Fair Oaks Farms Faces More Abuse Allegations, Lawsuit | WBEZ
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Fair Oaks Farms Faces More Abuse Allegations, Lawsuit

An animal rights group released a third video showing more alleged animal abuse at a dairy farm in Northwest Indiana.

Animal Rescue Mission, based in Miami, Fla., says the video shows the abuse of full-grown cows being forced to give milk at Fair Oaks Farms in Newton County, Ind.

“Time after time, the ARM investigator has witnessed and captured extreme and systematic abuse to both the cows and calves behind closed doors at Fair Oaks Farms and Fair Life dairy farms,” A.J. Garcia, director of investigations for the group, said at a Wednesday morning at a press conference in Indianapolis.

The first two videos released last week by the group created a wave of backlash against Fair Oaks Farms. The graphic videos show calves being beaten, dragged, pushed and thrown by workers at the farm about two hours south of Chicago.

Also, a California man filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago against Fairlife, LLC and its owners, Michael and Sue McCloskey. In it, Alain Michael says he paid a premium price for Fairlife milk because of the “promise” on its labels, stating that it provides “extraordinary animal care” and “extraordinary comfort for our cows.”

Some Fair Oaks critics say the alleged abuse is a human rights issue. Jesusa Rivera, who is a case manager for Proteus, a firm working with seasonal and migrant farm workers in Indiana, said there needs to be protection for both animals and workers.

“You lift the curtain back just a little on how our food is made and you would be surprised and shocked,” Rivera said. “We must be concerned about the welfare of animals, but please do not lose sight of the welfare of human beings in that same system. Not to justify it, but abuse often begets abuse. Violence often repeats itself in cycles of violence.”

Rivera added those workers who are undocmented face the most abuse.

“Recognize that in some farms, not all, we have that same happening with our farm workers. The most vulnerable get treated less than human because of the lack of documents, because of the lack of language, and lack of education,” Rivera said. “Where is the outcry?”

Fair Oaks Farms has not commented about the release of the latest video. Last week, the owner, Michael McCloskey, said he was made aware of the abuse before the video was released and fired three workers in question before ARM’s video was released. He said he was saddened to see the amount of abuse his animals had to endure and promised changes.

Three of McCloskey’s workers were charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. One of the men, Edgar Gardozo-Vasquez, 36, of Brook, Ind., was arrested and placed into custody on Tuesday. A spokesman for the Newton County Sheriff’s Office said a detainer has been placed on Gardozo-Vasquez by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Meanwhile, ARM’s Garica said more videos may be released and that the group is calling for Coca-Cola to end its partnership with Fair Oaks Farms in the production of Fairlife milk.

“The way we treat our animals really tells a lot about our society,” Garcia said.

So far, companies that do business with Fair Oaks, such as Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A, are sticking with the company. But some local grocery chains, such as Jewel-Osco, Pete’s Fresh Market and Strack & Van Til, have dropped the Fairlife milk product.

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