CHICAGO (CBS/AP) — The animal rights group which filmed evidence of employees abusing calves at Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana is denying claims a worker for the group encouraged the abuse captured on undercover video.
Newton County Prosecutor Jeff Drinski said a witness corroborated allegations made by a suspect in the case that an employee of Animal Recovery Mission coerced Fair Oaks workers to do what they did.
Drinski said detectives are investigating the claims, and will try to interview ARM employees.
Animal Recovery Mission called the allegation “absurd,” accusing the prosecutor’s office of trying to “divert the attention away from the animal cruelty cases” at Fair Oaks.
In posts on social media, ARM accused Drinski of a conflict of interest in the case, and suggested the prosecutor has business ties to Fair Oaks owners.
According to ARM, Drinski is a partner in a beef operation located only 19 miles from Fair Oaks Farms, “which calls into question if cattle and calf sales take place between Fair Oaks Farms and Prosecutor Jeffrey Drinski.”
“There is a clear conflict of interest here with Prosecutor Jeffrey Drinski having control and residing over this Fair Oaks Farms animal cruelty case stemming from ARM’s investigation. This is why ARM is currently looking into the appropriate channels to have the case reassigned to an additional county prosecutor’s office outside the greater Newton and Jasper County regions. We will also be requesting that the Indiana State Police take on the investigation who will have the Animal Recovery Mission’s full cooperation,” ARM stated.
Three former Fair Oaks workers have been charged with animal cruelty over the abuse seen on ARM’s undercover videos.
Fair Oaks acknowledged that it had fired three employees even before the videos were made public. A fourth was fired after the videos were released.
The farm’s owners have said five individuals were identified from the video, four of them Fair Oaks employees and the fifth a third-party truck driver who was picking up calves. Three of the employees were fired before the video came out, after co-workers accused them of abuse. The fourth was fired after the video’s release, and the truck driver has been barred from Fair Oaks property.
Owners also have vowed to increase animal welfare training, and to install cameras anywhere on Fair Oaks property where workers interact with animals.
At least four grocery store chains – Jewel-Osco, Strack & Van Til, Family Express, and Tony’s Fresh Market – have pulled all Fairlife dairy products from their shelves in response to the video. Fairlife is owned by Fair Oaks founder Mike McCloskey and gets its dairy from Fair Oaks Farms.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)