COLUMBUS, Ohio — You may have heard that a dairy farm in south Florida was recently the target of an activist group that recorded undercover on-farm video.
The group responsible for the video is Animal Recovery Mission, and they used a common tactic of having its representatives get hired by the dairy farm for the sole purpose of capturing undercover video.
ARM, based in Miami, owns an “undercover training facility,” equipped with milking stations and gestation crates, where it trains volunteer “investigators” and other organization members on ways to gain access to farms and slaughterhouses. ADA Mideast has learned that this may be the first of several large farms that might be targeted as part of a new strategy of this group.
While specific to Florida, this situation serves as a good reminder for all dairy farmers to remain diligent when interviewing potential employees. It’s also important to review your operation policies and practices with your current employees to ensure they understand and adhere to good animal care and handling.
Here are some tips:
- Do the right thing. Above all else, make sure your farm is exceeding all expectations for animal care, cleanliness and environmental responsibility whether there is a camera on you or not.
- Hire the right people. Do background checks, reference checks and ask for actual Social Security cards. Put new hires on probation and watch them closely. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. And if a potential hire is suspicious, share that information with other farmers.
- Empower your farm workers. Let them know of their importance as a team member in protecting your farm, and that you expect them to immediately report any strange behaviors or actions, or if they suspect any undercover activity.
- Use the See it? Stop it! Program to enable employees to stop and report animal abuse.
- Partner each new hire with a trusted employee. The new employee will learn best practices for your farm, and you’ll benefit from another set of eyes watching them closely. Don’t be shy about asking other employees about the new worker, too.
- Set expectations for animal care. If you don’t have them, establish animal care protocols, such as F.A.R.M., and train your employees. Require ANY farm worker that handles animals to sign a document stating that they understand your animal care expectations, and ask them to immediately report any actions that do not comply.
- And last but not least, stay in touch with ADA Mideast.
Here are some additional suggestions on hiring from agriculture attorney David Cook:
- It is legal to ask a potential employee if he or she is a member of or if they support an animal rights organization. Ask during the interview or on the employment application.
- Other ways to screen employees: Ask if the prospective employee is living in transient housing; ask how long they have been living in the area; ask if they have experience working in agriculture
- Require employees to sign a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement. The agreement should include a clause for liquidated damages for taking or distributing photographs or video. If the employee violates the agreement, they may be subject to legal action and damages.
— Ohio Dairy Producers Association