Undercover video reveals animal abuse at Fair Oaks Farms

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Fair Oaks Farms, 856 N 600 E, Wednesday, June 5, 2019, in Fair Oaks.

FAIR OAKS, Ind. – A video released by an animal rights group has unearthed animal abuse at Fair Oaks Farms in northwestern Indiana.

According to a report by Fox 59, Animal Recovery Mission aired the video showing employees physically abusing calves at the large dairy operation. The not-for-profit group dedicated to calling attention to animal cruelty said its investigations of the abuse to be the first realistic and honest audit of Fair Oaks Farms and the Fairlife Corporation.

On its Facebook page, the group called on the Coca-Cola Corporation (which produces, markets and distributes milk products both domestically and internationally for the Fairlife label) to end their relationship with Fairlife Corporation.

Fair Oaks Farms founder and veterinarian Mike McCloskey released a statement in regard to the abuse allegations on the farm’s Facebook page, taking full responsibility for the actions seen in the footage.

McCloskey confirmed that most of the footage of the video was captured on one of the dairies belonging to Fair Oaks Farms. While owners were made aware a couple months ago that ARM had gone undercover at Fair Oaks Farms, they had "no idea what kind of footage had been captured or what – if any – abuse had occurred".

A video released by the Animal Recovery Mission shows animal abuse and drug use by employees at Fair Oaks Farms.

"It is with great disappointment to find, after closely reviewing the released ARM video, that there were five individuals committing multiple instances of animal cruelty and despicable judgement," he said in the statement on the farm's website. 

Of the four employees, McCloskey confirmed that three had already been terminated, before the farm was aware of the undercover investigation, after they were reported to management by coworkers. The fourth employee was fired after being identified in the video.

The fifth individual was a third party truck driver. McCloskey said the trucking company has been notified that the driver is no longer allowed on their farms.

McCloskey’s statement said employees on Fair Oaks Farms go through “thorough training” regarding animal welfare. In addition, he said a third party review was requested and employees went through a “re-training process” once Fair Oaks Farms was made aware of ARM’s undercover investigation.

Fair Oaks Farms, 856 N 600 E, Wednesday, June 5, 2019, in Fair Oaks.

"It is a shock and an eye-opener for us to discover that under our watch, we had employees who showed disregard for our animals, our processes and for the rule of law, McCloskey said in his statement. "This video shines a light on an area that – despite our thorough training, employee onboarding procedures and overall commitment to animal welfare – needs improvement."

He stated, however, that the fact that ARM takes months before notifying owners or authorities regarding on-going animal abuse is concerning.

"I have personally reached out to ARM’s founder, Richard Couto, to discuss a more symbiotic relationship but he has yet to reach back," said McCloskey, adding that a full investigation of all aspects of the video is underway. “I am and will continue to be deeply involved in the resolution of this matter, down to every one of our employees, so that I can guarantee that these actions never again occur on any of our farms.”