Retailers Pull Fairlife Products Amid Animal Abuse Allegations in Video - NBC 10 Philadelphia
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Retailers Pull Fairlife Products Amid Animal Abuse Allegations in Video

The Animal Recovery Mission called it the “largest undercover dairy investigation in history”

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Fair Oaks Farm Abuse Allegations Surface

    A northwest Indiana dairy farm has fired four employees seen in a graphic undercover video released Tuesday by an animal welfare organization showing animals being abused. NBC 5’s Michelle Relerford reports.

    (Published Wednesday, June 5, 2019)

    Jewel-Osco and at least two other retailers are removing all Fairlife products from their shelves after an undercover video was made public this week showing "the inhumane treatment of animals" at Indiana's Fair Oaks Farms. 

    "At Jewel-Osco we strive to maintain high animal welfare standards across all areas of our business, and work in partnership with our vendors to ensure those standards are upheld," the grocery chain said in a statement Wednesday. "We apologize for any inconvenience.” 

    Family Express also said it would "discontinue all products sold by fairlife, LLC" from its stores. 

    "The exposé of animal abuse in the Fair Oaks Farm network is chilling. A factor in our decision was the public response by Fair Oaks, asserting the notion that this was an isolated incident," Family Express said in a statement. "This is hardly the response you would expect from an organization that gets it. The minimizing of the graphic animal cruelty offers little assurance of change in a culture that is likely in need of fundamental retooling." 

    Family Express said it plans to cancel all pending orders of fairlife and replace the line with Organic Valley milk products. 

    Strack & Van Til also said it will no longer carry Fairlife products in its supermarkets across northwest Indiana, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.

    Chicago-based Fairlife, which is owned by Fair Oaks Farms Founder Mike McCloskey, lists Fair Oaks Farms as its flagship. The Indiana farm is currently under fire following the graphic video released by the Animal Recovery Mission showing animals being abused. 

    "We do not condone any type of abuse and are taking this information seriously," Fairlife said Wednesday, adding that it immediately suspended milk deliveries from the dairy identified in the video. 

    "The dairy identified in the video represents less than 5 percent of fairlife’s total milk supply," the company said in a statement on its website. "Approximately 30 dairies support fairlife; therefore, we are visiting all supplying dairies in person and conducting independent 3rd party audits within the next 30 days to verify all animal husbandry practices at the farms, including all training, management and auditing practices. We will also continue to work with Fair Oaks Farms to ensure specific actions are taken to address this situation and uphold our high standards for animal care."

    The Coca-Cola Corporation, which distributes Fairlife products, also said in a statement it has been in contact with Fairlife about the situation and has "full confidence in their management team to urgently address this issue with Fair Oaks Farms, which is a third-party supplier to fairlife." 

    "They recognize the seriousness of this situation as their founding principles are grounded in a strong commitment to sustainability, transparency and the highest standards of animal welfare," Coca-Cola said in a statement. "Fair Oaks Farms notified fairlife that they immediately isolated dairy supply from the dairy identified in the video to suspend all sourcing from that location...We fully support and respect the proactive approach that fairlife and Fair Oaks Farms have taken and we continue to stay in contact with them to lend any support they need."  

    Calling it the "largest undercover dairy investigation in history," ARM said the Fair Oaks Farms video documents "systemic and illegal abuse."

    (Read the full report on the investigation here - WARNING: graphic content)

    “In our 10 years of being undercover, we have never seen such consistent, constant abuse to a newborn baby animal,” ARM Founder Richard Couto says in the video. ARM describes itself online as a "non profit investigative organization dedicated to eliminating severe animal cruelty operations."

    ARM said an investigator spent three months undercover at the Prairies Edge North Barn after being hired as a calf care employee.

    “Employees were observed slapping, kicking, punching, pushing, throwing and slamming calves,” ARM said in a statement. “Calves were stabbed and beaten with steel rebars, hit in the mouth and face with hard plastic milking bottles, kneed in the spine, burned in the face with hot branding irons, subjected to extreme temperatures, provided with improper nutrition, and denied medical attention.”

    The footage was released on social media (warning: footage is graphic) Tuesday, where it has since garnered more than 100,000 views on Facebook and over one million views on Vimeo. 

    Fair Oaks Farms said it was made aware of the video's release Tuesday morning, though it knew about the investigation months ago. 

    "As a veterinarian whose life and work is dedicated to the care, comfort and safety of all animals, this has affected me deeply,” McCloskey said in a statement. “I am disappointed for not being aware of this kind of awful treatment occurring and I take full responsibility for what has happened. I also take full responsibility to correct and ensure that every employee understands, embraces and practices the core values on which our organization stands.”

    The employees seen in the video have been fired, the farm said, but the footage has prompted an outcry from many on social media. 

    The Newton County Sheriff's office said it has requested the names of the employees terminated for animal cruelty as well as the identity of the witness who "failed to report this activity for some time." 

    "We acknowledge the need for humane treatment of animals and the need to hold individuals that have gone beyond an acceptable farm management practice accountable for their actions," the sheriff's office said in a statement. 

    It added that it plans to work with the prosecutor's office to file charges for "any criminal activity the indpendent investigation revealed."