Lawmaker: Recording of abuse at Indiana farm politically driven

Video exposing animal abuse at a well-known northwestern Indiana dairy farm is politically motivated, said an Indiana lawmaker who drafted unsuccessful legislation in 2013 that would have barred undercover video filming at the state's agricultural operations.

A animal-abuse investigative group released disturbing footage Tuesday showing workers kicking and throwing young calves at the Fair Oaks Farm. Retailers subsequently pulled the farm's products from their shelves.

State Sen. Travis Holdman, who sponsored the proposal in 2013, said it's too soon to say whether he'll refile the bill during the 2020 legislative session, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported.

"Seeing as this is just a one-time incident that we're aware of, I don't think we need a knee-jerk reaction to do something legislatively necessarily," Holdman said. "I'm sure I'll be hearing from Farm Bureau folks about the incident and what they think needs to be done, if anything."

Holdman's bill would have made it a misdemeanor crime to photograph or video record any agricultural or industrial activities without the property owner's written authorization. Legislators in at least 10 other states tried passing similar "ag-gag" laws, in part to discourage covert revelations of agricultural operations. But courts subsequently struck down several of those statutes as unconstitutional.

Holdman noted he has watched the Fair Oaks video, and he said he feels it's clearly politically driven because anyone who is concerned about animals would have attempted to halt the abuse.

"People who own farm animals want to take care of farm animals because they produce, and do what they need to do to be profitable, if you take care of those animals," Holdman said. "If you hire people that abuse them, they deserve to be fired."

Miami, Florida-based Animal Recovery Mission, which recorded the disturbing footage last year, didn't notify the owner about the abuse until this week.

He also criticized customers and businesses boycotting Fair Oaks dairy products after "an isolated incident." Several retailers removed Fair Oaks products because of the video.

"That doesn't solve the problem," Holdman added. "You just put people out of work when you do that."

Fair Oaks Farms founder Mike McCloskey apologized Wednesday and said he took full responsibility for acts performed by farm workers. McCloskey said three of the five workers seen abusing calves in the video were fired before the video was made public and another was fired afterward. He said the fifth is a third-party truck driver who is no longer allowed on the farm.

Animal Recovery Mission said another video from the Fair Oaks investigation would be released Friday.

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