Catering to another North American palette, my mornings are often greeted with a tall glass of cold milk and a pair of salted eggs on toast. Since we were children, morning air has always been filled with the sounds of breakfast. Sausages sizzling in a pan coalesce with the chirping of birds outside our windows, filling us with a warmth turned nostalgia we still strive for today. Like those before and after use, we cling to tradition. To us, it is what brings us home and makes us ourselves. However, as moral atrocities stare back at us in history books, we know all too well that some traditions do not make us ourselves but bring us further from ourselves and humanity as a whole.
Since I first peered into slaughterhouses at the age of sixteen, I have been a passionate animal rights activist and a proud vegetarian. Nevertheless, I never saw a reason to become a vegan. Why should I? Animal products did not endanger the lives of animals. These products naturally come from the animal, and there is no harm in their consumption. After all, aren’t dairy and egg farms the sun-kissed, rainbow-enwrapped heavens the animal industry paints them to be? Aren’t they the real farm sanctuaries?
After a closer investigation into the animal industry, a new taste appears on my tongue when I settle for milk and eggs for breakfast. I now taste the suffering and toil of millions of animals on my tongue. I taste immorality and inhumanity. I taste something so bitter, so vile that I now begin my mornings with a sour stomach and beaten conscience. The dairy and egg industries are no farm sanctuary–they are hell on Earth.
Farm Sanctuary president and co-founder Gene Bauer agrees, “Most don’t realize that dairy and egg production are usually crueler [than meat production]. Dairy cows and egg-laying hens live longer, more tortured lives than farm animals who are raised solely for meat, and when they are no longer profitable, dairy cows and laying hens are killed.”
Chickens in the egg industry are kept in cramped, filthy quarters with hundreds of other hens. This sense of claustrophobia affects the psyche of many hens, often leading to unnaturally aggressive behavior and attacks. Due to their intense confinement, many hens suffer from osteoporosis and broken bones. Their male counterparts do not fare much better, often killed as chicks due to their inability to lay eggs. However, because slaughterhouses do not deem it economically feasible to kill individual birds, often too skinny for saleable meat, they grind male chicks and “spent hens” alive to produce the beloved chicken nuggets found in our TV dinners.
Life on a dairy farm does not get much easier. Like most mammals, cows produce milk solely for the consumption of their offspring. However, on modern dairy farms, cows are artificially impregnated every year while they are lactating, so they can produce a profitable amount of milk for human consumption. Calves are stripped away from their mothers, creating a traumatic experience for both calves and their mothers. Rather than nursing their calves, cows are hooked up to milk machines two or three times a day to produce ten times more milk than what is found in nature. Male calves are left to be malnourished and mistreated in order to become veal meat, while female calves are considered “replacement heifers” and are later to replace their worn-out mothers, who are typically sent to the slaughterhouse after four or five years of age. After these few years of torture, cows’ bodies are often so broken that they can barely stand and are rewarded for their toil by becoming ground beef.
However, many compassionate souls, witnessing the underground moral atrocities of the animal industry, are working to dismantle this institution of animal abuse and torture. In 1986, Gene Bauer and Lorri Houston founded an animal rights initiative Farm Sanctuary to specifically combat against animal agriculture. After 31 years of their tireless efforts, Farm Sanctuary has become one of the most well-known animal rights organizations in North America.
Bauer states, “Farm Sanctuary was created to stop the abuses of factory farming and to change how society views and treats farm animals, who are among the most maligned and ill-treated creatures on the planet. I was upset about the vast suffering caused by animal agriculture, and the widespread participation in this inhumane, unhealthy, and inefficient system by citizens who consume animal products without considering the profound impacts of their food choices.”
Farm Sanctuary works to rescue abused animals of the farm industry, so they may live out the rest of their days in peace and serenity. While many animals have been brought in by law enforcement officials, laws protecting farm animals are often so weak that animal residents of Farm Sanctuary are often rescued by other means. Caring veterinarians, neighbors, and workers in the farming industry facilitate rescues from industries like the dairy industry.
“Mario, for example, was a male calf born into the California dairy industry. He was weak and injured and written off as dead by the dairy industry, and a company that renders the bodies of dead farm animals into products such as soap and animal feed was called to pick him up. The rendering-truck driver saw that Mario was alive, so he made a detour and brought him to Farm Sanctuary in California, where he recovered and had a chance to enjoy life.”
“Opie is another calf we rescued. He was sent to a New York livestock market on the day he was born, still wet from afterbirth. It was a freezing day, and the newborn fell victim to hypothermia and was left to die in the alley where he fell. That’s where, during an undercover investigation, I discovered him and brought him to the sanctuary and nursed him to health. Opie was given intravenous fluids and monitored around the clock. After a few days, he recovered physically and was able to stand, but he wasn’t thriving. Then, we brought him out to a pen in the cow barn. As the other cows gathered around and welcomed him, Opie became energized and began to thrive.”
Farm Sanctuary not only provides homes for these abused animals but offers educational youth programs to teach of the inhumanity of animal agriculture and promote veganism.
Bauer states, “Opie and other animals at Farm Sanctuary have emotional and social needs, as well as physical needs, which we are mindful of providing.”
Like many other organizations, Farm Sanctuary is an initiative that is essential to the moral progress of our society. These organizations show us that animals are not lifeless, unfeeling commodities to be used and abused through capitalist exploitation. These organizations reveal the moral menagerie tradition has imprisoned in. It is organizations like Farm Sanctuary that bring us closer to our humanity than ever before.
“Changing how we eat can be empowering and lead to a world of difference for animals, ourselves, and the planet.”
Visit www.farmsanctuary.org to find out more about animal agriculture and what you can do to stop it.