Surreptitious video released by an animal rights organization recently showed dairy calves being abused at Fair Oaks Farms in northwest Indiana. One of the nation's largest dairies, Fair Oaks said the employees shown throwing and beating newborn animals have all been fired and were not representative of the company's values.
But the disturbing video has spurred the Newton County sheriff to investigate. One grocery chain has pulled Fairlife milk, produced by the dairy and the Coca-Cola Co., from its shelves, and Joseph Decuis restaurant in Roanoke announced it will no longer purchase cheese from Fair Oaks.
A group called Animal Recovery Mission released the video, which it said was taken by an investigator who had been hired by Fair Oaks as a calf caretaker.
It's to be hoped the authorities can determine whether the abuse was an aberration or common practice at the dairy. But it is worth noting that the problem might never have come to light if the Indiana legislature had enacted a proposal to criminalize unauthorized picture-taking on farms.
Many in the 2013 legislature recognized that a bill introduced by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, would have been a gross violation of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. The next year, lawmakers settled on a less objectionable measure strengthening anti-trespassing laws regarding farmland.
Will the Fair Oaks video prompt farmers to do more to ensure their animals are properly treated? Or will the focus be on preventing undercover videos? Surely, no one would try to revive the infamous “ag-gag” proposal – would they?