CLEVELAND — A dairy farm worker was charged Wednesday with 12 counts of cruelty to animals after a welfare group released a video it says shows him and others beating cows with crowbars and poking them with pitchforks.
The video was recorded in an undercover investigation at Conklin Dairy Farms Inc., said Mercy For Animals, a not-for-profit group that publicizes what it calls cruel practices in the dairy, meat and egg industries and promotes a vegan diet.
The video shows workers holding down newborn calves and stomping on their heads. It shows one worker wiring a cow’s nose to a metal bar near the ground and repeatedly beating it with another bar while it bleeds.
The charged worker, Billy Joe Gregg Jr., 25, was jailed in Mechanicsburg and was to be arraigned Thursday, Marysville prosecutor Tim Aslaner said. The Delaware, Ohio, resident didn’t have a lawyer, the Marysville Municipal Court said. A telephone number listed under his name was disconnected.
Each cruelty to animals count he faces has a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.
Conklin Dairy Farms, a fourth-generation family operation based in Plain City, condemned the video footage and said Gregg was fired on Wednesday. It said it was cooperating with authorities.
“We will not condone animal abuse on our farm,” the dairy said in a statement released Wednesday. “We have launched our own internal investigation into this matter and will be conducting interviews with everyone on our farm who works with our animals.”
The sheriff’s office said the investigation was ongoing and may result in further charges.
Investigators are reviewing about 20 hours of raw video footage the animal welfare group says it secretly recorded at the farm between April 28 and Sunday.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to the dairy to provide security while Gregg was fired. When deputies asked why Gregg was being fired, they learned about the video, which had been presented to the Marysville prosecutor’s office on Monday.
“We hadn’t even seen the YouTube video,” Chief Deputy Tom Morgan said.
Morgan said there are three to four people featured in the video. He said the footage shows Gregg punching and striking cattle in the face and various parts of their bodies with metal pipes and pitchforks.
“We’ve got a lot of video that has to be reviewed,” he said. “And we have to identify who all is involved.”
Last year, Mercy For Animals, which is based in Chicago, released a video showing workers at an Iowa egg hatchery tossing male chicks into a grinder. Industry groups said such instantaneous euthanasia was a common practice because male chicks can’t lay eggs or be raised quickly enough to be sold for meat.