Many people believe that stories about the livestock abuse reported on the farm near Plain City in Union County did not tell the whole story. A recent news release from the Union County Prosecuting Attorney's Office shed a lot more light on just what happened on the farm and with the release of the video.
Here is what the news release states:
"A Union County grand jury has cleared Gary Conklin, owner of Conklin Farms in Plain City and others, of allegations of animal abuse.
The grand jury found no probable cause to believe Mr. Conklin committed any crime. ''They saw the unedited video of Mr. Conklin's actions, not the highly inflammatory version released on YouTube by Mercy for Animals,'' said David Phillips, Union County prosecuting attorney.
''In context, Mr. Conklin's action were entirely appropriate.''
In the YouTube video, a short segment of Gary Conklin kicking a cow was spliced between scenes of animals being abused by Billy Joe Gregg.
''The YouTube video created a perception that Mr. Conklin was involved in the abuse, which was simply not true,'' the prosecutor said.
Phillips explained that the cow depicted in the video needed to be gotten up to avoid further injury to the animal.
''These animals, sometimes called 'downer cows,' must be brought to their feet. The sheriff's office had the video reviewed by four experts, each of whom agreed that Mr. Conklin's actions were entirely appropriate.''
The prosecutor noted that the experts were veterinarians with extensive experience in large animal care. Each agreed that a sharp blow to the animal to get it to rise was not abuse. The veterinarians told law enforcement that cows who remain down are at risk of injury or death.
''They told us that a cow's muscles may atrophy. Once that happens, the cow may never get up, may suffer and die,'' Phillips said.
Along with reviewing segments of the tapes, the grand jury heard testimony from Dr. Tony Forshey, DVM, Chief of the Division of Animal Industry for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, as well as the director of the Union County Humane Society and several other witnesses.
The grand jury also heard testimony from the undercover operative put on the Conklin Farm by Mercy for Animal, Jason Smith of Texas. Smith told law enforcement that he did not witness any abuse by Mr. Conklin, and that Mr. Conklin did not know of the abuse by Billy Joe Gregg.
''Neither Smith nor Mercy for Animals brought the abuse to Mr. Conklin's attention,'' Phillips said. ''The first time he became aware of this abuse was when he saw the video on YouTube. When he became aware, Mr. Conklin immediately fired Gregg.''
Phillips said the grand jury also considered charges against another employee of the farm, the undercover agent, and Mercy for Animals officials, but ultimately decided there was not enough evidence to proceed against them.
Smith told deputies that he had kicked animals and poked them with a pitchfork. ''He claimed he did so to maintain his cover, and said he didn't use his full strength,'' Phillips said.
Phillips said that law enforcement continues to receive reports of threats against the Conklin family and farm. The threats are being taken seriously and will be prosecuted, he said. A referral may also be made to the United States Attorney's Office.
''Threats of harm against the Conklin's may be a felony under the Animal enterprise Act,'' Phillips said. ''Blogs and Internet sites continue to advocate harassing Mr. Conklin and his family. Some have called for violence, including murder. This federal law is designed to meet this situation."
This news release clearly illustrates the tactics used by animal rights radicals to paint an untrue and negative picture of animal agriculture. Much credit goes to Union County officials for a thorough investigation.
Parker is an independent agriculture writer for the Tribune.