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Bearing witness to factory farm cruelty

Sow Puratone 2012

This month, Mother Jones Magazine ran a harrowing account of animal cruelty on an American pig farm. The article, an excerpt from a new book on factory farming by journalist Ted Genoways, focuses on an undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which exposed farm workers meting out savage beatings to helpless pigs.

The story and an accompanying PETA video are, of course, deeply disturbing. They are much like other factory farm exposés by many animal rights groups over the years.  The recent investigation of an Alberta hog facility by Mercy for Animals Canada found similar cruel beatings by employees.  The humane community believes these and other cruel practices are widespread in animal agriculture here and around the world.

The media coverage of these investigations is vital in bringing these horrific abuses to light, but there is a nagging question in the minds of animal advocates: Are the people who need to see this paying attention?  After all, articles like the one in Mother Jones make for unpleasant reading and the video is stomach turning.  We’ve all heard the refrain from meat-lovers: “Don’t tell me.  I don’t want to know.”

Here at VHS, we wonder how much factory farm horror people can take.  Will the endless repetition of these accounts ultimately encourage people to just stop listening?  The answer, most likely, is to balance the horror stories with positive information about progress and practical advice, such as how and where to find alternatives to meat.

Yet, we are convinced of the importance of bearing witness to the suffering of animals on factory farms.  Yes, the stories are hard to read, and the videos hard to watch, but if they are not produced, distributed and shared who will know the truth?

That’s why we urge our supporters to read and watch at least some of the disturbing evidence of cruelty emerging from factory farming.  More importantly, we urge people who care about animals to share this evidence with friends, colleagues and family members who don’t know (or say they don’t want to know) the truth about what happens on factory farms.

Ted Genoways’ article is a compelling example of that truth. We urge you to share it widely.