ONE OF America's top agri-tourism farms has been slammed by animal welfarists after undercover footage revealed inhumane treatment of its dairy calves – but a blameless UK rare breeds farm with a similar name has been caught up in the row, receiving death threats from online trolls who have confused the two businesses.

Fair Oaks Farms, south of Chicago, is a 15,000 cow dairy farm with its own museum, restaurant and hotel, that has been dubbed the 'Disneyland of agricultural tourism' because of the 600,000 tourists it welcomes every year. Fair Oaks trades on its high-welfare status via a commercial tie up with the Coca-Cola company, producing the popular 'Fairlife' liquid milk brand.

However, according to a report by the Animal Recovery Mission, it found calves calves suffering and dying from dehydration and malnutrition in the farm's huge calf-rearing area, and recorded staff being less than gentle with the youngstock.

The farm is owned by veterinarian Mike McCloskey, who co-founded the business with his wife Sue, and who had claimed that the business provides its staff with 'in-depth training on humane care of animals' – but the ARM footage showed calves being beaten and kicked.

In a subsequent statement posted on the Fair Oaks Farms website, Mr McCloskey attributed the cruelty to four of his employees and a third party truck driver, and said their contracts with the farm had been terminated: “It is a shock and an eye-opener for us to discover that under our watch, we had employees who showed disregard for our animals, our processes and for the rule of law,” he said. “This ARM video shines a light on an area that – despite our thorough training, employee on-boarding procedures and overall commitment to animal welfare – needs improvement.”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, in East Sussex, Ian Ledger of the Fair Oak rare breeds farm woke up to a storm of abuse on social media, as a variety of inattentive keyboard warriors on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram mistook it for 'Fair Oaks'.

Fair Oak Farm has won awards as a 'countryside retreat' with a variety of rare breed animals, including sheep, alpacas, peacocks, peahens and chickens.

Mr Ledger, whose wife, three children and mother-in-law also live at the farm, said he was worried about the safety of his family, and reported that they had received at least 300 angry messages, many of them abusive, and some threatening violence: "One person wrote 'We're coming for your throats'," said Ian. "It's been going on about three days, starting on Twitter then moving to Facebook and Instagram.

"We're getting really serious death threats. This is a sign of the times and how easy it is for people to just send a death threat having read a post and not knowing the facts. You can see it's mainly keyboard warriors but some messages are very serious.

"People just don't bother checking the facts before posting. I didn't get much sleep the first night as I was responding to every single incorrect tag and putting a cute picture of our sheep up."

He added: "My biggest worry is that, in the click of a finger, we will lose our reputation. We're a little family business and have built it up ourselves but it could be lost overnight."