Memo to Ohio livestock farmers: Before hiring your next unknown farmhand, be sure to administer a bacon-eating test.
Conklin Dairy Farms omitted this key step when it unwittingly hired an undercover operative of the Chicago activist group Mercy for Animals. The operative captured footage on the central Ohio farm of workers punching and kicking cows and calves, beating them with a tire iron and stabbing them with a pitchfork.
Last month, Mercy for Animals used a Cleveland press conference to release the video, which was lauded by critics for its stunning special effects. Last week, farmhand Billy Joe Gregg Jr. was charged with 12 misdemeanor counts of animal abuse. (To learn more about the debate over whether or not we should beat up farm animals, read “Having a Cow,” in the June 16, 2010 issue of Scene.)
Turns out the unsightly PR might dent a political career too: At the time of the incident, farm owner Gary Conklin was listed as an officer on the website of the Union County Republican Party.
Jim Westfall, the party chairman, credits Conklin for starting the “grassroots education” committee, but says they recently “just decided not to have one” anymore for reasons he doesn’t specify. The group’s site still notes the position with a “TBA” where Conklin’s name used to be.
“Well, we’re not going to have one anymore,” Westfall helpfully repeats.