The first time I heard about factory farming and the treatment of farm animals, I was 12 years old. My best friend's older sister was a vegetarian, and she showed us a PETA video of animal abuse. I think I made it 30 seconds into that video before I decided to stop eating meat forever.
For 12 years I was a vegetarian, but I was totally ignorant about all that went on in the lives of animals on farms. Eventually I grew tired (and slightly embarrassed) of having no good response when people asked why I was a vegetarian, and so I started reading more about vegetarianism.
Everything I learned about vegetarianism lead me to veganism, and since I've changed my life to leave out all animal products, I've never felt better. In addition to added energy, and weight loss, I have a lightness of spirit knowing that I do little harm to other beings on the planet. I do not kill just to enjoy a good meal at night, and I do not kill so my shoes look more stylish.
As part of my education on the vegan lifestyle, I have forced myself to read about and watch videos of the common, normal, everyday treatment of animals that we raise for food, and it's nothing short of shockingly cruel. If I allow my brain to press play on the videos and images that are permanently seared into my mind, I will start crying; anytime, anywhere. It's beyond horrific.
When I was younger, I lived in the camp of "I don't want to know the details" so I understand where people are coming from when they say they'd rather not know the gruesome details of everyday life on a factory farm.
It's hard to turn your back on the truth once you're aware.
I've heard countless stories of people who went vegan the moment they watched the first clip in Earthlings, or when they got a pamphlet at school and saw the pictures of laying hens cooped in tiny crates or veal cows chained to the ground. Those people immediately honor their emotions and ethical beliefs and don't bother looking back.
For others, it takes longer for the truth to set in. They might disagree with the mistreatment of animals, but they might keep telling themselves stories about how they don't participate. They might say they only eat cage-free eggs or free-range grass-fed meat. But deep inside they know even this story isn't true. Perhaps they buy local meat, cheese, and eggs, but when they're at a restaurant they eat what's available.
And even if they did truly only eat meat and dairy from local farms, do they really believe it's enough? Isn't it still taking from another species as if our species is more important?
Sometimes they keep telling themselves stories, like the one where one person won't make that big a difference so they might as well stick to what works. But does it work? Another story goes like this: their parents ate unhealthy foods and didn't get cancer, so they don't expect to get sick from eating that way either. But do they worry a little bit?
Some people refuse to learn the truth and simply assume that cows are milked when their udders are too full, that chickens are laying the eggs anyway so it makes sense to take them, or that pigs and cows are stupid, emotionless animals that don't feel pain. They truly want to believe that confined feeding operations don't hurt animals.
When we have to tell ourselves stories in order to swallow a bite of animal flesh, we are betraying our core values. If you believe it's wrong, it's time to make changes to align your actions with what you feel in your heart and what you know in brain.
The truth is that every day, every minute, and every second, animals are brutally abused in a normal, systematic way. I put together a basic overview of the common situation on factory farms. Before you buy your Thanksgiving turkey this year, consider what happens with turkey factory farming.
If you worry more about humans than animals, you might be interested to know that factory farming corporate monopolies are pushing the small, local farmer into near extinction. Some worry whether small farmers can survive.
Efforts are being made every day to end factory farming, through animal welfare and animal rights organizations. Almost every four years, at least one state works to get bills passed to secure rights for the animals.
Jonathan Saffran Foer described in Eating Animals the term coined by Peter Singer; speciesist. Most humans are speciesists who believe that we are better simply because we are humans. Speciesism is behavior similar to racism, in which one race believes they are better and more important than another race, or sexism, where one sex believes they are better than the other sex.
All beings feel pain and are capable of understanding what is happening to them. Many are incredibly intelligent, capable of communication, emotions, and have active social lives just like humans. Some animals have communication skills that are thought to be on a higher level than what humans can do. So, is one really better than the other?