Oh, Ohio

Ohioians for Humane Farms

I’ve never been to Ohio. However, I love the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song “Ohio.” Neil Young wrote it after seeing photos of the Kent State shooting in Life magazine. I’m writing this after seeing the recent footage of animal abuse on an Ohio dairy farm. I know for sure that this post won’t be as poignant as those lyrics or as gorgeous as those four voices, but it must be written nonetheless.

In late May, undercover video taken by animal welfare activists from Mercy for Animals hit the newswire and went viral on the web. The video was taken at Conklin Dairy Farms in Plain City, Ohio, and documented the sadistic abuse of dairy cows. Watch it if you dare, but if you don’t (and who could blame you?), just know that these activists risked their safety to document workers, including the farm owner, doing the following: violently punching young calves in the face, body slamming them to the ground, pulling and throwing them by their ears, using pitchforks to stab cows in the face, legs and stomach, kicking cows too injured to stand in the face and neck, beating restrained cows in the face with crowbars, twisting cows’ tails until the bones snapped, and punching cows’ udders.

Conklin Dairy Farms is a fourth-generation family operation large enough to receive federal subsidies, effectively blurring the line between “factory farms” and “family farms.” The Ohio Department of Agriculture inspected the facility three times within the last year and approved it as a “Grade A” facility.

Of course, these are egregious instances of cruel treatment, but there are plenty of other forms of more routine, legal cruelty within agribusiness. It’s cruel to confine chickens in such a way that they can’t spread their wings or to keep sows and veal calves in cages that don’t allow them to turn around at any point during their miserable lives. It’s cruel to let sick and injured animals into the food supply rather than euthanizing them humanely (and it’s cruel to use inhumane methods of euthanasia on those animals).

But here’s some news that won’t make you cringe: Ohioans for Humane Farms, endorsed by The Humane Society of the United States, The ASPCA, and Farm Sanctuary, is trying to get a measure on Ohio’s November 2010 ballot that will set certain minimum humane standards for factory farms. Michigan recently adopted such reforms, providing farm animals with more space to turn around and extend their limbs. Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine and Oregon have done the same.

I’m sad to say I was so derailed by the footage that I avoided thinking about the issue. Now, with six days left to collect the signatures needed to make it a ballot initiative, I’m asking you to please forward this to anyone you know in Ohio. At ohiohumane.com, they can take action.

The B-side to “Ohio,” by the way, was Stephen Stills’s “Find the Cost of Freedom.”

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