Activist group infiltrates Indiana farm to create animal cruelty videos

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FAIR OAKS, Ind. (AgDay) - One of the largest, best-known dairies in the country, Fair Oaks Farms, located west of Winamac, says animal activists infiltrated their workforce and spent six months recording operations.

As AgDay's Clinton Griffiths reports, no videos are out yet, but the business built on transparency is already preparing to react and has released its own YouTube video about it.

Fair Oaks Farms isn't your typical dairy. Located in Jasper County, it has created an identity around agritourism and transparency.

"It's why we opened up our farm 15 years ago to the public," owner Sue McCloskey said. "We did that in order to have the conversation about what modern agriculture is all about and to answer any and all questions the consumer and families have about where their food comes from."

That is why when an anonymous call told them a group of recent employees was actually made up of animal activists sent to record the operation undercover, Fair Oaks immediately began a new conversation.

"It's very unfortunate, because what happens in videos like this is the thousands and thousands of compassionate moments that our employees have interacting and taking care of our animals, never, never get to these videos," owner Dr. Mike McCloskey said.

And while no videos have been released yet, the McCloskeys says it's not impossible that over six months the activists didn't capture moments of frustration or a breakdown in processes.

"What they get is the one-off moment or they're showing a practice, misrepresenting it or explaining it wrong or a malfunction of some sort that's a one-off malfunction that does cause some stress with the animals until that's corrected," Mike McCloskey said.

It's also why they immediately hired a third party to audit the farm.

"We even encourage our employees to come to us if they see anyone else doing anything that they consider an animal welfare abuse to come and share that with us," Mike McCloskey said.

They're watching for what comes out, but Fair Oaks wishes more conversations would start at the front door.

"We really wish that groups like this understood that they are welcome to come and share with us their thoughts of our practices and our management and allow us to have a dialog with them, where we could interchange our thoughts with theirs, and I'm sure they'll teach us stuff and help us become better at what we do," Mike McCloskey said.

For now, it's a waiting game for one of the nation's largest dairies built on an open-door policy.

The McCloskeys say all employees sign a document pledging to report abuse when they see it. They say there may be legal ramifications for both current and former workers, depending on what any released footage shows.

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