors, and the public at large, that an animal activist organization infiltrated our farms. We believe they came to our farms not to share a fair and balanced view of animal welfare, but to specifically and misleadingly create animal cruelty videos," reads a portion of the statement.

McCloskey said they believe the group has been filming at the farms for about six months. He said he was "not 100 percent certain" what group infiltrated the operation.

"We know these people against our beliefs are out there," McCloskey said, adding that while the two sides disagree, he would like to have a dialog with the members.

"Although we have complete confidence in our employees and animal welfare programs, no one person or organization is without flaws. It’s only through the belief and practice of continuous improvement that we can guarantee to you — our guest and consumer — that when any faults are found we take immediate actions to correct and learn from them," the statement reads.

"Our mission is to welcome all to the table to have conversations about how we are going to affordably feed the world through sustainable, humane, modern agriculture. If and when any videos that depict alleged animal cruelty are released, we will take immediate and corrective action towards any employee who may be found abusing animals. This action will include, employee retraining, probation or termination and, if appropriate, legal action. We will also take any action, including legal, towards those who knowingly facilitate any misrepresentation of appropriate practices or procedures," according to the statement.

"In fact, before employment commences, all incoming employees are trained on humane animal care practices on our dairies and contractually agree to a 'See It, Say It' policy concerning animal abuse. We are aligned with animal rights activism groups everywhere when it comes to protecting animals from cruelty," according to the post.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.