A recently released graphic video of animal abuse has prompted an outcry from consumers to grocer’s pull Fairlife brand milks off their shelves. The animal rights investigative group Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) released disturbing footage taken at Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Indiana by some of its undercover investigators detailing horrifying abuses by farm employees against the calves. The farm, which houses about 36,000 cows, is one of the largest dairies in the country and is the flagship farm for Fairlife is a brand of ultra-filtered milk distributed in Canada and the United States by The Coca-Cola Company.
According to a post made by ARM on its Facebook page, “This is the largest undercover dairy investigation in history, with video evidence documenting systemic and illegal abuse at Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Indiana.” Among the abuses observed and recorded were instances of the employees “slapping, kicking, punching, pushing, throwing and slamming calves; 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.” Investigators from the animal rights group also noted that male calves were transported to veal farms despite the corporation’s claims that it does not do so.
Kroger and Jewel-Osco are among the growing list of retailers pulling Fairlife milks off of their shelves in response to the exposed abuses at Fair Oaks Farm. In a statement put out by the Cincinnati-Ohio-based Kroger, the company says that it “has a longstanding commitment to the humane treatment of animals in our supply chain. Since learning about the animal welfare concerns in this situation, we have been in close contact with the leaders of Fair Oak Farms. We have suspended sourcing to our dairies from the locations in question, pending the result of Fair Oaks Farms’ investigation and implementation of action plans. The management team at Fair Oaks Farms have been outstanding leaders in animal welfare and sustainable farms practices for many years and we know they are taking the situation very seriously.”
Mike McCloskey, founder of Fair Oaks Farm, said in a statement, “It is a shock and an eye-opener for us to discover that under our watch, we had employees who showed disregard for our animals, our processes and for the rule of law,” He continued, “The video shines a light on an area that, despite our thorough training, employee onboarding procedures and overall commitment to animal welfare, needs improvement.” Since the video’s release, four workers seen in the video have been fired and a contract driver featured has been banned from driving on the farm. The Newton County Sheriff’s Office also announced that it has launched an investigation into Fair Oaks Farms.
A statement released by The Coca-Cola Company in response to the incident announced that it has “full confidence in [Fairlife’s] management team to urgently address this issue with Fair Oaks Farms.” It goes on to show the CPG company’s support of Fairlife by stating, “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,” the statement read. “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.”