FAIR OAKS — A second video has been released by undercover animal welfare investigators Friday afternoon, showing what the groups says is "an hour and a half of consistent abuse" at Fair Oaks Farms.
The latest footage from Animal Recovery Mission offered an "extended" look at Fair Oaks Farms employees hitting young calves with their hands, branding irons and steel rods first presented in a 12-minute clip Tuesday. Workers were shown using drugs and disposing of animals' dead bodies on company property, as well.
Friday's 90-minute video also included an alleged conversation in Spanish between the ARM investigator and Fair Oaks Farms' top field manager about a bleeding calf. Subtitles were provided.
"The manager drove away. No medical treatment or aid was given. Hours later the newborn baby died alone," text on the footage read.
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Later, a portion of the newly released video showed an employee telling the ARM investigator where to dispose of the calves' carcasses.
“When you throw out the dead, you always have to go this way," the video's subtitles read for the Spanish conversation. "It looks bad for the company. ... We dump them in the back."
In a video posted late Wednesday to Fair Oaks Farms' Facebook page, founder Mike McCloskey acknowledged more footage may be released by ARM.
“We understand ARM may release future videos,” McCloskey said. “But we believe very strongly that all of these changes will address any future concerns.”
The employees seen in the video have been terminated, McCloskey said, and the company is working with the Newton County Sheriff's Department to prosecute the animal abuse caught on camera.
The Sheriff's Department has requested the names of those involved and an individual who may have witnessed the alleged crimes and failed to report the activity, according to a news release issued Wednesday.
However, ARM founder Richard Couto is not convinced the abuse is the work of "a few bad apples," saying the abuse was systematic.
“We didn't just get lucky seeing a few abusers,” Couto said. “Within hours of our investigator's employment, it was quickly apparent that this was the norm. Employees and management either took part in the abuse or had knowledge of it.”
Both videos' content is vastly different from what visitors see at the Dairy Adventure, where promotional footage shows gleeful children watching calves being gently bottle-fed. A statement hasn't been issued by McCloskey following the new release on Friday.
Behind the scenes of the investigation
The first video on ARM's site opens with clips of that promotional footage, with the final shot showing the Fair Oaks Farms logo and the phrase, “see what's behind the barn door.” For ARM investigators, that final sentence has a darker tone.
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Last spring, Couto said he visited the Dairy Adventure and saw what he perceived as “red flags” during the presentation.
“Knowing what I know about the dairy industry, it all seemed very staged," Couto said. "I went home and quickly put together Operation Fair Oaks Farms Dairy Adventure."
From August to November 2018, the investigator was employed as a calf care employee at the Prairies Edge North Barn at Fair Oaks Farms.
Within a couple of hours, footage of abuse was caught on the investigator's hidden camera, Couto said.
Couto said it appeared that much of the abuse stemmed from the calves not taking to being bottle-fed, with the footage showing workers forcefully hitting the cows with the bottles and violently handling them during feeding sessions. Some of the calves appeared to be sickly and panting in their enclosures.
"This led to frustration, beatings and the workers pouring out formula and leaving the calves hungry and dehydrated," text on the second video reads.
The investigator also alleged that newborn calves were immediately separated from their mothers, a major cause of the calves' early deaths and suffering.
“The mother cows would call for their babies for hours and hours, until their voice was hoarse,” Couto said. “The babies did the same thing, calling for their mothers.”
While walking among the stretching rows of enclosures of small plastic huts and metal caging, the investigator can be seen holding a thermometer toward the enclosures that displayed temperatures of up to 116 degrees.
The company's founders have said all employees must comply with strict guidelines on humanely handling animals, but the investigator alleged they received no such training during their employment. The training the investigator did receive related to taking certain routes when disposing of the dead calves that would not be seen by the public, as depicted in Friday's video.
Piles of dead calves are shown covered with flies and half buried in manure. The longer cut also shows deceased adult cows, as well as decaying animal parts and bones.
While some have questioned why the group didn't report the abuses sooner, Couto said they waited to release the footage and notify authorities after the investigation was complete for the safety of their investigator. Before the investigation came to a close, he said there was one more question they wanted to find the answer to.
“The reason we went public now is we were trying to find where the calves were going,” Couto said. “They were being violently loaded onto a transport and being thrown like sacks of potatoes — all tightly crowded together.”
The final leg of the investigation happened this spring, when investigators followed the vehicle transporting crowds of calves away from Fair Oaks Farms.
A small group of ARM investigators followed the vehicle to Midwest Veal in North Manchester, Indiana. There, they saw the calves contained in small veal crates.
“They were dying all around us, laying in their own excrement, unable to move,” Couto said. “A lot of our investigators come from law enforcement and military backgrounds, not much rattles them. One of our guys has done multiple tours in Iraq, he has seen a lot. But he couldn't stand being in that room for long.”
McCloskey said he was unaware calves were being sold to the veal industry, citing a lack of communication between the general manager in charge of livestock sales and himself.
“It was not our practice in the past ... and (I) apologize for the unintended false claim made previously," McCloskey said in a statement Thursday to The Times. "Our bull calves will no longer go to veal."
Fair Oaks Farms accounted for less than 4% of all calves purchased by Midwest Veal, according to the North Manchester company.
"While Fair Oaks Farms knew months ago that there was undercover activist activity, we had no idea that one of our Midwest Veal facilities was also involved," a statement from Midwest Veal reads. "While the video does not show any evidence of abuse on our veal facilities, we understand that some of the images portrayed were hard to see. As a company, we take full responsibility for the images shown in our portion of the video."
A Facebook user named Terry Peck, who lives in Stalingrad, Volgogradskaya Oblast', Russia, but is from Kentland, Indiana, according to his Facebook profile, wrote a lengthy post Tuesday of his thoughts on ARM's investigation, which was shared 10 million times. In the post, he alleged the animal welfare investigators had staged and conducted the abuse and that the investigators had been at Fair Oaks Farms for two years.
However, the animal welfare organization said Peck had no knowledge of the investigation and that the investigator was employed at Fair Oaks Farms for just under three months.
“The ARM investigator at no time took part in any of the abuse nor did we stage any of the employees to conduct abusive crimes of the animals,” ARM said in a statement. “We reported all instances of abuse to top management, who not only saw the abuse themselves but took no disciplinary action against the employees who did.”
The future of Fair Oaks Farms
Since the initial video's release, McCloskey has issued multiple statements via social media, taking complete ownership for the abuse and outlining his future plans for Fair Oaks Farms.
Alongside having random audits frequented at Fair Oaks Farms, cameras will be installed around their farms in areas with any interactions between animals and employees.
McCloskey said the camera's footage will be watched by a trained animal welfare professional and on public display in an exhibit dedicated to animal welfare.
“Over the summer, we will continue to share progress as we implement all of these changes and any new changes that I can share with you,” McCloskey said at the end of the video. “I am committed to never again have to watch a video of our animals suffering the way that they suffered. It's a commitment that I guarantee you that this will never happen again at Fair Oaks Farms.”
Check back at nwi.com for updates to this story.