HAMMOND — Fair Oaks Farms is facing new demands it pay damages over animal abuse at the agritourism destination.
An Indianapolis attorney is seeking monetary damages from the founders of Fair Oaks Farms and their marketing firm, Fairlife, in the wake of videos made public earlier this month showing Fair Oaks employees abusing and neglecting cows.
It is the latest of several suits alleging Fair Oaks falsely claimed to provide humane care to its dairy cows to justify premium milk prices for nationally marketed products under the Fairlife label.
The new suit alleges Mohammad Sabeehullah, of Indiana, and Nabil Khan, a former Indiana resident now living in California, were deceived into purchasing Fairlife milk by claims the farm’s cows were provided extraordinary care.
Fair Oaks Farms is the flagship farm for Fairlife, a network of about 30 dairy farms, whose dairy products are distributed by Coca-Cola.
The litigation was sparked after a video released two weeks ago by a Florida-based animal rights organization, Animal Recovery Mission, showed alleged abuse at Fair Oaks Farms. ARM sent an investigator to work at Fair Oaks Farms from August to November 2018 as a calf care employee.
The suit alleges video depicts employees kicking and body slamming calves, throwing them off the side of trucks, beating them with steel bars and leaving them to die in extreme temperatures or without proper nutrition and medical care.
A spokesperson for Fairlife issued a news release Tuesday stating it is aware of the new suit and reviewing it.
“As we previously shared, we are taking immediate actions to ensure our high standards of animal welfare are being executed at each of our supplying farms,” it states.
A spokesman for Fair Oaks Farms in Newton County couldn’t be reached early Tuesday for comment.
Mike McCloskey, a founder of Fair Oaks, previously issued statements on the business’s website that he was heartbroken by the videos.
He said the employees depicted on the videos had violated standards to which they previously had agreed to keep when they were hired. He said they also had been trained in humane treatment before they began work on the farms.
The Fair Oaks website states, “Fair Oaks Farms is taking full responsibility for actions depicted in recent video. We find them disturbing, upsetting and unacceptable.”
McCloskey said he has fired four employees, is cooperating with police, is installing video cameras throughout the farm to prevent future illegal cruelty and has hired an animal welfare specialist to periodically visit the farm to ensure high standards are met.
The Newton County Sheriff's Office has identified three of the men accused of abusing young calves at Fair Oaks Farms: Santiago Ruvalcaba Contreros, 31, Edgar Gardozo Vazquez, 36, and Miguel Angel Navarro Serrano, 38.
The Newton County prosecutor charged the trio with the beating of a vertebrate animal, a class A misdemeanor.
Newton County police arrested Vazquez June 12. They said today he remains in custody at the Newton County Jail. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also has placed a hold on him. They said the other two remain at large.
Strack & Van Til, Jewel-Osco and Family Express have announced they have pulled Fairlife products from its shelves.
No trial or court hearings have been scheduled in U.S. District Court.
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