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Muda69

Hard Times Coming For Fair Oaks Farms?

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https://www.jconline.com/story/news/2019/06/05/animal-welfare-group-documents-calf-abuse-iconic-fair-oaks-farms/1361270001/

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Law enforcement from northern Indiana is investigating Fair Oaks Farm, the largest dairy producer in Indiana and one of the largest in the country, after video from an undercover investigation showed cases of abuse and cruelty in the treatment of the farms’ calves.

At least one grocery store chain has announced that it is removing fairlife – a milk brand produced as a joint venture between Fair Oaks Farms and The Coca-Cola Company – from its shelves after the video was released.

Fair Oaks founder Mike McCloskey posted a statement on the Farm's Facebook pageTuesday acknowledging the animal abuse documented in a 12-minute video produced by a Miami-based animal welfare group called ARM, or Animal Recovery Mission. He blamed it on four employees whom he said he fired, and a truck driver who is no longer allowed on his property.

“I am disgusted by and take full responsibility for the actions seen in the footage, as it goes against everything that we stand for in regards to responsible cow care and comfort,” he said in the statement, which now has more than 13,000 comments. IndyStar's attempts to reach McCloskey were not returned.

Richard Couto, founder of ARM, told IndyStar the video footage was shot by an undercover investigator who was hired by Fair Oaks as a calf caretaker.

“The abuse began day one, hour one,” said Couto.

The undercover investigator worked at Fair Oaks at the Prairies Edge North Barn from August through November 2018. Fair Oaks has more than 10 different locations and Farms around northwest Indiana.

The ARM investigator gathered more than 100 hours of footage, Couto said, adding that they expect to release a long video later this week. Couto would not make that investigator available, saying he is working on another investigation.

The footage showed the animals being separated from their mothers within hours of birth. Those calves then struggled to be fed with a bottle, which is when caretakers would become violent with the animals, sometimes picking them up and throwing them to the ground, throwing them against pens, and punching, kicking and stepping on them. A video showed one being beaten with steel rebar.

“That stems from the fact that calves weren’t eating and nursing from their bottles because they wanted their mothers,” Couto told IndyStar. “So that led to frustration and the abuse began.”

...

In his statement, McCloskey said that the company was able to determine five individuals – four Fair Oaks employees and one contracting truck driver – that were responsible for “committing multiple instances of animal cruelty and despicable judgment.”

The Fair Oaks founder added that three of the four farm employees had already been terminated in months prior because they were identified by co-workers as being abusive. The fourth employee continued to work there but was terminated on Tuesday.

The Newton County Sheriff’s Office has asked for the names of the individuals fired by Fair Oaks Farms. The sheriff also would like to get the identity of the ARM investigator who witnessed the crimes and “failed to report this activity for some time,” according to Newton County Sheriff Thomas VanVleet.

"We acknowledge the need for humane treatment of animals and the need to hold individuals that have gone beyond an acceptable farm management practice accountable for their actions," VanVleet said in a statement.

McCloskey has also said in his statement that he finds it concerning that ARM did not notify him or authorities for months about the ongoing animal abuse. “It was 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,“ his statement said.

But Couto said that he believes McCloskey was aware of the cruel treatment taking place at Fair Oaks

“He is a seasoned dairy man and doesn’t need me to point out what is wrong with his company,” Couto said. “He is playing the innocent bystander here, but it is his corporation and he knows what is go on.”

The state Board of Animal Health, which is coordinating with the Newton County Sheriff on its investigation, said that it has never had to investigate Fair Oaks over the last 20 years since it opened. It also has never had an animal welfare complaint, according to Denise Derrer, the board’s public information director.

She told IndyStar that the agency does not inspect farms for animal welfare and care because it does not have enough people to do that for the 64,000 farms it oversees. However, the agency investigates complaints it receives and inspects farms at least twice a year for sanitation for food production.

Derrer said that the inspector for Fair Oaks as well as the veterinarian who is on the property every few months has not witnessed anything along the lines of the actions and treatment seen in the video and that they were surprising to the veterinarian.

....

McCloskey said the worker depicted using drugs in the video was turned in months ago by a co-worker. A manager called police and made a police report, McCloskey said.

But he denied the video's claim that marijuana had been cultivated on Fair Oaks Farms property. "The plants featured in the video are an invasive perennial species that is rampant on farms all over the Midwest," McCloskey said.

Fair Oaks Farms is a museum, restaurant, gift shop and hotel built around a working dairy farm. It's located in Fair Oaks, Indiana, just off I-65, about 109 miles north of Indianapolis and 76 miles south of Chicago.

The farm, where more than 15,000 cows are milked daily, has long been a popular school trip for kids from Indiana and neighboring states. Fair Oaks Farms attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year.

Hmm. I wonder what the Newton County prosecutor is going to do with this?  And interesting that the Newton County Sheriff wants to know the identify of the undercover ARM investigator.  Did he also commit a crime by not promptly reporting the abuses he witnessed?  And why did ARM itself wait over six months to release this footage?

 

And methinks that 600,000 visitors a year will go down, considerably.

 

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What we know about the group that exposed Fair Oaks Farms' animal abuse: https://www.jconline.com/story/news/2019/06/07/arm-and-fair-oaks-farms-what-we-know-animal-rights-group/1378106001/

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The group that exposed the animal abuse at Fair Oaks Farms is getting a lot of attention.

Nonprofit Animal Recovery Mission, founded in Miami in 2010 by Richard Couto, ran an operation by embedding an undercover investigator at the facility to record abuse against the farm animals. The group released a four-minute video showing farm workers abusing calves and doing drugs. 

On ARM's website, the group refers to itself as a "vanguard investigative animal welfare organization" to expose abuse and "extreme criminal acts" against animals. 

Its mission statement says they use "innovative investigative tactics," which generally entails group members applying for jobs as entry-level workers and farmhands to document potential criminal acts, including animal abuse and cruelty.

It also states that the group works with law enforcement, legal and regulatory agencies to aid in stopping animal cruelty. Although the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the Fair Oaks Farms incident, says that ARM has not identified the investigator and "failed to report this activity for sometime." 

The ARM website lists more than 35 operations that include investigating illegal slaughter farms, animal fighting rings, animal sacrifice and abuse at dairy farms. ARM claims its investigations have led to more than 150 felony and misdemeanor convictions and arrests for animal cruelty, and the rescue of hundreds of animals.

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https://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article221374475.html

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But the group’s relationship with law enforcement in some counties has turned increasingly tense.

In Southwest Florida, Couto and his group held protests and a press conference to blast law enforcement for failing to arrest people associated with a series of suspected illegal slaughterhouses. But Lee County State Attorney Steve Russell and then-Sheriff Mike Scott wrote a memo to elected officials saying Couto’s group was refusing to work undercover under the safety and supervision of detectives, and raising doubts about the legality of its videos.

They called out Couto for bragging about being able to skirt laws against entrapment.

“Apparently, they feel they can pick and choose what laws to follow — ‘the ends justifies the means,’ contrary to the basic principles of justice in America,” Russell and Scott wrote. “NO ethical law enforcement office or prosecutor would condone that attitude or conduct.”

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The scuttlebutt  I have read on other sites is that the ARM "investigator" who infiltrated the Fair Oaks Farms operations actually participated in the animal abuse and encouraged it among st his co-workers in order to get more viable video footage.  

Also if you read the full report (https://animalrecoverymission.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Operation_Fair_Oaks_Farms_Dairy_Adventure.pdf)   which btw is 75% copies of various documents,  facebook comments, pictures, and google earth screenshots,  you come across this minor, but humorous gem:

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This naturally was more like the mother's utter.

One would think a serious organization like ARM would have it's investigators actually proofread/spellcheck their report for context before publishing it.

 

 

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It's vigilante activist vs. politically connected farmer in animal abuse controversy: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2019/06/07/fair-oaks-farms-abuse-vigilante-activist-vs-politically-connected-farmer/1387204001/?utm_source=oembed&utm_medium=onsite&utm_campaign=storylines&utm_content=news&utm_term=1365719001

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An animal welfare controversy that has garnered national attention pits a gun-toting activist – once described as a “Yuppie Rambo” – against an Indiana farmer so well connected he met with President Donald Trump at the White House in September and was mentioned in the governor’s State of the State Address.

One man is on a crusade to fight animal cruelty by infiltrating farms and slaughterhouses with hidden cameras.

The other is a pioneer of agricultural tourism designed in part to combat the bad press of large-scale farming operations that now produce much of the country’s food.

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Richard Couto, 48, leads the group that recorded the abuse.

Couto – who goes by the nickname "Kudo" – founded his nonprofit called Animal Recovery Mission, or ARM, in 2010 in Miami. He describes the small organization as an "uncompromising defending force" for animal welfare.  

He is militant about his mission. He carries loaded weapons, wears bulletproof vests and paints himself as a sort of Batman who fights animal cruelty – a former businessman who developed real estate by day and infiltrated illegal animal slaughter farms by night. Others have described him as a "Yuppie Rambo" and the "Dark Knight of Florida's slaughter underworld." 

“Money wasn’t doing it for me," he told IndyStar. "I wanted my life to stand for something.”

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The farmer he is crusading against is Mike McCloskey, founder of Fair Oaks Farms and Select Milk Producers, one of the largest milk cooperatives in the country.

McCloskey and his wife are considered pioneers of agricultural tourism. Fair Oaks has been coined the Disneyland of the industry and earned praise for pulling back the curtain on agricultural practices. 

Fair Oaks' Dairy Adventure offers a theme park-like experience aimed at the vast majority of Americans who don't farm. But there was also another motivation.

...

The McCloskeys moved to Indiana in 1999 and incorporated Fair Oaks Dairy Farm, which would become one of the largest dairy farms in the U.S. 

But as they began building up the Fair Oaks brand, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission accused McCloskey and three others of insider trading in 2001. McCloskey and the others had purchased thousands of shares of Dean Foods stock after learning of a pending merger. 

After the merger was announced, the stock value jumped by 19% and the men sold their shares. In a 2004 settlement, without admitting or denying the allegations, McCloskey agreed to pay a penalty of more than $185,000, according to a statement from the SEC.

The insider trading case did little to slow McCoskey and his business ventures. Select Milk Producers launched a cheese operation in New Mexico and Fair Oaks partnered with The Coca-Cola Company to distribute Fairlife milk, which was higher in protein and lower in sugar.  

All of this has led to his reputation as an ideas man. It has also made him rich. 

He owns numerous homes, including a $1.3 million, 11,000-square-foot mansion with a pool and a tennis court. 

His role as a major campaign donor has also helped him to cultivate political connections. 

McCloskey and his companies have contributed more than $325,000 to state and federal campaigns and political action committees in the past 10 years. That includes nearly $100,000 to Vice President Mike Pence during his time as Indiana governor, about $22,000 to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s campaign and $10,000 to Pence’s Great America Committee.

Holcomb's office said he was unavailable to comment, but he did praise the couple by name during his January State of the State address, thanking them for “planting a field of dreams in Indiana.”

The Trump administration has also taken notice. McCloskey served on Trump’s agricultural advisory committee, and was among those considered for U.S. secretary of agriculture, according to Politico. He visited the White House to discuss trade as recently as September. 

McCloskey maintains he didn’t know about the abuse uncovered by ARM, and some powerful allies have come to his defense, even questioning the video's authenticity.

Republican state Sen. Travis Holdman,who carried Indiana's unsuccessful ag-gag bill, cast doubt on the video.

"The camera always seemed to be in the right place at the right time," he said. "It made me suspicious."

But Couto just isn’t buying McCloskey's claim that he didn't know about the abuse. He fought back Friday against suggestions that the video was doctored, releasing extended footage.

He said the new video shows the undercover ARM investigator told a "top manager' about the mistreatment, only to have those concerns dismissed. 

"We're being questioned by the media, we're being questioned by the McCloskey's, by law enforcement, by the greater public,..." Couto said. "By putting a long video out with longer scenes it's very apparent that nothing is staged, OK?"

Two mavericks who have spent their careers building a brand are now fighting over the public's perception of the dairy industry.

Who will win, I wonder?   What is Mr. Couto's endgame?  

 

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Our firm is having it’s annual weekend retreat in July, and this year we’re using Fair Oaks’ conference facilities. I think I’ll order the veal. 😅😂🤣

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2 hours ago, Bobref said:

Our firm is having it’s annual weekend retreat in July, and this year we’re using Fair Oaks’ conference facilities. I think I’ll order the veal. 😅😂🤣

lol.  It would be humorous if it was actually on the menu..............

 

 

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Milk drinker sues Fairlife, Fair Oaks Farms founders after animal abuse videos: https://www.jconline.com/story/news/2019/06/13/fair-oaks-farms-animal-abuse-videos-milk-drinker-sues-misleading-false-advertising-labels/1445080001/

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Amid the fallout from undercover videos showing the abuse of calves at Fair Oaks Farms, the Indiana dairy operation’s owners are being sued by at least one milk consumer who says he was deceived by claims it provided a high caliber of care for its animals.

The federal class-action lawsuit from California resident Alain Michael names Mike and Sue McCloskey, Fair Oaks’ owners, and Fairlife, a Chicago-based milk company, as defendants. It was filed in Chicago on June 11 and alleges fraud and unjust enrichment.

The lawsuit accuses Fairlife of misleading advertising for promising “extraordinary” treatment of its cows, calling that promise a "sham."

It says the McCloskeys, as spokespersons for the brand and overseers of the farm that supplied Fairlife’s milk, were involved in the “day-to-day decision-making concerning the marketing and labeling” of the products.

Fairlife told IndyStar that company officials are aware of the lawsuit and are reviewing it.

"Fairlife is committed to the humane and compassionate care of animals," it said in a statement.

Fairlife said it discontinued the use of milk from Fair Oaks Farms and said it is in the process of auditing all 30 of its supplying farms by July 6.

A spokesman for the McCloskeys has not responded to IndyStar's request for comment. Court records don't list an attorney for the defendants.

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The complaint says the McCloskeys and Fair Oaks “preyed” on consumers’ desire for dairy products sourced from farms that ensure “high levels of animal welfare” by making such animal-welfare claims a central tenant of their labeling campaign. Michael bought Fairlife’s milk product because he believed them, the lawsuit says.

All the while, Fair Oaks’ cows were being tortured and abused, the lawsuit says. The complaint details the abuse seen in ARM’s videos. It also centers on Fairlife’s label, which says “extraordinary care and comfort for our cows" and is plastered with the word "promise," according to the complaint.

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Indianapolis attorney Colin Flora, who among other things, specializes in class-action cases, told IndyStar the case has a decent chance of success, but could encounter a hurdle called the puffery defense.

Puffery consists of "empty superlatives on which no reasonable person would rely," according to an Indiana Supreme Court opinion. It's like a car salesman saying that he is selling a "sporty car at great value price," Flora said.

"It's an objective versus subjective representation," Flora said. "Often when you say something is good quality, there’s no objective quality of that. It's subjective," he said. "So when they say the cattle are treated with extraordinary care, is there an objective measure it can be held up against?"

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The hits just keep of coming.  Wonder if Fair Oaks Farms can survive this?

 

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Suspect in Fair Oaks Farms animal abuse case was in country illegally, ICE says: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2019/06/13/ice-suspect-fair-oaks-farms-animal-abuse-case-u-s-illegally-edgar-gardozo-vasquez/1448224001/

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Edgar Gardozo-Vasquez, one of three former employees charged in the Indiana-based dairy Fair Oaks Farms animal abuse case, is in the United States without authorization, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday.

Nicole Alberico, a spokeswoman for ICE in Chicago, confirmed to IndyStar that deportation officers placed an immigration hold on Gardozo-Vasquez on Wednesday.

Gardozo-Vasquez, who is from Mexico, was arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol in 2005, Alberico said. He then was allowed to voluntarily return to that country.

He was taken into custody Wednesday on a warrant for charges of animal cruelty, a misdemeanor, and torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal, a felony, the Newton County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. He is being held in the Newton County Jail.

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Color me shocked.

 

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Come on  Muda he's a dreamer, he deserves a break.

 

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Witness says ARM coerced workers to abuse calves, prosecutor says: https://www.jconline.com/story/news/2019/06/18/fair-oaks-farms-abuse-witness-says-arm-coerced-workers-abuse-calves-prosecutor-says/1494860001/

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Newton County Prosecutor Jeff Drinski said Tuesday that a witness has come forward, claiming that an Animal Recovery Mission employee who made undercover videos of abuse at Fair Oaks Farms dairy operations encouraged or coerced dairy workers to do what they did.

Drinski said what the witness offered corroborated allegations made by a suspect in the abuse seen in a series of videos that animal rights activists have used to call out conditions Fair Oaks Farms’ operations.

Drinski told the Journal & Courier he wouldn’t identify the suspect or the witness, “due to the active nature of the investigation.”

“This allegation was made in the first days of the investigation but only recently corroborated,” Drinski told the J&C. “Our detective will be making contact with ARM to determine their level of cooperation as well as seeking access to their employee.”

The prosecutor said that Newton County detectives “continue to investigate these claims through additional interviews and written discovery.”

In an interview with IndyStar, ARM founder Richard Couto called the claims “ridiculous and absurd.”

“Of course the suspect is going to say that,” Couto said. “Nowhere in in our raw footage did I see any wrongdoing or encouragement of wrongdoing. … If anyone were to cross (the line), they would be fired and turned over to law enforcement by myself.”

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You kind of knew this development was coming.

 

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