In wake of an­i­mal abuse case, an ar­rest and law­suit

Lodi News-Sentinel - - AGRICULTUR­E - By Alexia Ele­jalde-Ruiz

CHICAGO — Chicagob­ased Fair­life, un­der fire af­ter the re­lease of a video show­ing an­i­mals be­ing mis­treated at one of its sup­ply­ing dairy farms, is be­ing sued for fraud for pro­mot­ing the “ex­tra­or­di­nary care and com­fort” of its cows on its milk la­bels.

The law­suit, filed Tues­day in Chicago fed­eral court by a Cal­i­for­nia man who was a con­sumer of Fair­life milk, seeks class-ac­tion sta­tus. It names Fair­life as well as Mike and Sue McCloskey, own­ers of Fair Oaks Farms in north­west In­di­ana where the al­leged abuse took place, as de­fen­dants.

The suit comes as An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Mis­sion, an an­i­mal wel­fare non­profit based in Mi­ami, con­tin­ues to re­lease more videos from its un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Fair Oaks Farms, which runs a pop­u­lar agri­tourism busi­ness that draws fam­i­lies and school groups. On Wed­nes­day the an­i­mal wel­fare group re­leased a new video show­ing cows strug­gling to stand while be­ing milked and con­trasts it to the way the milk­ing process is por­trayed to visi­tors on the farm’s Dairy Ad­ven­ture tour.

In his suit, Alain Michael, of Thou­sand Oaks, al­leges he paid a pre­mium for Fair­life milk be­cause of the “prom­ise” listed on the la­bels, with the sig­na­tures of the McCloskeys, stat­ing that its sup­ply­ing farm­ers pro­vide “ex­tra­or­di­nary an­i­mal care” and “ex­tra­or­di­nary care and com­fort for our cows.”

“But Fair­life’s and its founders’ prom­ise is a sham,” the law­suit al­leges, and de­scribes footage re­leased last week by An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Mis­sion al­legedly show­ing some work­ers at Fair Oaks Farms abus­ing calves.

“As a mat­ter of rou­tine and prac­tice, Fair­life’s cows are tor­tured, kicked, stomped on, body slammed, stabbed with steel re­bar, thrown off the side of trucks, dragged through the dirt by their ears, and left to die in over 100-de­gree heat,” the law­suit al­leges. “Calves that do not sur­vive the tor­ture are dumped in mass graves. To add in­sult to in­jury, the abuse is ram­pant even at Fair­life’s ‘flag­ship farm in In­di­ana’ that cus­tomers are urged to visit on the Prod­ucts’ la­bels.”

The suit claims Fair­life and McCloskeys en­gaged in fraud and un­just en­rich­ment and vi­o­lated nu­mer­ous state con­sumer pro­tec­tion laws. It seeks to in­clude any­one who pur­chased Fair­life milk na­tion­wide in a class.

Fair­life is aware of the law­suit and is re­view­ing it, CEO Mike St. John said in a state­ment.

“Fair­life is com­mit­ted to the hu­mane and com­pas­sion­ate care of an­i­mals,” St. John said. “As we shared last week, we are tak­ing im­me­di­ate ac­tions to en­sure our high stan­dards of an­i­mal wel­fare are be­ing ex­e­cuted at each of our sup­ply­ing farms.”

Fair Oaks Farms and the McCloskeys did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment about the law­suit or the newly re­leased video. Last week Mike McCloskey blamed the abuse on a few bad work­ers and an­nounced nu­mer­ous mea­sures to pre­vent such con­duct from oc­cur­ring again.

Last week’s video, shot by an An­i­mal Re­cov­ery Mis­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tor who posed as a calf care em­ployee at Fair Oaks from Au­gust to Novem­ber of last year, prompted back­lash against the farm and its flag­ship prod­uct.

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