Do those shooting animal abuse videos really show mercy for the animals?

Yesterday, vegan extremist group Mercy for Animals released a video of animal abuse at a dairy farm in Texas.

At a young age, my brother is learning that caring for our cattle is top priority, even in bad weather.

As a beef producer, I am outraged that anyone would treat a calf in such a horrible way.

My entire life has revolved around making sure that our animals are being taken care of properly.

Watching the violent treatment of the cattle in this video made me nauseous.

(I am not posting the video here because YouTube’s terms of service require that you sign in with a YouTube account and be over 18 to view it due to the violent content.)

It breaks my heart to think that anyone could treat an animal in such a way once, let alone repeatedly.

If someone was treating one of my calves like that, they would never set foot on my farm again. I would make sure that they were prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

If I saw that kind of treatment on a neighbor’s farm, I’d tell the farm owner immediately.

I don’t understand why Mercy for Animals allowed the abuse to go on for weeks while they “gathered footage.”

It only takes 10 seconds of video to prove that these cattle are not being cared for properly, if you feel any mercy toward the animal how could you allow the violence to continue?

Isn’t it in the animal’s best interest to stop the abuse immediately?

Why didn’t Mercy for Animals notify the farm owner that their employees were abusing their cattle?

Why didn’t they give the owner a chance to fire those abusive employees and save the calves from the violence?

This is not the first time that Mercy for Animals has allowed abuse to continue for weeks in order to “gather footage.”

They did the same thing on the Conklin Dairy Farm in May of 2010.

Last fall, I had the unique opportunity to interview that farm’s owner, Gary Conklin. The majority of the Mercy for Animals video depicts one of Conklin’s employees violently abusing cattle.

This employee pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and is currently serving an eight month jail sentence.

Throughout our conversation, Conklin kept saying,

“I just wish they would have told me. If I had known about it I would have put an end to it.”

After hearing Conklin’s story, I really question if the undercover activists truly care about the animals.

If they had told Conklin about his employee’s behavior, the abuse would have stopped and Mercy for Animals wouldn’t have a video to post all over the internet and spread their vegan agenda.

Is it more important to Mercy for Animals to post violent videos on YouTube than to actually protect animals from abuse?

There are sick people in this world who think that its acceptable to abuse animals. Unfortunately, some of them get hired on farms.

If Mercy for Animals really cared about protecting animals from abuse, they would quit worrying so much about their agenda and stop the abuse as soon as it happened!

There is no place for animal abuse in the livestock industry.

There are thousands of farmers across the United States making sure that their animals are treated humanely ever day.

Below are some great posts from some of those farmers sharing their feelings on this topic.

I highly encourage you to give them a read.

Haley Farms: No Mercy for Animal Abuse

Zweber Family Farm News: Calf and Animal Care is our Number One!

Ray-Lin Dairy: Is going vegan the answer to farm animal abuse?

Cause Matters: The Tears I’ve Shed…Animal Abuse

Loos Tales: Special report E6 Calf Ranch, Hart, TX

Purple Poke: Animal Abuse – Simply Unacceptable


Comments

Do those shooting animal abuse videos really show mercy for the animals? — 25 Comments

  1. Pingback: Farmers who care about animals. « Ray-Lin Dairy

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  3. Celeste –

    I agree with you on the fact that these groups have an ulterior motive other than making sure farm animals are treated well on farms and that their sole intent is to end all animal agriculture and convert America to a society of vegans.

    If Mercy For Animals and their undercover investigator did indeed allow this abuse to continue without notifying authorities and or the farm owner then they are equally at fault. If they did as they claim this time unlike in the past and alert authorities and worked with them while the undercover investigator was their then kudos to them.

    In the end does it really matter what their agenda is after people see the video? Once it is public all that matters is the perception created from the video and that every single action is taken to make sure that the abuse ends. I did not like what I saw on this video, I do not like the group that took the video, but I do know pointing the finger at them and not taking any responsibility that there are bad actors in our industry will not make any of us look good. The fact of the matter is people abuse animals just as parents abuse their children, in both cases it is a very small percentage and we need to work to make sure that it is understood by individuals that see these video’s by extremist groups that it is not common practice on our farms.

    Good post, keep up the good work!

  4. Well, given that they took a few days of video in a dairy farm that was almost as bad as that video and the only punishment was that the abuser had to pay $500 and stay away from animals for a year, yeah. Unfortunately, they do have to stay in longer. It takes an overwhelming amount of evidence to convict and show sustained behavior.

    I can’t believe that NOBODY in the industry is aware of heinous acts that go on at these facilities. Someone out there knows and says nothing. Should the people willing to risk their lives to go undercover just sit at home and eat popcorn and hope someone speaks up?

    Sorry, but maybe if the industry policed themselves better, it wouldn’t be necessary. I know many animal activists that get into situations that honestly scar them for life. But they do it for the animals you say you care about. Why throw stones at them?

  5. I agree — to a point.

    Weeks? Heck no. They should have stopped it sooner.

    However, I can understand taping it when you see it occurring as a single incident, or (under very special circumstances) even more than once. I don’t condone it, but I can understand it. First off, are you going to intervene in something that can get you injured or in (legal or retaliatory) trouble? Besides the fact it can backfire if you don’t have solid evidence , I personally am not thrilled to confront a guy wielding a hammer that I’ve just seen used on a skull. Get them fired? If you have no footage to support your accusations, it’s the word of a trespasser with ties to animal-rights groups, against a presumably trusted employee.

    Another point we’ve seen used over and over as a defense — with some success, unfortunately — is when people claim it was an ‘isolated incident’, a one-time thing that gosh, hadn’t ever happened before, and never happened since. It takes proof that a crime is ongoing and consistent for there to be any real change. A one-time crime can be passed off as ‘I was surprised when it happened, but it was the only time, so…’ …but when you can show that others knew, and did it not just once, but repeatedly, it becomes a far more serious and deeper-reaching matter.

    I believe that there are farmers who are appalled and disgusted by this, even a majority of them. Unfortunately, laws and human nature are such that it takes a lot of grotesque evidence, and proof that it’s an ongoing problem, before people and the justice system are willing to finally take a hard look at something.

    And now, on a personal note? I hope they string those guys up, and use a cattle prod on them, somewhere very personal…over the course of weeks. I’m sorry that it reflects badly on the ethical farmers, of which there are many.

  6. Cate – I can imagine that the people recording these videos are scarred by what they’ve seen! I know I would be.
    That’s exactly why I could never wait several days, let alone weeks to keep recording if it meant that animal had to keep suffering.
    I understand the value of gathering evidence but I don’t think 2 weeks worth of footage is necessary when 10 seconds proves the same point.

  7. Mina – Thank you for your comment. There is definitely value in having evidence. My criticism lies in how much evidence is really necessary. Apparently, Mercy for Animals feels like it takes weeks of compiling footage while I feel like any jury would be moved by just 10 seconds of such horrific video!
    I’m so glad you realize that the vast majority of farmers are as disgusted by the abuse of these animals as you were! Honestly, we’re probably more upset because it pains us to imagine someone treating our animals like that!

  8. Thank you for such a great post about this situation! I really hope that this opens the eyes of people in agriculture to know that we have to be on top of things. We as agriculture activist have to change this awful perception we are going to receive if incidents like this continue to happen. I hope that all my colleagues open their eyes and begin to be agriculture activist and know how to deal with questions about media like this.

  9. Pingback: No Mercy For Animal Abuse | Haley Farms

  10. You obviously haven’t worked on the side of animals. You have to drag these investigations on for as long as possible in order to collect as much evidence as possible. Since farms often deny that these abuses are “one-off” events, having weeks worth of abuse can quickly settle the truth from the lies.

    These cruelty cases will never end. Veganism is the answer,but until everyone stops using animals, these videos will continue to be made – the industry guarantees it.

  11. Dan – I don’t understand how veganism is the answer to this problem. This post is all about how animal rights extremists, many of them vegans, are making the problem worse because they are allowing animals to continue suffering so that they can “gather footage.”
    If they sincerely wanted the cruelty to end, why wouldn’t report it immediately?

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  13. Hey, Celeste,

    I’m the grandson of two farming families. My father was raised on a farm outside of Loup City, NE. and my mother outside of Redwood City, MN. My father was a large animal veterinarian until he was fifty. I was raised in a very small town in Minnesota, surrounded by dairy and hog farms, and would ride along with my dad while he treated dairy cattle, swine and poultry. I have a cousin on my mother’s side that still farms his grandfather’s farm, which he inherited from his own father.

    I hear the sincerity in your voice when you post about your desire to properly care for the animals you raise on your farm, and your disgust when you see those that don’t seem to care for the animals at all.

    I’m a vegetarian, have been for 25 years, and I do have real concerns for the welfare of animals raised for food in this country. Though I’m not afraid to share my opinions about animals and our eating them, I’m not naive enough to see a future void of animals in our food chain. What I would like to see is more family farm operations such as your own, and fewer large, corporate farming operations where I believe the majority of these despicable acts are being perpetrated. In these large operations, the number of animals raised is extremely large and the people assigned to the well being of these animals are not owner, but only hired help, with no real stake in the operation or in the gentle care of the animals they work with. I can see the owners of a small family farm, raising animals from birth to slaughter, developing some real ties to the animals in their care. I can’t see the same possibilities for animals raised in factory farms.

    Do you agree that the size of an animal operation can have an impact on how animals are treated? I think that in these types of large facilities, animals can easily become “units,” faceless entities that only factor into the profits of the business, with no regard for their well being.

    Do you, as part of a family farm operation, see these giant corporate farming operations as a threat to your livelihood? In Minnesota alone, the number of small family farm operations fell by nearly 20% between 2002 and 2007, mostly due to the growth of large factory farming operations.

    Finally, with regard to animal welfare, do you think that more legislation, passed by each state’s legislatures, that better protect animals in the food industry from such abuse, and tougher penalties for those who are guilty of such abuse, would help? Here in California, the state has passed legislation that prohibits chicken operations from crowding laying hens into spaces too small for them to turn around, and sets minimum standards for space for each laying hen, which should make their lives at least a little more comfortable.

    Just curious about what is your opinion on these subjects.

    Thanks, Celeste.

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  15. Celeste – How do you explain cutting piglet testicles without any pain killer as a routine procedure on farms? Sadly, this is routine on the job. It doesn’t have to be an “abuser” but merely just an employee on the farm doing their job. This is what needs to be shown on the footage and thank goodness it is because it is happening everyday. How else will people connect to what is going on without seeing the reality of it?

    The farmer who was not told that his employee was abusing his animals MUST wish he knew that this was going on (or wishing it was not found out). But maybe someone should inform him that the living conditions that his animal is enduring their ENTIRE life are torturous (branding, dehorning & confined to a space not much larger than their own bodies).

    Your farm sounds pleasant for your animals but in reality it is one of a small percentage. Mercy for Animals got their footage from the largest farms in the United States so there is no denying. There are testimonials that you can also see in which a former employee explains chickens were abused every single shift (wings/feet ripped off while bird was still alive).

    You can get your daily protein from potatos, nuts and brown rice; without killing an animal, injesting animal fat and increasing your risk of cancer. It is simply healthier to live a vegan lifestyle.

  16. Allie – I’d like to address several of the issues you brought up.
    First of all, we castrate our pigs at a very young age so that they can recover quickly and easily. It might surprise you to learn that immediately after being castrated, our young pigs are up, eating, playing with their littermates and acting normal. We use this practice on our farm because years of research at some of the nation’s top agricultural research facilities and universities have proven that it is the most humane way to castrate.
    As a farmer, I can tell you that we dehorn cattle and house sows in farrowing crates because we know that these practices are necessary to ensure that our animals lead as happy and healthy a life as possible. In fact, research has shown that if given the choice, sows will put themselves into a crate because they prefer to have their own space and be separated from other sows.
    I think we both agree that there is no excuse for the abuse that Mercy for Animals documented.
    What I don’t understand is why they allowed the abuse to go on for so long before saving the animals from it. To me, enabling animal abusers is unforgivable.

  17. Mike – You bring up a lot of good topics in this comment.
    It sounds like you’ve really taken the time to do your research and educate yourself before forming an opinion and and I commend you for doing so.
    Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and get to know many farmers who I think fall into the category of “large farms” you’re referring to. These family farms face different challenges than mine does, especially since they must hire employees to care for their animals. I can only speak from the experiences they’ve shared with me but I know that hiring is a huge undertaking for them because they realize, like you mentioned, that hired help with no stake in the operation may not have the same dedication to proper animal care that the family who owns the farm does. This is a challenge that won’t go away any time soon but I do know that many of our producer groups are now helping train these farmers on how to go about hiring more qualified employees and helping them develop employee training materials to educate the employees on proper animal care.
    In my situation, large family farms are not a threat to those of us who are smaller, especially when it comes to beef cattle. Kentucky is home to many small cow herds and our beef industry thrives because we have developed ways for those small farmers to market their cattle by “co-mingling” where cattle are mixed with similar cattle from other farms to form large groups for the buyers.
    Another factor that is important to consider is that many young people aren’t returning to the family farm by choice. A lot of older farmers are selling their small farms to larger farmers because the next generation has no interest in continuing the family operation.
    As far as state legislation goes, I recognize that there is no easy solution to these issues. In my personal opinion, I think states are better off establishing some type of animal care standards commission or board that can be staffed with people who understand agriculture and proper animal care instead of making politicians responsible for making these laws. I would hate to see animal care become just another platform issue (like education or health care) that gets talked about during a campaign or used as a reelection strategy. Unless the politicians are farmers, veterinarians, animal behavior specialists or something like that by trade, I don’t think its right to allow them to make these decisions.

  18. Is it painful for them when they are dehorned? I am curious because it looks (and sounds) horrible. I understand that it is safer for them in the long run, I’m not doubting that, but do you give them pain killers?

    The video also showed how they are slaughtered, is that how it is usually done for your animals eventually? I’m just interested because you seem to genuinely love your animals but then they are grown for slaughter (how do you disconnect from that?). Is it possible for any of them have a peaceful death experience, or is it always terrifying for them?

  19. It was nice to hear of a beef producer taking such pride and care in their animals. I know the the fight to stop animal cruelty has created farms much like your own across the country. Although there is the odd few that treat their animals atrociously and it needs to stop! It makes my blood boil to see animals being so mistreated.

    I believe there may be an ulterior motive to the activists, although you must remember, the awareness that comes with such a scandal really helps wake up a lot of people to the animal cruelty that still goes on to this day. If Conklin had kept a better check on his employees, it may have never happened in the first place.

  20. Just like farmers feel attacked and misunderstood, so do vegans. My name is Maddie. I grew up in Washington state, surrounded by dairy farms with cows grazing out in grassy pastures. I’ve always been an animal lover. I joined 4-H because I loved to bring my rabbits (who I kept as pets) to the fair. My career goal as a little girl was to travel the world and save endangered species from extinction. (Little more complicated than saving them one at a time!) When I was 9, I told my mother I wanted to cut meat out of my diet because I didn’t think it was fair that an animal had to die, just so I could eat it. Especially, if I could just eat something else instead. My mother was not familar with a vegetarian diet, and was afraid it was unhealthy, so we compromised and I kept poultry and seafood in my diet. The rest of my family has always eaten meat. I was an on-again, off-again vegetarian for years- mostly off while I dated a chef for 3 1/2 years in my late 20’s ;) As I learned more about the standard industry practices in animal agriculture, I started wanting to remove myself from the system that supported their suffering. I became vegan less than a year ago, and am so happy that I did. I’ve done a lot of research, it was a decision I thought about most of my life, and I did not enter into a vegan lifestyle uneducated, or ignorant about good animal husbandry practices used by good farmers. Most people who choose to be vegan based on animal welfare issues do so after decades of eating classic, American staples that they think are delicious and a meaningful part of American culture and family traditions, just like you do. When I made the choice to be vegan- I immediately became part of a minority. I have to defend my values and answer tough questions and be met with hostility and misunderstanding just like many farmers do. I’ve had to make personal sacrifices. My whole life, I’ve had a deep love and respect for animals. All animals. It has never changed. Endangered species, pet cats and rabbits, injured birds in my backyard, the pigs and cows I loved to visit in the barns at the fair during my 4-H years, and the pigs and cows that became my food- I see them all as equals- I can see the similarities in their affection, curiosity, and capacity for fear and pain. I feel for all of them. I want none of them to suffer. And as I learned more about where my food comes from, I made the appropriate choices in order to keep my meals aligned with my morals. Even as a vegetarian, most people respected my beliefs and didn’t give me too much trouble. But as soon as you cut dairy and eggs out of your diet, and identify yourself as a vegan, people start spitting words at you like being an “extremist” with an “agenda,” as you’ll see above. What is extreme about caring for animals enough to truly look at what you are subjecting them to? That actually takes a lot of bravery. What is extreme about simply picking up a different product at the grocery store? Adjusting some recipes? Quite frankly, it’s not. And by taking normal people, who grew up eating the same foods you did, and at one point came to see things differently (you see castrating pigs without anesthesia as necessary, I see them as babies in pain- I would never let a vet spay or neuter my cats without anesthesia…) you take the easy way out and throw “extremist” at us so you don’t have to consider anything we say to be valid or worth discussing with an open mind. Vegans don’t really have a secret, take-over-the-world agenda. We are just the underdog. We simply have to bark louder to be heard among the millions and millions of meat eaters and consumers and ranchers and processors that control the status quo. Our goal is to show other consumers, who were just like us once, that there are some pretty unknown elements to the system that they would probably appreciate knowing about. As I like to say, “A vegetarian is just a vegan who doesn’t know where veal comes from.” Our “agenda” is to end the suffering of animals. All animals. And it’s been my goal since I was 4.

    To address your comments and questions above:

    I do not think all farmers are evil animal abusers. I grew up around farmers. I’m not surprised that you, too, are outraged by this abhorrent treatment of animals. You should be. They make you look really, really bad to people who’ve never met their farmers.

    It would benefit that individual animal the most if the abuse was stopped immediately. You are right. However, an undercover investigator has a specific job, and it has a lot of tough decision making elements to it. This link below features an interview with the same undercover investigator that you are discussing and he describes why he continues with his investigations after the first offense is documented. (I’m also not sure why “gathered footage” is in quotes in your article, since that is what he did- continued to gather evidence. What else would he be doing?)

    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/4/9/undercover_activist_details_secret_filming_of

    In the video, you will see HE DOES ASK HIS SUPERVISOR if the hammer is the best way to kill the calves, and his supervisor confims it. I have seen another documentary featuring this investigation with additional footage of him going into his supervisors office and asking for an alternative method, since the hammer is obviously disturbing and inefficient, to which he suggests he use a hand gun- which also has complications. Had he stopped the investigation there, the gentlemen caught on film would have been prosecuted, but that calf would still be dead. And the epidemic of cruelty on that farm would have continued. As other farmers have pointed out- the calves were mistreated in every corner of that farm. They layed dying in feces caked veal crates with out adequate food, water, or veterinary care. And the owner of that farm was responsible. You failed to mention that he eventually did face charges. An investigation is just that- an investigation. Lots of information has to be gathered over a sufficient length of time to make sure all those involved are held accountable and that the problem is addressed at it’s core. An investigation is not walking in the door, and upon seeing the first sign of abuse, pointing a camera at it for 10 seconds and considering your work done. Does he really care about the animals? Of course he does. He cares about all of them. And in order to end all their suffering, he has to be able to accurately portray the situation as a systemetic repetition of abuse to properly bring all involved parties to justice so they can’t harm animals in the future. Here is what he has to say:

    “What they’ll also say—and this is the most clever—is they’ll say that if you see an act of illegal abuse, you have to report it within 24 hours. That’s misleading. It’s misleading because if you just show illegal activity from one individual, you can’t then show who else is involved in that illegal activity. And when one person is busted—and I absolutely swear to this—they’re not going to—it’s not going to stop other people from breaking the law. It’s going to let everyone else know they need to be more careful about how they do it, or they just need to make sure that they’re more careful about who they hire. The second thing is that it’s not always clear what is illegal. The first dairy that I worked at, I saw someone kick a cow right in the side of her head to try and get her to stand. I documented it, thought it was illegal. Turns out, it’s perfectly normal to try to do to a cow to make her stand, that the first thing you should do is kick her right in the side of the head or the neck. When I saw people hanging crippled sows to death in Ohio, I assumed that surely that’s illegal. In fact, it looked sadistic. Turns out that’s perfectly legal. So you don’t always know.”

    It is also important to note that the USDA hires their own inspectors and auditors to make sure these abuses don’t occur. And in the video link, you’ll hear the investigator talk about how he has watched USDA inspectors walk through barns he’s worked in and not observe or report any offenses that he caught in the same barn on the very same day. Clearly, the management isn’t aware of, or stopping it. We keep seeing that the system can’t hold itself accountable. If you want to see an end to undercover investigations, then police yourselves. If you discover and stop abuse before they can find it, then there would be no videos to enrage you and put your business in jeopardy. Go seek this activity out for yourself, find it, report it, end it. And a lot of the disturbing images seen in these videos are standard industry practices, are perfectly legal and reporting them would do nothing, and they are extremely disturbing to consumers who might rather eat a Field Roast sausage than one that came from pig that legally suffered.

    So, to answer the title of your piece- yes. We show mercy for animals. All 9 billion of them. In the biggest ways we can.

  21. Allie – I’m sorry this response is so late, I just came across your comment.
    When cattle are dehorned, they do experience some discomfort. We do not give them pain killers, mostly because the pain does not last for very long. I agree, dehorning doesn’t look very pretty and it was one of my least favorite things to do on our farm but I knew that in the long run it was better for the cattle. I also saw that after they had been turned back out to their pasture they went right back to grazing and acted normal. We still kept a very close eye on them for the next few days to make sure that all of them recovered and were feeling their best.

    I am currently unable to find the video you’re referring to so I can’t refresh my memory on what it shows of slaughtering. When I was in college, I had the opportunity to tour a beef processing plant and I was amazed at how calm and peaceful the cattle were. I never saw an animal that was frightened or scared because the plant was set up in a way that never let them realize that they were about to be slaughtered. I HIGHLY recommend you watch this video: http://youtu.be/VMqYYXswono It is narrated by Dr. Temple Grandin who is widely considered the world’s foremost expert on humane animal handling. The intro is a bit long but the video will give you a tour of how American beef processing plants run along with explanations of every step in the process. The plant in this video is exactly like the one I toured and as a farmer, it gives me great peace to know that this is the kind of plant my cattle are headed to.

  22. I agree that sometimes people need a wake up call. I can not speak for Conklin but I can vouch for my family. If we had hired someone to work no our farm and we were shown 10 seconds of abusive video, we would immediately fire that person. I personally believe that 10 seconds of footage can create the needed wake up call and stop the animals from suffering continued abuse.

  23. Maddie – First of all, thank you for being so polite in your comment. I think I should start by saying that we’re going to have to agree to disagree on a lot of these things.

    Now to address some of your questions. I put “gather footage” in quotes because that is what Mercy for Animals says they were doing. I was distinguishing that those words were theirs, not mine.

    I have seen the video that you shared. I think there are some important points to keep in mind on this issue.

    It is not always easy for someone who does not have extensive livestock handling training to know what is illegal and what is not, let alone what is recommended verses what is not. There are some practices that have been scientifically proven time and time again to be humane (such as the use of farrowing crates on hog farms) yet to a person who has no animal science or on-farm training they might not seem that way. That is why many farmers try to keep undercover investigators off of their farms, not to hide abuse but to make sure that humane practices aren’t portrayed as abusive when they really aren’t.

    I don’t know what the investigator saw or why the USDA inspectors he mentioned didn’t take action to end the abuse they witnessed. I do know some Pork Quality Assurance on-farm auditors personally and I know that if they visited a farm and found extreme violations in animal care policies, they would correct them immediately. They wouldn’t spend a few weeks videoing it then release it to the media, all while the animals continue to suffer like Mercy for Animals does.

    The point of this post is not that I am want to put an end to exposing animal abuse, rather that I want those filming the abuse to get as little footage as needed to address the issue and then help the animal. I want the abuse stopped immediately, not a few weeks down the road.

    I have no ethical issues with meat being a safe, wholesome and healthy part of my diet and I am dedicated to making sure that livestock on my family farm are given the most dignified life possible until they go on to serve their greater purpose as a part of the food supply.

  24. Are you now commenting on people who TRY TO CHANGE ANIMAL’S LIVES FOR THE BETTER???

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